Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Alpha


So, I'm gonna give my thoughts on the whole Alpha aspect of HTTYD2... and why I liked it, and why I think it works quiet well. Though a bit more fantastical than what we saw in the first film, it remains more realistic than what we see in the books, and in the end I think there is a very realistic and logical explanation for the entire Alpha system! That's always fun, having something truly extraordinary and unique in a film, but being able to reconcile it with reality at the same time. Click the read more to view the post. It WILL contain spoilers.

So, in HTTYD2 we learn about Alphas. This a pretty new aspect of the HTTYD universe, but an aspect that we did get to see in the first film. The Red Death was a "queen", a dragon that ruled over a particular nest. How does a dragon become a queen? That I do not know, but I imagine it has to do with the dragon's size and ability to get other species to do what it wants. A queen seems to also be able to, to a very, very small degree, bend the dragons that live in its nest to its will. We see the Red Death do that when it seems to signal Toothless to return, sees he has brought nothing, and tries to eat him. At the time of the first film, I wasn't sure if that noise really had any kind of controlling affect, but after seeing the second one it is obvious, queens can manipulate dragons to their will. They can't do it much though... the Red Death also used it's size to terrorize the smaller dragons into obedience.

But that's queens. What about the Alpha? As Valka so epically put it, "Every nest has its queen, but this is the king of all dragons." An Alpha rules in a much firmer, much more powerful way than a queen, and there's a reason. According to the DreamWorks website as well as to the events of HTTYD2, an Alpha must battle the current Alpha if he wants to become king himself. It is easy to see how a dragon as powerful as a Bewilderbeast would hold the title of Alpha unchallenged for years. I doubt even the Red Death would dare challenge such a lethal and massive leviathan. So, Valka's Bewilderbeast remained Alpha for many, many years... at the very least twenty, and I'd be shocked if it wasn't longer. The only way for him to be toppled is to be defeated by a challenger. Not necessarily be killed, but if the Alpha is defeated, it's challenger takes the role on himself. That's how it works. It's a pretty basic system, and it means that the toughest (and usually biggest) dragon stays king, stays Alpha.

But what is the point of being Alpha? Seriously? Is there any reason to have it other than to drive the plot along? Yes, indeed. The Alpha is the king of all dragons, because as the strongest dragon, it's end goal in life is most likely the survival of the dragon species. Valka's Alpha provided food, shelter, and protection to all of its subjects. But there is more that the Alpha can do, and this is where the role really becomes important. A queen may be able to influence smaller dragons, but an Alpha can control them mightily. I won't go into how strong I think this control is... that would deserve another post considering what it caused Toothless to do. But I will say that it is clear that the Alpha can easily step up and put itself in charge of all the other dragons and force them to do its bidding. Why? Is this in any way advantageous? Of course! The dragons have been designed (or some would say have evolved... though I'm not sure I agree with that) with a system so powerful, it allows them to compete with humans as the dominant species in the HTTYD universe. They are able to organize. If push comes to shove, the Alpha can bring thousands of dragons under its sway. If it is a good Alpha, and he is using this for good and for the protection of dragon kind, this is the ultimate super weapon. Thousands of dragons moving together on one mission. They are not just a sloppy mob of reptiles, not when the Alpha needs to get something done, and it makes the dragons of HTTYD extremely effective survivors.

But if used for ill, this power can be truly terrifying, deadly enough to level humankind in its wake. That's what happened when Dargo's Alpha won, and after his victory, every dragon was under his sway. And that, if it was an Alpha not controlled by a villainous madman, would be fine. Valka's Alpha clearly only used its control sparingly, but Drago's did not. Any dragon who comes in contact with an Alpha knows that it must obey. I don't know how, but deep down every dragon will obey the Alpha. They need not respect it, they need not want to, but it is in their nature. EVERY dragon must follow the Alpha. The only way this can be avoided is if a dragon is rising to challenge the Alpha. And of course that makes sense. In times of great danger or even conquest, the Alpha would effectively lead his swarm, but when lead by a malevolent creature, this swarm becomes a flock of nearly mindless drones. Dragons follow the Alpha. Every dragon, every species, no matter what. It is the ultimate survival mechanism, and the ultimate snare that could lead all dragons into total annihilation. Heh, with great power comes great responsibility, right?

And that is why what Toothless did was so massive, He challenged the Alpha. At first, this HAD to be a one on one duel. No help from the outside. Everything inside of Toothless's dragonish nature must have screamed out against this. Red Deaths, Bewilderbeasts, they are Alpha material. They are large enough to defeat each other, but one lone, tiny, flightless Night Fury, even if it were to win, how would he ever effectively wield that much authority? Little dragons DON'T become Alpha. That's what titans do, and when they get the role they keep it for decades to say the least. But Toothless was so furious, so passionate, so protective, and so vengeful, he broke every code. He was gonna fight the system. If he couldn't resist the Alpha in order to protect Hiccup, he was going to BECOME Alpha, or he was going to die trying. When the other dragons saw the challenger (Toothless) beginning to prevail, the force of the Alpha's control was weakened. He was no longer secure in his reign over them, and now it was anyone's game. Who would become Alpha? Toothless or Drago's Bewilderbeast? As soon as it got to that tipping point, the dragons saw the truth. Toothless was the Alpha they needed, the Alpha who would protect them, and since it was anyone's game on who was going to be Alpha, since a challenger had arisen and at that point was winning, the swarms flooded to Toothless's side. Toothless changed the world of dragons forever, and he did it to insure that Hiccup would be safe and that the dragons would be free to live and love again. It was an incredible moment! I still get chill bumps thinking of how enraged and courageous that little black dragon was.

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