How To Train Your Dragon (2010)

Rated PG. Our ratings: V-3, L-0, S/N-1. Running time: hour, min. 1 hour 38 min.

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain,
Isaiah 65:25

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9

If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Romans 12:18

Hiccup takes Astrid for a ride on his friendly dragon.

2010 Paramount Pictures

I love it when I come across another peacemaking film, especially when unexpectedly, as in such films as Babe, the Iron Giant, and now this one—all of them so-called “children’s films.” I have not read Cressida Cowell’s fantasy novel upon which the film is based, an unusual one in that she goes against anti-dragon tradition to imagine an era of peace between the beasts and humans. The story in the film takes place on the Island of Berk where a Viking clan is still very much locked in deadly climate with the fierce dragons.

We are not told how our scrawny hero (voiced by Jay Baruchel) obtained the unusual name of Hiccup. Maybe the word has a different meaning among the Vikings? Whatever, he stands out in the village because he is so puny looking compared to his overly muscled father and neighbors. Thus when the dragons attack at night, the lad is ordered to stay inside out of harm’s way. Of course, he does not obey, rushing out to try to bring a dragon down with a special weapon he has built. He fires the missile but seemingly misses.

The next day, however, he comes upon the young dragon, wounded by his missile so that it cannot fly out of the crater into which it had fallen. Hiccup raises his sword to kill the beast, but cannot bring himself to do so. Instead, he tends to its wounds and during the ensuing days sneaking off to nurse and feed it. Thus a bond develops between the once mortal enemies, with Hiccup concluding, “Everything we know about them is wrong.” Meanwhile the boy is part of a group of youth being mentored by Gobber (Craig Ferguson) in the art of combating and slaying dragons. One of his companions is tomboy Astrid (America Ferrera), who at first shares the village’s unfavorable view of Hiccup, even though he is their chief’s son.

The directing team of Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders who brought us Lilo & Stitch has hit pay dirt again, bringing us a tale that does more than entertain. It does indeed hold our attention with exciting scenes of combat and chases and amusing incidents, but its message that we need to see beyond our perceived notions of “the enemy” is especially pertinent today when such a large segment of our people view Muslims and immigrants with dark skins as “the enemy.” One further word—this was not shot as a 3-D film, so the post-production 3-D is not worth the extra $3 to $5. Save your money and see the “flat” version.

For reflection/Discussion 1. How do we almost always portray those against which we are fighting? For instance, what about the Japanese during WW 2? Or the Viet Cong during the 1960s? Or African Americans during the long years leading up to the Civil Rights era? Hence, Hiccup’s discovery, “Everything we know about them is wrong.” 2. What do the villagers regard as the chief qualities of a man that they find lacking in Hiccup? How is his story similar to that of other stories of a boy or girl considered as an outsider?

3. How is Hiccup’s struggle to convince his fellow Vikings similar to that of the prophets’ going against their people?

4. How are the views of the prophets and the New Testament, as represented by the two above quotations still counter-cultural?

5. What group in our society do you think fits the quotation, “Everything we know about them is wrong” ?

6. What situations in our nation, or better, in your community might you be called to become a peacemaker?