Friday, September 26, 2014

A Dragon's Journey

Well, as I write this I’m actually sitting in the passenger seat of a car on a road-trip to my grandparents! Hopefully I’ll find somewhere with wifi so I can post it to you all. I’ve really looked forward to and dreaded this kind of analysis because in it I will be taking characters from HTTYD and trying to explore some of the major arcs they went through in the second film. In this post I plan to explore one of the most lovable characters of the franchise and the journey he took in the second film. In this post I’ll be discussing the character arc of Toothless.

We meet Hiccup and Toothless again at the very beginning of the second film. His intro scene is just about perfect, and I don’t know many HTTYD fans who were not completely ecstatic to finally see our two favorite characters back on the big screen (and completely in character)! The second film just did such a good job of re-introducing us to them! That first flight scene shows just how good Toothless has gotten in his flight maneuvers with Hiccup, as well as how much he enjoys it! He and Hiccup have clearly become one in the air... and they are even practicing coming apart! But, in the end, they still need each other, they still want to be with each other through thick and thin, and that is what matters. That opening flight scene shows just what Hiccup and Toothless have in one another, a magical friend who opens up the entire world before them and makes every moment of life an adventure. And Toothless is loving it.

Toothless retains his snark. He is, yes, very cute throughout a lot of the movie, but he remains the sarcastic dragon we once knew, as well as the very deadly one! The play fight scene is really fun, and it does work well to show how close Hiccup and Toothless are. Even as young adults, they're rough housing around in a more playful manner than they did when they were teens! It is funny to see Toothless sort of take the victory, laugh maniacally about it, and then lose the battle in the end because he’s too finicky to leave spit on his face. He and Hiccup look out over the beautiful island, and it is interesting to note that both of them would like to find other Night Furies. I don’t know how much Toothless wants this, but he does make a quiet, longing noise of agreement to Hiccup when the boy suggests it. I think both Hiccup and Toothless are very happy in each other at this point in the film, happy to be one entity, but I also think you can see that neither of them really know what the future holds. Hiccup is unsure of being chief, Toothless is unsure of the future of his species. They both have each other now, but what will the inevitable future bring?

It is also neat to note that in HTTYD2 Toothless is clearly somewhat fond of Astrid (he playfully greets her when she lands on Itchyarmpit), and he sees Stormfly as a close playmate. 

Toothless soon proves in the film that he maintains his brutal, frightening edge. He is more restrained than he used to be (at one time he would attack any human who looked threatening and even go straight for a kill in order to protect Hiccup. You can see this when he first meets Astrid). When Toothless meets Eret, he doesn’t attack him directly, though his threatening roar makes his thoughts very clear (Haha, so clear that Hiccup translates them for us). Toothless also shows that he is still sharp as a tack. He recognizes, to a degree, that Eret intends to capture him or is at least mentioning other Night Furies, and in response he roars. He also hasn’t lost his prowess in battle. He uses a single blast to shatter the ice above Eret and disorient the band of dragon hunters long enough for he and Stormfly to escape. The next time we see Toothless with Eret, he displays yet again how trusting he is of Hiccup. He follows the boy into a nonsensical looking plan that involves putting him in the presence of many dragon trappers. It is fun to note that Toothless takes time to growl each one of them down. He still demands respect, even if he is letting himself be “captured”.

Just a quick note: I do love how when Toothless and Cloudjumper face off, Cloudjumper is roaring and rearing his head around, but Toothless stays perfectly fixated on him in an angry, burning stare. It is almost as if Cloudjumper is trying to intimidate him, but Toothless is focused on only one thing. He will protect Hiccup at all costs. He will take down this dragon if he has to.

Toothless is comfortable with Valka very quickly, and he is super adorable with her! I think Toothless has become much, MUCH less insecure around people and much more understanding of concepts like family. Valka knowing how to handle dragons also helps explain why he becomes fond of her so quickly. He’s a bit of a show off (but he has always been that), and it is cute to see him letting her examine him. I think it is also interesting to note that we now know that Toothless knows that Hiccup was the one who shot him down. But Toothless and Hiccup have both come to terms with this. In fact, it is Hiccup who remembers the event with regret and a little bit of shame. Toothless seems pretty much okay with it, and in a matter of moments he’s scooping Hiccup up and getting him to scratch his neck. Now, whether Toothless was directly responsible for the loss of Hiccup’s leg (i.e. did he bite/rip it off trying to catch Hiccup) or whether Hiccup’s foot was unintentionally left outside of Toothless’s wings and consumed in the flames is still pretty much a mystery, but it is interesting to watch and see how comfortable they both are with their injuries. They may have lost quite a lot in the process of meeting each other, but it is very clear that they both think that it was worth it.

Toothless bows to the good Alpha. It is almost as if he isn’t sure why, and this is foreshadowing of things to come. Soon after this Toothless grows all the more fond of both Valka and Cloudjumper, and he is hilariously giddy when Valka splits the spikes down his back. It is funny, because I imagine adult Night Furies would show this ability to their children, but Toothless hasn’t seen his parents in at least five years... and I’d imagine he hasn’t seen them since he was very small... if ever. So, in a very subtle but beautiful way, Valka is being a mom to Toothless. She treats him as an equal, and she loves him and thinks he is beautiful. She can help him and provide for him in very motherlike ways while Hiccup still remains his brother-like soulmate. It is a fascinating relationship.

This is only part one of my brief breakdown of Toothless’s journey through the second film, and I am sure I’ve missed a lot. But there is one thing that needs to be noted about this half of the movie and this half of the analysis: Toothless doesn’t move the plot very much. In the first film, many of Toothless’s actions defined the story as much as Hiccup’s. This is not the case in the first half of the second film. He is constantly there for Hiccup, but he mostly just follows him around. Hiccup is the one going through struggles and meeting long lost family members, not Toothless. What the director did here was really smart in my opinion. Toothless and Hiccup have become inseparable, and because of that Toothless doesn’t make many individual decisions. He does what Hiccup does, and he protects Hiccup at all costs. Now, this could leave him looking like a much more minor character than he should be. After all, in the first film he was second to main, and only barely second to main! So, what the first half of the film does is to show us just how close of a friendship Toothless has formed with Hiccup. He plays with him, flies with him, picks him up when the little guy can’t climb over top of things, protects him, and does cutesy antics all over the place even when he shouldn’t be the center of attention. Through this the director keeps Toothless from falling into the background of the story, and that is incredibly important when you consider it will be his actions that drastically shape the second half of the plot. So, first half we get to see Hiccup and Toothless in all their bro-ship buddiness, and that is incredible and just a joy to watch! Toothless doesn’t really grow much as a character yet, but he lets us see how much he has already grown. We get to see how completely enamored he is with Hiccup and how little he wants to do without him. This is the obvious result of five years of incredible friendship. 

So, in the first half of the film (and first half of my analysis) we get to see how Toothless has grown from the first film (in closeness with his relationship to Hiccup), and second half of the film will let us watch Toothless actually grow. He stays pretty much the same lovable dragon through the whole first half, but when I get time to write my next post on this, hopefully I’ll get to talk about just how massive and jaw dropping and incredible his character arc is during the second half! The movie did such a good job at celebrating his very multifaceted personality and nature, so I’m just as pleased with the first half as I am with the second, even if he technically wasn’t doing all that much to move the plot forward!

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