How to Train Your Dragon II (Wasted Opportunities)

January 26, 2015 in Musings, rant, Writing

As it turns out, I have strong feelings about this movie and the bloody stupid waste it makes of great storytelling opportunities.

I watched about two thirds of How to Train Your Dragon II last night with my wife. When we hit the lovely reunion scene we decided the story was about to go to hell in a terribly predictable manner because older people aren’t allowed to have happily ever afters in this sort of movie. So, I went and looked up the rest of the plot online and we stopped the movie at that point and put it back on the shelf. This is because we were quite happy with the movie up to that point and didn’t feel any need to go on to the unnecessary cost scene that we had both seen coming. While I’m sure that the rest of the movie is lovely, I have no desire to see any of it.

I have zero patience for the whole: It’s a cartoon movie, some beloved parent/mentor/older person must die or sacrifice their happiness for the young protagonists to learn the true meaning of sacrifice/responsibility thing. It’s sloppy, lazy storytelling and doubly so in this instance.

Hiccup doesn’t have a responsibility problem with being chief—he’s plenty willing to take responsibility in dangerous circumstances. We’ve seen that time and again. What he’s got is a scatterbrained creative personality problem. I’m an author, I know dozens of scatterbrained creatives. Tragedy does not magically transform them into decisive organized leader types. It just transforms them into _heartbroken_ scatterbrained creative types. Dad’s death will not magically make Hiccup an appropriate choice for the next chief.

Compound this with the fact that there’s a natural successor on hand, one who has even been identified as someone who is going to become part of the chief’s family in the near future—in the first minutes of the movie we see Stoic identifying Astrid as his future-daughter-in-law—and the argh factor goes through the roof. I’m not a huge fan of leadership transfer by heredity, but if you have to do it, Astrid fits that bill, as well as the much more important one of being a natural leader.

Astrid is decisive, smart, adaptable, understands how to manage people (Hiccup included), willing to listen… She’s a perfect candidate to be the next chief. How much better would the movie have been if Astrid had rescued Hiccup (safely), instead of having the stupid sacrifice scene, and, this had caused dad to realize it was his future daughter-in-law who ought to become the next chief, and not his entirely unsuitable son?

Not only would that have made a less cheaply predictable story, it would have given Hiccup the chance to continue to roam and do the things that made him happy without feeling guilty about the fact that Astrid is running the village—because, let’s be honest, she’s the one who’s going to be doing the job anyway. Astrid would have the title as well as the workload, Hiccup would continue to do what he’s best at, and it would be much easier to justify a sequel. Wins all around.

It’s the sheer laziness of the writing there that gets to me. Sigh. Deep breaths.

Here endeth the rant.