That's what you're supposed to write before you give away the ending of a movie: Spoiler Alert. I feel like I should be sending a message to the folks who are making the movies: Quit spoiling them.
In the past few weeks, my family has gathered together at our local movie theater to don the now requisite 3D glasses in hopes of experiencing some entertainment. Something for everyone. To that end, we picked "Alice In Wonderland" and "How To Train Your Dragon." They came from trusted names in family viewing, Disney and Dreamworks respectively. They had both received decent reviews. Why not spend the afternoon in the dark, savoring the fantasy?
For me, the answer would be, "Because I don't feel like having to deal with the lingering issues brought up by both of these movies made, ostensibly, for children."
Chief among those issues: slaying dragons. I understand the long and impressive literary tradition of heroes killing monsters. It's hardly worth discussing as a metaphor anymore, since we all apparently all harbor our own demons and they are all in need of slaying. It helps us grow, after all. Conquering fear and all that. There's just one problem: neither Alice or Hiccup, the hero of "Dragon," have any interest in slaying. They say as much to anyone who will listen.
Alice doesn't want to kill the Jabberwock, in spite of the prophecy that is continually thrust in front of her. It becomes her destiny, even though she has no particular quarrel with the beast. For the moment, let's set aside the implications of a young woman chopping the head off a large, serpentine beast. Her wish not to surrender to the inevitable marriage to her dweebish suitor is clear enough. No means no. Why should she have to cut off the head, or any other part, of that scary beast? Take a page from Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener," whose constant reply of "I would prefer not to" flies in the face of the authority he faces.
Okay, maybe that's a bit of a downer for a Disney movie. And the fact that young Hiccup chooses for nine tenths of the running time of his story to fly, literally, in the face of his father's authority is a refreshing response to the idea that we must dominate nature and kill those things we don't understand. The idea that dragons are as afraid of us as we are of them might explain all of this aggression. Ultimately, however, the young Viking discovers the dragon hive, and the queen who dwells inside. Kill the queen, his father reasons, kill the swarm. Hiccup sets out to intervene, but then gathers his young friends together astride their newly "trained" dragons to overwhelm and eventually explode the beast that dwells inside the nest. It's a really cool explosion, especially in 3D, but it started me fretting about the ecosystem they had just disrupted. It worked so well for Ripley in "Aliens" because she was in a life or death struggle for her life, and the life of her young charge, Newt. This was more on a par with taking Kong off Skull Island. What will happen to the natives after they no longer have a giant ape to maintain order over all those other giant nasties on the other side of that wall?
I know horrible things have to happen in fairy tales. It's the nature of the beast, if you pardon the pun. But this is 2010. Haven't we learned any new lessons in three hundred years? Perhaps I am over-thinking this. Maybe I should go relax and watch Bugs Bunny.