Fantasy Round 28: How To Train Your Dragon (2)
It’s a bird, it’s a plane… nope, it’s a dragon. It’s How To Train Your Dragon 2, and I’ve got to admit, I’m a bit disappointed in the sequel. I really liked the first one, so a degree of disillusionment was perhaps to be expected, but… I’d really like to rewrite the plot.
I’m going to comment on a couple of points that are common to both movies, and then move on to specific annoyances in the sequel. As ever, spoilers!
How To Fly Your Dragon
Let’s say that Hiccup is about five and a half feet tall. Then, roughly, we can estimate that Toothless the dragon has a wingspan of roughly four-and-some times Hiccup’s height, say 25 feet or so.
For comparison, the albatross, which is just about the largest bird that can still fly, has a wingspan of up to about 12 feet, and weighs around 20 pounds (9 kg) at most.
Quetzalcoatlus, one of the largest pterosaurs, had a wingspan of around 35 feet, and weighed maybe 440 pounds (200 kg).
Okay. So dragons are on the same scale as pterosaurs; fine, all well and good.
Take a closer look at dragon vs pterosaur, and you’ll notice that the pterosaur has a smaller body relative to its wingspan than does Toothless.
Further, when the Quetzalcoatlus was around, Earth’s atmosphere was different. Denser. More oxygen in the air to supply the muscles used for flying. That sort of thing.
It gets worse when you consider that, even if Toothless weighs as much as 440 pounds, Hiccup alone without his gear is probably more than a quarter of Toothless’ weight. Most large flying critters can’t carry such heavy loads on top of their own body weight.
I’m not sure how to crunch the numbers here, but I suspect a real-life Toothless would need a different atmosphere to fly in than Earth’s.
I’m not even going to get into the roly-poly dragons whose girth exceeds their wingspan, or the baby dragons who are smaller than their passengers. Summary: no way.
How To Feed Your Dragon
Active carnivores eat a lot.
Lions, for instance, eat between 10 and 15 pounds of meat a day (based on skimming the Internet). So, say we have a 200 kg lion that eats 5 kg to meat per day. That’s about what we’re estimating for Toothless, who’s fairly active, so let’s give him 5 kg (11 lbs) of meat or fish every day. And then we do that for every single dragon in Berk. Who, by the second movie, appear to outnumber the humans.
For comparison, Americans average about 3/4 of a pound of all kinds of fish and meat per day, which is actually more than is recommended for health purposes.
So, dragons eat a lot of fish. The Viking village would probably need to increase their fishing by a factor of ten (!!!) just to keep all the dragons fed. I’m not sure there’s enough fish in the see around Berk to support all that. There certainly doesn’t seem to be much other agriculture happening on the island, other than raising sheep.
And, oddly, we never see anything actually doing the fishing.
Or turning their nose up at the “all you can eat raw fish buffet” wells. Ick — I’d think those would start to smell pretty quickly.
Hi, Ahab, how you doing?
Valka is Hiccup’s mother, who had apparently advocated for trying to make friends with the dragons before effectively being kidnapped by one. She’s been living with a group of dragons for the last twenty years, and trying to defend them from a bunch of dragon trappers who are, effectively, working for a thinly-veiled Ahab who wants to conquer/destroy all dragons.
And Valka could have been so much more interesting. Dragon (=Ahab) was apparently only introduced when the movie-makers decided Valka was too cool to be the villain.
That? Is just stupid. She’d have made a way, way more interesting villain. Make the trappers more confused than villainous, dial up Valka’s misanthropy to the point that she doesn’t really want to go home, and feels she won’t fit in.
Make her more angry at Stoic, and the dragon trappers.
Let the problems escalate nicely, with Hiccup caught in the middle, trying to convince his mother that the trappers can change, that she doesn’t need to attack them with her giant impossible ice-spewing dragon.
Let matters come to a head. Throw in Stoic making some kind of heroic sacrifice to stop her, and give her a nice Heel-Face Turn at the end. Don’t send her back to the village; like I said, she’s been away from most human contact for twenty years. It’ll take her some time to adjust.
That would have been way better.
Do We Really Want Hiccup To Be Chief?
I think not.
He’s easily distracted by science, and he’d probably be completely happy studying dragons, inventing things, and exploring.
Making him be the chief after his father just seems so… stupidly pointless and stereotypical.
Why could we not have him be all like, “Look, you talk so much about me being chief, Astrid… why don’t you do it?” She’s got the no-nonsense attitude and the sense of responsibility to pull it off better than Hiccup, I think. That would have been a fun plot to see, which Hiccup trying to convince his dad to take Astrid on, and then the Hiccup-Astrid tension as a result.
But, no, we get the same boring lesson about taking over to protect people like your father did before you. Yawn.