A long time ago, B and I rented Ice Age and thought it was cute that the DVD cover said, “Rated PG for mild peril.” Then we proceeded to grip the arms of our futon frame for 81 minutes as adorable Pleistocene creature after adorable Pleistocene creature faced peril that DID NOT SEEM MILD AT ALL.
So while my usual M.O. is to fall asleep when I watch movies on weeknights, when AK and I saw How to Train Your Dragon at the $3 Highland Park theater (“Not in 3-D!” announced the sign at the box office), I practically had a heart attack instead.
Not only were dozens of adorable mythic creatures in significant peril, but the main one, a Night Fury dragon named Toothless, bore a striking resemblance to our cat Ferdinand. Ferd even has a broken tail just like Toothless, so maybe that’s what’s kept him from flying all these years (though it hasn’t kept him from leaping on the kitchen counter or getting stuck on a roof or two). It was like seeing Ferd in peril.
The movie centers on a gawky Viking tween named Hiccup, who dreams of following in his father’s dragon-slaying footsteps until he befriends the injured Toothless. Then he learns (spoiler alert?) that dragons are not the terrors they seem, and that they’re in fact doing the bidding of a giant tyrannical super-dragon. The good dragons look like cats and birds and creatures you might find in a tide pool. The tyrannical super-dragon looks like a T-Rex with a few extra eyeballs.
It’s also my M.O. to search animated movies for political allegory, and at first I was disappointed that the story couldn’t just have the Vikings and dragons become friends and be done with it. (Israel and Palestine, anyone? Although, since the Vikings basically make pets out of the dragons, maybe any human-to-human allegory would be inherently problematic.) Instead the movie had to end with a big fight. Dragon blood—if tyrannical super-dragon blood—had to be spilled.
But then I thought, Well, maybe the super-dragon symbolizes a larger system that all of us have to free ourselves from. Because the movie was so effing cute, I’m going to stick with that read, even if deep down I suspect Dreamworks is not as radical as I want it to be. Also, I would gladly stab out all the eyeballs of anyone who tried to mess with my cat.