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‘Captain Marvel’ Brings On the Girl Power

MOVIE REVIEW
It only seems right that Captain Marvel is being released on 2019’s International Women's Day. Since 2008’s Iron-Man, Marvel has presented a good chain, albeit a bit short, of strong women characters starting with Pepper Potts. Black Widow became the first Marvel female superhero to grace the screens in Iron-Man 2 followed by Scarlet Witch, Gamora, Mantis, The Wasp, Okoye and Shuri. But today, Brie Larson heads the first female-driven superhero movie for Marvel Studios.

Let’s just get this out of the way – this movie packs a “girl power” punch without putting men down in the process. While their intentions are good, too many films try to present a message of female empowerment while emasculating men in the process. Sure, the opposite has been true for many years, but this is no way to move on with injustice and certainly isn’t a message that today’s girls need to here.

Marvel Studios has toyed with an “anything you can do, I can do better” attitude between its men and…

‘How to Train Your Dragon 3’ Proves How to Finish a Trilogy

Tooghless the Night Fury meets a Light Fury in latest "How to Train Your Dragon" movie. (Photos: DreamWorks Animation)

MOVIE REVIEW
While not exactly a golden rule, it is known fact that if a movie does well in the box office, chances are good that it will be followed by sequel and more often than not, we’ve come to expect that the sequel won’t measure up to the original. Add a third movie to the mix and you’re just asking for trouble. With animated movies, the expectations are often even lower. (Is anyone really surprised that the Ice Age movies keep getting worse?) But sometimes, as is the case with the Disney/Pixar Toy Story movies, we’re pleasantly surprised. Now you can add How to Train Your Dragon to that short list too.

One thing that DreamWorks Animation has understood about this series is that the story comes first, the hijinks come later. The very first Dragon movie proved that way back in 2010 with a strong story and with each chapter that has come after it, that story just keeps getting better. What started out as a cute kid’s story has become a powerful trilogy. We've seen these characters grow up and face new challenges, some that were tough to watch.

When we first met Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), he was that odd, awkward, sports-challenged kid who felt the weight of the world on his shoulders being the son of a Viking king. He had a lot to live up to. His life changed when we first met Toothless, a wounded dragon. After restoring the beast back to health, he proved to his village and his father, that both man and dragon could live together in harmony.

The story became a bit more serious in 2014 when How to Train Your Dragon 2 gave Hiccup a strong mission facing dragon poachers, finding his long lost mother, reuniting her with his father (which was beautiful) and then ultimately losing his father (which was heart-breaking). The themes of forgiveness, reconciliation, sacrifice and grief are pretty heavy stuff for kid’s movie. The subject matter was dealt with these with a light touch but more importantly, the movie didn’t talk down to the kids either.

Now comes How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and the whole gang is back but things have changed a bit. Hiccup and his friends are all older now and their village is practically overrun with dragons. This time, the story focuses on the topic of romantic love. In fact, the movie probably should have been released on Valentine’s Day. Hiccup and Astrid (America Ferrera) are more than just a cute couple. Some of the villagers are starting to suggest that the two should tie the knot, something neither of them are ready to do. Even so, Hiccup can’t help but have flashbacks back when he was a young boy and listening to his father, Stoick (Gerard Butler) tell him stories about his mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) and how much he loved her. Meanwhile, Toothless is starting to feel the love when he is caught off guard by the introduction of the all-white Light Fury dragon.

But not everything is rosy with this story as Hiccup comes face to face with his biggest threat yet. Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) is an evil man known for killing dragons just for fun and since Toothless is a rare Night Fury, he wants him and will destroy the village if that is what it takes to get him. Inspired by a whim, Hiccup plans to find the mythical place known as the “hidden world” in hopes of hiding his family and friends from the bad guy.

While there is plenty of excitement with this new chapter, the film takes its time, allowing for lots of beautiful scenery shots and meaningful messages and dialogue. Sure, Toothless stumbles a bit learning about his new feelings toward the opposite sex, but he soon gets the attention he desires. The budding romance of the two couples is played out in a thoughtful and touching way. Again, this is not what you expect from a kids movie.

Another thing to appreciate about this Dragon movie is how relatable the characters are, even to us adults. For instance, though older and in charge, Hiccup is still insecure and unsure of this leadership skills, but he receives the encouragement he needs from the no-nonsense Astrid proving that two are definitely stronger than one. No man is an island, even in a cartoon.

It’s nice to see a movie, in animated form or not, that isn’t concerned with an agenda or social commentary. It’s refreshing to see a movie that builds a romance from a friendship with both genders as seen as equals in a very balanced way rather than having the need to prove that they are equals or by putting the other down. Just good story-telling, a few laughs and even a few places to get choked up a bit. Everything wraps up nicely and gives the series the ending it deserves.

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