gain, what’s a movie-reference-laced blog doing in a writing column? Well, it’s all about storytelling.
For the record, I like the movie How to Train your Dragon. I love the cat references in particular. And the flying. And even though the symbolism about missing body parts and the links they forge is a little over the top, yeah, it’s okay. I even own a copy.
The other day, I took Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress to my mom’s place. I’d mentioned to my niece that this is where Lucas got the idea of the two robots as the central theme of the tale, that all the action revolves around their POV. The story itself is a grand one, with a princess attempting to move gold out of her defeated kingdom so she can rebuild an army and throw out the invaders. It has funny moments, bold moments, moments that show the high and low points of human existence. And those two peasants. I’m smiling as I recall the things they yelled at each other. Shitworm. Heh.
Anyway, popped in that DVD and started the film for the group. For what? Two minutes? That’s a record for my movies being rejected. Everyone was bitching and complaining and mocking the film, and eventually I just pulled the plug on it. And so our peasants were stuck in their desert, just short of finding that tell-tale piece of gold that would draw them into the bigger game, trapped in unwatched-DVD limbo. And into its place, we put in How to Train.
Can you imagine sitting down to eat a wonderful dinner prepared by the great chiefs of Europe, steaming veal, sparkling red wines, a waiter off your elbow. And in a second, like the magic trick of pulling away the tablecloth yet here the plates and courses do fly away from you, and in its place is wad of cotten candy. Because this, you are told, is what you want. This is the sort of thing you’ve been trained to eat, to like without comparison, that you’ve come to expect. It’s got the usual plot line, the swelling music, the lovable creatures and the well-trod emotional paths. It’s the world-story we know, and the one we don’t stray from.
And so I watched this and thought of how confining this film was. It was old and stale, with inside cultural references and unthreatening progression.
Yeah, we had dragons.
But we could have had samurai.
I’m not expecting anyone will devote four hours to this sort of thing, but watch these two movies back to back someday and see what you think of this taste test. See if you can notice the difference between the product of one of the greatest filmmakers of the last century and the creative yet committee minds of Pixar.