If you happened to be an adult who watched “How to Train Your Dragon 2” with your kids or by yourself, you probably had your jaw hanging open for a minute at how the film really worked for adults on a powerful level. That’s because it took on some very complex themes in the analogic realm of trying to keep peace within a complicated conflict between humans and dragons. But that’s only the start of it, and the film assumes all along that kids will appreciate the brutal honesty of reality in times of conflict and how it sometimes requires the offspring to step up despite lack of experience.
Yes, the film manages to take on these themes while subsequently being entertaining and funny. While that shows the adept writing of former animator Dean DeBlois, it’s not necessarily unique to movies designed for kids. There’s a definite trend going on in movies designed for those below 18 to present issues that are quite adult with the assumption kids can handle it. Many of those kids might be recent graduates of the Harry Potter movie school.
Did the “Harry Potter” Movies Bring More Adult Issues to Kids?
The original intention of the “Harry Potter” books and movies was to become increasingly more sophisticated and take on more adult issues with the assumption the audience would grow up with the characters. While that was the case for the most part, you still heard stories of kindergarten age kids being taken to the last Harry Potter movies and being scared out of their wits. Apparently those parents didn’t get the memo those films were intended for a slightly older audience who slowly matured to deal with the more violent situations in the latter quarter of the series.
This might have created a bit of a problem for those who followed suit in wanting to copy the Harry Potter formula to avoid being too innocent. Those other films didn’t stop and realize that there’s going to be considerable overlap when it comes to marketing a film toward kids. The mystery right now is how young is too young to make a film overly sophisticated with the themes being explored in the “How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy?
With the sequel only getting a PG rating, it’s clear that it’s meant for all ages as long as a parent is there with them. If you go to movie theaters regularly, then you’ve probably noticed how many parents take their youngest kids to movies like this with intention of giving them their first movies experience. Would a five-year-old be able to digest some of the messages in “How to Train Your Dragon 2”, or are movies subjecting overly complex ideas into kids a little too young?
The Disappearance of the ‘G’ Rating
You have to wonder why the MPAA even bothers keeping the ‘G’ rating going. Along with NC-17, the polar opposites of the MPAA ratings scale seem to equal box office anathema for the most part. While you still see a few NC-17 movies in a year, you see virtually no G-rated movies anymore. There seems to be a fear of giving kids something overly innocent with the notion that it won’t be up to their more sophisticated standards already at preschool age.
Is that really a mistake, though, when much of society laments kids being exposed to violence and adult themes so early? The good news is that “How to Train Your Dragon” is the closest to G of any kids movie in a while, and it only received PG because of the battle sequences with the dragons. The movie somehow manages to be both sophisticated and innocent all at the same time, which is a balance all movies for kids are probably going to attempt from now on.
Rather than scare kids witless, there may be more attention to moral dilemmas that the “Dragon” trilogy reinforces. In many ways, it’s a throwback to “Star Wars” on a slightly more complex wavelength. That’s because kids aware of the world around them know the world is becoming overly complex with problems more challenging to solve. “How to Train Your Dragon 2” teaches this while also showing you have to make sacrifices in order to find any sort of peaceful outcome. At the same time, figuring out who your enemies are also becomes more of a challenge.
If the Harry Potter movies also taught this, the “Dragon” trilogy uses dragons as the analogy of someone from the enemy side managing to cross over into your own life. When that happens, you have kids placed into occasional quagmire situations that are far different from earlier generations.