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Friday Night at the Movies: How to Train Your Dragon

by Bob Robinson

 

HTTD.jpgIn a thoroughly enjoyable, family-friendly movie, Dreamworks Animation has created a wonderfully entertaining, visually exciting movie. With How to Train Your Dragon, directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders provide thrills and laughter for all ages, but underneath the dazzling 3D effects hides a deeper, much more profound message.

The story is about a village of vikings who are terrorized by dragons. The film is filled with battle scenes where dragons destroy the vikings’ village and steal their livestock. The vikings have been fighting the dragons for generations. It has gotten to the point that the very identity of being a viking is tied directly to killing dragons.

The young hero of the story, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), is a wimpy kid trying to prove his worthiness as a viking to his father and leader of the vikings, Stoick (Gerard Butler), as well as to the dragon master Cobber (Craig Ferguson).


The most frightening and most despised dragon is the “Night Fury,” a dragon that has never been seen, who streaks over the village in the darkness and shoots deadly firebombs at buildings. Hiccup manufactures a gun in order to shoot down the Night Fury. It works, and after a search, he finds the Night Fury injured near a crater lake, trapped and unable to fly away.



He slowly gains the trust of the Night Fury dragon, names
him “Toothless,” and even flies on the dragon’s back (in 3D, this was a
marvelous ride!). Hiccup finds that the most feared dragon, the Night Fury, is
actually as loving as a tame puppy.

The underlying message begins to shine through as Hiccup
begins to doubt the endless war against the dragons. He begins to wonder if the
vikings have been battling the dragons for so long and are so sure that they
are heartless terrorists, that the vikings are perpetuating a war that may not
be necessary. When Hiccup tells his father what he is discovering about this
reality, his father is repulsed not only by the idea, but by his own son.

This movie brings our current “war on terrorism” into a new
light. How have we so dehumanized our enemies that we see them as no more than
animals – dragons – streaking across the sky with the intention of doing us
harm?

I don’t want to give any more of the story away, but there
comes a moment in the story when Hiccup understands the real reason why the
dragons are doing what they are doing. With that realization, he is better able
to think of and implement solutions to the conflict – better solutions than
merely killing every dragon.

Jesus’ demand that Christians must love our enemies is a
difficult command to follow. In real life situations, it is emotionally
difficult guts to actually understand what our enemies are thinking, what
motivates them to oppose us, and what we must do to reach out for the purpose
of reconciliation. Sure, it is not simply forgiving and forgetting; it takes
seriously the sins that were committed and seeks to tell the truth about those
things. But the burden of peace and reconciliation is placed squarely on our
shoulders.

However, the American way has often been to treat enemies as
not worthy of understanding. We take the easy route far too often, simply
deciding to fight rather than to understand, to hate rather than to love.

We need to ask hard questions, questions that our hardened
hearts do not want to ask. What drives terrorists to do such atrocities? How
can we provide possible solutions to these underlying causes? Are we doing all
we can to understand the mind of our enemies? How can we overcome their
animosity toward us? What are we doing to overcome their evil with good?

Glen Stassen and many others have been advocating “Just
Peacemaking” as a means to overcome conflict. (link: http://documents.fuller.edu/sot/faculty/stassen/Just_Peacemaking/just_peacemaking.html
) They say that a biblical way of seeking peace is when “adversaries listen to
each other and experience each others’ perspectives, including culture,
spirituality, story, history and emotion.” To find peace, we are to “seek long-term
solutions which help prevent future conflict,” and “seek justice as a core
component for sustainable peace.”

It wasn’t until Hiccup understood the dragons’ perspective
that he could figure out a long-term solution to the conflict between the vikings
and the dragons. It wasn’t until Hiccup engaged his friends to seek justice for the dragons that a sustainable peace
was found. 

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