Film Dragons

Hiccup and Toothless Are Coming Back!

As far as dragon movies go, the big fuss lately has been over the second installment of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy.  I can’t comment on that movie, since I haven’t been to see it yet (Will I? Still not sure–I wasn’t a big fan of the first one, though I love the book).  As Christmas gets closer, there’s another dragon movie that’s stirring up excitement: the sequel to Dreamworks’ popular How to Train Your Dragon. 

I’m usually of the opinion that sequels aren’t great movies, especially sequels to animated films. How to Train Your Dragon was an adorable movie, and I was hoping they wouldn’t ruin it by trying to add on to a good thing. I watched the trailer for the sequel for the first time this morning. The second movie, which will hit theaters in June, has actually piqued my interest. Like most trailers, it says very little about what the movie will actually be about, but it contained nothing that turned me away, and quite a few cute dragons that drew me in.  I’ll probably be watching How to Train Your Dragon 2 when it comes out, and will watch future trailers with interest.

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Happy July 4th!

In America, we just celebrated our Independence Day with flashy displays of fireworks. They’re everywhere–I went to a show last night and tonight, and littler ones are still popping all over my neighborhood as I head to bed. The whole shebang reminded me of a little dragon and a lot of fireworks in Mulan–Disney’s fictional take on a girl giving all of China a chance at their own freedom from the threat of evil Huns. Here’s the climactic moment where dragon+fireworks=freedom. Enjoy, and for my American readers, tell me how you spend your Independence Day!

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Interlude: the Hobbit movies

Right after I started my series on dragon lit for young people, the trailers for the new Hobbit movie came out. I don’t want to wait for that series to wrap up before I briefly mention the trailer, so I’m using this post as an aside on the Hobbit. I’ll get back to the dragon lit later in the week.

Movie teaser poster

Movie teaser poster borrowed from Wikipedia.com

I’m a fan of Tolkien. Admittedly, the only time I’ve read through The Lord of the Rings in its entirety was when I was eleven, but I acknowledge its superiority above the movies (which I watch regularly) and grew up in a Middle-Earth-loving home.  I was first introduced to The Hobbit when my dad read it to me and my sister as a bedtime story when we were young (much like he did with My Father’s Dragon). I loved it, and having enjoyed the LotR movies, I expected great things from Peter Jackson’s take on the prequel.

I didn’t post about the first movie after I went to see it at Christmas because it hadn’t reached the dragon portion of the story yet (Jackson chose to expand the book into a movie trilogy). Even though almost everyone I knew loved the movie, I wasn’t so crazy about it. I didn’t feel like it kept the heart of the story or characters for me, and too many flashy effects common to today’s action/adventure genre were added in. After part one alone, I wasn’t sure if I would be planning on seeing the other two parts.

Enter the trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Friend after friend posted the link on Facebook as they practically drooled in excitement, so I took a look. As expected, the trailer hints at more material that isn’t from the book, more added drama and action, and just plain more of everything that made me dislike the first movie. The fact that this is the segment involving giant spiders doesn’t help matters any, either–I may or may not have a bit of a phobia. And then there was Smaug.

Smaug, for those of you who don’t know, is the dragon from the Hobbit movies. He’s big, he likes to destroy villages, and his hoard happens to be the destination of the adventurers. The dragon eye shown at the end of the first Hobbit move is impressive; the scaly CGI creation that chases Bilbo around the second trailer is not. For such a high-budget, reputable production, I was disappointed. Even if they didn’t get the characters “right” according to my picture of the story, how can you go wrong with a dragon? Apparently, Jackson and I have far more differences in our imaginations than I guessed after The Lord of the Rings.

Here is my question for my readers: What about you? Why do you like or dislike what Jackson is doing with the Hobbit story? I have the trailer below, so let me know what you think. Am I alone in my disappointment, or are these movies and this dragon really that far off?

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Ruthless Dragons: teaching heroes teamwork since 2020

Reign of Fire poster image

Reign of Fire movie poster–Image borrowed from Wikipedia.

Only one species is getting out of this alive.

So writes one of the few surviving humans after a worldwide dragon apocalypse in the 2002 film Reign of Fire. The movie may just be another cheap fantasy/action movie without too much going for it (unless you get as much of a kick out of Matthew McConaughey playing a mean, bald Marine as I do), but there are elements that make this movie worth pulling out as “junk food” once in a while.

 

THE HEROES:

Having clashing protagonists is a common enough story device, but Reign of Fire did well in showing two very different sides of the leadership coin.

Quinn (played by Christian Bale) is the leader of a group of Brits holed up in a castle north of London. He saw his mother die when the first dragon woke up, and he has been working hard to keep his people alive ever since.
Leadership style: quiet, gentle, and caring—unwilling that any life under his command be risked unnecessarily.
Method: stay safe; stay alive; outlast the dragons.

Van Zan (played by Matthew McConaughey) is an American marine who shows up in England with tanks, a helicopter, and a daring mission. He is hard-natured and difficult to get along with, but he and his Americans have done what Quinn thought impossible—killing dragons.
Leadership style: strong, harsh, and military minded—willing to use (rather than suffer from) the knowledge of the lives that must be sacrificed to get the job done.
Method: take risks in battle to win the war.

Says Van Zan to Quinn after both men make mistakes and catastrophe strikes: “We have paid a terrible price, and now we’ve got a chance to make a difference. We will.”

 

THE DRAGONS:

These dragons weren’t meant to be intelligent, sentient beings—they’re monsters. In a book to be passed on to future leaders, Quinn writes,

“I saw the first, but soon the world saw millions. No one knew how they spawned so fast. They swarmed like locusts, burning everything in their path, driven by one purpose… to feed. Even then, we couldn’t believe they were real. Ancient man had made them into myths, but nature had made something far more terrible. Too late, our scientists discovered their true identity… a species which had burned the dinosaurs to dust, whose ash had brought on ice ages, who, in eons past, had scorched the world clean of life. Then starved, then slept, waiting for the earth to replenish itself, waiting to start their cycle anew…”

If dragons are monsters, these are the scary ones. My one complaint? A bit of a size inconsistency in a couple of places. If you’re going to make a dragon big and epic, make sure it stays big and epic in other scenes, okay?

 

It’s true that the plot is an old, simple one: when evil is accidentally awakened and takes over the world, two good guys must put aside their differences to fight the monsters in win-or-die action scenes, therein saving the world. Still, simple isn’t always bad—I’m sure I’ll keep pulling this movie out every year or two to see again. You don’t have to love it, but it’s worth watching at least once, just for fun—tell me what you think!

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How to Train Your Dragon: coming live to North America

Chances are you’ve watched Dreamwork’s animated masterpiece How to Train Your Dragon. If not, you really should—the story of Hiccup, the scrawny Viking boy who would rather tame than kill dragons is entertaining, and the dragons in the movie are really cute.

I found a news article today that said How to Train Your Dragon is coming to North America this week in the form of a live arena show. The same production has apparently been successful in Australia and New Zealand, and it will kick off its American/Canadian tour in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania this Wednesday (June 27th). They’ll be traveling the United States and Canada at least into next year.

Their website, dreamworksdragonslive.com, has information including ticket prices and locations, photos and video of the show, and listings of the cast and crew. It boasts 23 animatronic dragons with wingspans of up to 40 feet, complete with smoke, fire, flight, and live Vikings.  The good bit? The dragons look well done (see the trailer below), and it sounds like they put a lot of work into this show. The not-so-good bit? The average ticket price is $58.

Even if the show were coming to my city (it’s not), I’m not sure I would go see it at that price. In my mind, it falls into the category of things-that-sound-exciting-but-aren’t-worth-paying-for. After watching the preview below, I’m curious to hear what other people are thinking. Do you think this will be a decent representation of the original story? Is this kind of live show worth all the money? From the pictures on the website, I’m also somewhat skeptical of their rendition of Toothless—even if all the other dragons do look pretty convincing. What do you think?

 

 

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