Hiccup, son of Stoick. Tamer of dragons. Next in line to be Berk’s chief. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Well, Hiccup doesn’t think so. The same guy that convinced a village of Vikings to invite dragons into their town and accept them as part of their culture and lifestyle, the same guy who was able to adopt one of the most feared dragons of all as a pet, is afraid of being chief.
It’s only natural, I suppose. After all, he doesn’t do well with the spotlight. It’s probably the stuttering. Actually, it’s definitely the stuttering. Successful leaders don’t stutter.
That’s the conflict for Hiccup as the second installment of How To Train Your Dragon begins. Berk has not only accepted but applauded dragons in their village, even making dragon riding a sport, as seen in the terrific opening moments of the film. Astrid is unquestionably Hiccup’s girlfriend (even hinting at fiancé, with Stoick screaming, in reference to Astrid, “That’s my future daughter-in-law!”). So things aren’t at all for Hiccup what they were at the beginning of the last film. He’s not a failure. He doesn’t bring shame. In fact, things are looking pretty up for Hiccup.
That is, until, they run into some of Drago’s men, who are intent on capturing dragons and turning them over to said evil master’s army. When news of this gets back to Stoick, he immediately brings Berk to lockdown, preparing for what he knows is the coming war. Hiccup, however, seems determined that he can convince Drago to stop, and sets out to do just that. He’s insane. His friends know he’s insane. His father knows it. The audience knows it. But he goes anyway, and manages to meet his mother, along with an enormous herd of wild dragons, along with their beyond massive Alpha.
I would have said spoiler alert, but if that was a spoiler, then the trailer was a spoiler sandwich made with moldy bread, moldy cheese, and spoiled ham. Granted, I would have liked it to have been a surprise, but such is our luck.
So then, to recap, the basic plot is that Drago is coming to lay waste to Berk with his dragon army, and Hiccup wants to stop him. The secondary (but still important) plot point is that Hiccup’s mother is alive and living with the dragons.
One of the most likeable things about the film is that, while sticking to the charming family-friendly elements that made the first film successful, they didn’t try to recycle the plot, which is often done in animated sequels, or sequels in general (*cough cough* National Treasure 2 *cough cough*). Instead they focus on a new conflict in a new era for Berk. It makes the film feel fresh and new and a little bit less like a sequel.
That is, however, a bit overdone, unfortunately. The film doesn’t slow down to further develop Hiccup and Astrid’s relationship (aside from their interaction in their first scene of the film, which is phenomenal but never replicated again), nor does it take a whole lot of time to explore Hiccup’s hesitation to become chief. It’s too much plot and not enough development, and the character development beyond Hiccup and his parents is virtually nonexistent.
But before I get too far off track, let’s return to these familiar family-friendly elements. The first movie told us through Hiccup to not conform to society’s rules that you know are wrong. It told us to be yourself, even if that wasn’t what society told you you were supposed to be. This time around, Hiccup is more secure, so the feel of the film is different. It tries to be about finding out who you are, but that’s not really what I got out of the film. Instead, what I got out of it was that people change.
When Hiccup first tells his mother how Berk has accepted dragons into their fold, she refuses to believe it, even going so far as to say “People don’t change, Hiccup.” She’s convinced that she and her son are friendly to dragons, putting aside prejudice, simply because they are that way. We as the audience know that isn’t true because we’ve seen Berk, but that’s exactly what makes it effective. And that idea doesn’t stop there. Hiccup himself changes. By the end of the film, he’s ready to take on the role of the chief, his prior hesitation all but disappearing.
The reason, in Hiccup’s case, is more than anything because it’s necessary. He does what he has to. He’s virtuous. He’s brave. He’s selfless. The thing that really makes this film, and really this series, so compelling is Hiccup. We’ve seen him evolve from an insecure kid to a grown man. And we’ve seen what can happen when one person does the right thing, even in the face of their culture’s objections.
That’s a good message for a Christian. Take from this a lesson. Be who you need to be whether or not the culture agrees with you, and remember that people do change, so don’t pre-judge people, and be willing to change yourself.