Fantasy, I’m with You Still

Perhaps by now you’ve seen Avengers: Age of Ultron (loved it; would like to see it again) and, like me, are looking forward to the next Marvel movie—Ant Man.

Right after watching Ultron, I finally got around to watching a movie I’d wanted to see for some time now: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (DreamWorks 2014). Like Age of Ultron, it made a deep impression on me.

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Though I loved both films, I’m going to confine my comments to How to Train Your Dragon 2 for reasons that will become clear. The trailer for it follows. While seeing the first movie before tackling this one is ideal, this film provides enough back story to help you get by without seeing the first one.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 debuted last year; however, this week was the perfect time for me to see it. Having heard a number of times the opinion that fantasy stories are a hard sell these days, I needed to a visual reminder of the joy and wonder of stories within the fantasy genre. This film provided that.

What I love about How to Train Your Dragon 2, besides the fact that it involves dragons, is the fact that people take a stand despite overwhelming odds. And I mean overwhelming. There. That’s my spoiler-free take on the movie.

If you watched the trailer above or saw How to Train Your Dragon (2010; based on the book by Cressida Cowell), you know that Hiccup, the main character, is an extremely unlikely hero. In the current story, though five years have passed, he’s still unsure of himself. But ready or not, Hiccup has to face an enemy who has every reason to feel totally confident of winning any battle. Consequently, the stakes are indeed high.

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Hiccup and his friend Toothless, a night fury dragon

What I also love about Hiccup’s story is that despite the darkness of the times, there is hope. Yes, there are setbacks and pain. But a rich vein of hope shines through. However, when hope arises, there’s also a dissenting voice: that of the antagonist.

You’ve read stories, haven’t you, where an enemy taunts a hero, telling him or her to give up, that he/she won’t win? A bit of that happens in How to Train Your Dragon 2. In the hero’s journey, the taunting is sometimes part of the dark night of the soul, where the hero is at his/her lowest ebb. The taunts of the enemy are all a mind game, really—an attempt to put the hero at a psychological disadvantage so that he/she will feel too defeated to fight.

That’s how I’ve felt lately—taunted by the enemy known as Despair, which constantly whispered, “Your stories won’t sell. Only genres you’re currently not writing will sell. You might as well give up.”

Nice try, Despair. But I can’t let you win. The stakes are too high.

Sometimes you have to take a stand, even if the odds are overwhelmingly against you. That’s what being a hero is all about. I’m not your typical hero—the sword-wielding kind. I’m a genre hero. Being a genre hero means sticking with your genre of choice even if others tell you to do otherwise or abandon the field themselves. That’s what I learned from Hiccup. And if you’re battling the same enemy I faced, stay strong, Hero. This dark night will pass.

How to Train Your Dragon poster from ramascreen.com. Avengers: Age of Ultron  poster from teaser-trailerz.blogspot.com

It Takes Two

Ever have one of those days when a supervillain with a bulbous head seems to win, and all you can do is lie there and take it?

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Jordie isn’t sure how he wound up tied up with his own cape. But suddenly he finds himself on the ground with a blade of death headed for him, and a supervillain softly cackling in the background.

But suddenly a friend comes along and works with you to turn the tide. The supervillain is subdued, thanks to teamwork.

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If it hadn’t been for Sidney Duck, Jordie would have been toast. Now, the supervillain has been vanquished. Jordie and Sidney will share the cupcake, since the supervillain is headed to the nearest maximum security prison where cupcakes are not allowed.

Most of us will never have to face a supervillain along the lines of Hello Kitty, Dr. Evil, or Lex Luthor. But sometimes we’re the supervillain or at least we act like the henchperson of one. Who else but us plays the “You really messed that up” tape over and over in our head? Who else but us whispers, “You’ll never finish that” or “Everyone else will always be better at that than you”? You know where those statements come from: the real supervillains—Doubt and Defeat.

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Dr. “One Meellion Dollars” Evil and Lex Luthor

But suddenly along comes a friend who sees things differently. Where we see, “Ugh! I can’t believe I wrote such crap,” he or she sees, “Wonderful,” “Could be awesome with just a little polish.”

Aside from being grateful to find a Cutie orange in my Happy Meal today, I’m grateful for my Secret Gardener and blogger friends who continually rally around with a few carefully chosen “You can do its” to help me vanquish Doubt and Defeat.

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Writing is a solitary venture. Yet there are times when we writers need something that only someone else can provide: another perspective. Two heads are sometimes better than one.

So, when a supervillain like Doubt or Defeat comes around and whispers,

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I’ll be back . . .

Do yourself a favor and call a friend. Don’t let Doubt have the last word.

And speaking of the last word . . .

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Lex Luthor from youngjustice.wikia.com. Dr. Evil from cupofjoepowell.blogspot.com. Cat from LOL Cats.