Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Reptiles... terrifying, beautiful, awe inspiring, and absolutely lethal reptiles!


Am I the only one who thinks this is stupid cool?! Man, I watched the tv spot for the Jurassic World movies, and I got so many of good vibes. Giant, scary, dangerous reptiles have always been a favorite of mine... and that is one of the primary reasons for my being and HTTYD fan. In the post below, I want to kinda pull my motives apart. Why is it that I love Toothless and the loving, kind dragons of HTTYD... while at the same time I get excited in the exact same way when I see the terrifying velociraptors or I-Rex of Jurassic World? Maybe I'll be able to figure out by the end of the post!

So, the question I asked above is a pretty interesting one... and I think it boils down in a strange yet fascinating way. I have always loved both dinosaurs and dragons, and I think I've always liked them for the same reasons. Some of you may have read my post about my childhood filled with dragons, and in that I kinda told you all how I came to really fall in love with those incredible creatures. What I may not have made clear is that I have also always loved Dinosaurs. There is a certain excitement that these incredible reptiles, especially dragons, provokes in me that makes me feel like a total eight year old all over again. But... it is strange and complicated. I mean, why do I get the same excitement from Toothless as I might get from a terrifying dinosaur loose in a park that is trying to kill all the guests? It is confusing to be sure. Is it even ok for me to like the Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park with the same sort of excitement as I do the very "good" acting dragons of HTTYD? Whether or not it is ok, a bigger question is why? Why have I always loved dragons and dinos, and why did HTTYD become the totally perfect reptile movie for reptile loving me?

Well, I've already said it, but I've always been fascinated with dinosaurs and dragons. In the year 2012, I actually had a "dream come true" moment when I finally visited the Field Museum of Natural History and saw the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil that has been found to date, Sue. 

Haha, when this happened, my friends teased me mercilessly because I was geeking out so hard. I wanted to spend hours just in that central room, staring up at the remains of such an incredible animal that actually lived on this earth. So, yeah, dinosaurs are amazing, and in my opinion many dragon myths have their origins in dinosaurs. 

So, I've established that I love reptiles... dinosaurs and dragons in particular, but I think it is interesting to look at why. What is it about them that makes me enjoy studying them so much, that draws me into stories about them and makes me go completely fan boy? I think there are lots of reasons, but I can tie down a few.

First off, they just look cool. I mean, that is as basic as I can get. I know that research today is showing that many dinosaurs had feathers (and that in no way bothers nor topples my worldview), but when I was little they were all shown as scaly. They were so unlike anything we see on the planet today. They were incredible, and they looked like creatures of a fantasy world, not our own. Many people are not fond of reptiles, but I like pretty much every aspect of them! The texture of their skin, the brilliance of their eyes, the way they move and think, all of it fascinates me. 

But there is another thing that is really fun about dinosaurs, and this comes out really well in the Jurassic Park franchise... and that is the fact that they are SCARY. I may love reptiles, but that doesn't mean I'm not afraid of them (when the fear is justifiable. I don't mind handling non-poisonous snakes and stuff). The most nightmares I have ever had were actually due to a story about a dragon (Ugh...Skrills), so if that tells me anything, it is that dragons and dinosaurs can still very much frighten me. Dinosaurs do that perfectly. They aren't mammals, they really are totally unlike us in every way, so when you imagine yourself facing one down, you know it has no empathy for you. It is cold, calculating, lethal... and there is a real power and awe that surrounds these creatures. That is what I often find myself loving about dragons. You have this majestic, powerful, terrifying, and awe-inspiring presence about them. That is why I LOVED the way they introduced Toothless. The first time you get a good look at him, it only takes a few moments for him to have Hiccup pinned beneath him. Cue incredibly eerie music, brilliant character design, stunning animation, and awesome camera work, and you have Toothless coming across as a creature who must never be taken lightly. He is a dragon, he is THE dragon, and the mystery and aura of that made him a beautiful character indeed. That is what made me fall in love with him at the beginning of the film, and that is what makes me love dinosaurs. These creatures are terrifying, awe inspiring, and they could kill you in a moment. Toothless is like that, and so are dinosaurs. That is really all I need to fall in love with a reptile character. If they have that presence and dangerousness about them, they become something that is infinitely interesting. Sure it could kill you, but wouldn't you give anything just to get close to such a beautiful, powerful creature? Would it be worth the risk?

I hope I am getting the point across. Something that is incredible about stories with these creatures is the fact that humans are made to feel utterly vulnerable. You are staring into the face of something you do not understand, and something that very probably does not see much worth in you. It is extremely scary. But... in some ways it is an exciting feeling. Many people like to feel big, confident, unstoppable, but have you ever considered that fact of how small we really are? It is that feeling of smallness in the face of such awe inspiring mystery, terror, and power that really makes me love these creatures (or, that is at least a big reason). That feeling of being totally overwhelmed isn't something that we get every day. To be at something's mercy is one thing, but to be at the mercy of a creature who is completely unlike you and completely awe inspiring, that is quite another. It is such an incredibly exciting kind of story angst, and you really do see it in dragons as well as dinosaurs. 

BUT! There is something that is so important to this discussion, I just can't leave it out. The feeling of being overwhelmed, overpowered, outgunned, and completely vulnerable leads to something really beautiful in HTTYD. These creatures... dragons and dinosaurs, if they have you at their mercy, they can do anything that their natures incline them to do to you. They could kill you in a flash, they practically have full possession of you. But... that's were things get beautiful. In the face of terror, mystery, power, and even ferocity, Hiccup goes looking for Toothless. He puts himself in that position of utter helplessness. Toothless, that incredible, deadly creature, is now the one in charge. It is the same sort of angst as has been discussed earlier. He is not a human, who knows what he may be feeling inside his dragonish heart, but Hiccup takes that risk. Toothless has the ability to do whatever he choses, Hiccup really does open himself up and become completely vulnerable, and instead of the slash of talons, the rip of teeth, or the scorch of flame, Hiccup receives love. To be loved by a creature with such presence, such power, it is the greatest feeling in the world. I loved HTTYD because it didn't make the dragons silly. They were not push overs; they were incredibly dangerous. Toothless kept that reptilian presence and power that I love, he generated that angst and fear that is so overwhelming and so engaging, and yet at the same time he displayed that his heart was good and that he had a soul completely capable of love. In the face of danger, in the face of death, Hiccup receives something utterly beautiful. Hiccup receives love from a creature every bit as terrifying as Indominus Rex, and that is why I will never stop loving HTTYD.

(p.s. I actually started writing this post many days ago, but then I had computer problems. It is good to be back in the saddle!)

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