This is not a review.
I’d had a grey and muggy morning, the type where the same thoughts that have been running around your head for weeks reoccur, and you proceed to become even more angry and upset by the hands you’ve been dealt and the other people playing the cards. It being a morning where I wished to barricade myself in my room against these storms, despite knowing it would be no help, in the afternoon I took myself out to the cinema.
I like film, but I rarely go and watch them, but a recent paycheck, my need to get out of my own head, and the close proximity of the Phoenix combined to make it an inevitability. I assumed that there’d be something on that day I could watch, and, since the Phoenix is Leicester’s premier arthouse cinema, I naturally chose to watch How to Train Your Dragon 2, in 3D.
If your next two questions are why a kids’ film and why go to the pictures alone in the first place, let me dismiss them for you. Per the second question, the level of focus I bring to any sort of culural activity, be it film or theatre or whatever, means that the only time I tend to interact with people I go with tends to be pre- and post-show discussion. Even though I’m missing out on that by going alone, I have this blog, and I have friends who have already seen the film and I know are always interested in discussion.
As for question one, to me a film is a film is a film. I’m a student of animation anyway, and luckily Dragon 2 had more than enough emotion and thematic interest to hold the attention of even the nerdiest of film snobs, if they dared open themselves up to the experience. Dragon 2 is an interesting case, because for years I found Dreamworks films, save Shrek and Shrek 2, to be cheap knock-offs of the far superior Disney fare. There are many I’ve refused to watch. However, from about the time of Kung-Fu Panda, but especially from the original How to Train Your Dragon, they’ve begun making films that actually compete, and in some cases even beat, those offered by Pixar and such.
Dragon 2 is definitely in this more illustrious company. It uses the familiarity a sequel brings to tell a story that possibly has too much going on in it. This isn’t a Pixar-perfect film, where every single part of the story inevitably progresses from the part that precedes it, where every character and conflict illuminates an aspect of the simple theme that runs through the entire film.
The story of Dragon 2 is, to be honest, fairly irrelevant. The culmination of the plot is simply to reassert and emphasise the status quo at the beginning of the film. However, ending where you began is unity, and this allows the film to move through a variety different yet interesting emotional areas.
I don’t understand people who say they watch a film as escapism. I don’t leave myself or my situation when I watch a film, at least the films that matter, I burrow deeper. I discover new angles on problems I’ve had or have, I see my personality reflected in characters and situations, and most importantly, the progression of a plot to a conclusion provides the closure that life so rarely provides. The notion that you can sort these sort your life problems out is an attractive one, and often it’s entirely accurate.
I spent this film thinking about my relationship with my father. I spent the film thinking about my stubbornness, the times I’ve led, the times I’ve done what I think is right whatever the consequences. I spent the film thinking about my friends, and my family, my dog, and the communities in which I have placed myself. I satisfied myself intellectually by picking up on the socially conservative subtexts of the film – Dragons as living weapons, that only do harm when directed, and the troubling yet unsettlingly appropriate decision to have the villain of a film about Vikings (albeit Scottish ones…) be the only black character in it.
I left the screening, and was hit by blazing sun. The film served its purpose – not to give me time to deny the inevitable hassle life throws at you, but allowing me to process things from a different angle. Most importantly, the film left me with a desire to create. I’ve been having problems deciding what the next thing after Nando’s and Nandon’ts will be, and while this film hasn’t whittled the list of projects as long as my arm down to the one I should be doing, it has left me with the certaintly I need to burn through them, and see what’s on the other side. Sometimes, the follow-up to something that was planned turns out to be more interesting than the original. I’m off now to meet a friend unexpectedly in town, and then I’m watching Python at the pictures. The day has certainly become a lot better than it started.