The Podcast didn't help. The more I linger on How To Train Your Dragon 2 the less love I realize I have for it. This is not to say that it's not worth seeing -- it's good. I just wanted it to be great since I hold the original in such high esteem. The animation is truly impressive and some sequences provoke awe in a way that nothing else in the theater does at the moment outside of a few scenes in Godzilla. But plotwise the third act just doesn't work for me. I don't like the alpha-male 'you have no choice to obey' conceit... which feels like a betrayal of the first movie's very particular and atypical action movie triumphs. But I still want to see it again for reasons of DRAGONS!!!
So for today's list...
THE TEN BEST DRAGONS IN THE MOVIES
(Disclaimer: I did not see The Desolation of Smaug and have no plans to)
10 The Eborsisk in Willow (1988)
Around the web you can find a few references to this two-headed dragon (which was done with puppetry - puppets are the best) that label it a 'homage' to Siskel & Ebert, then very much the power duo of film critics. But that's rewriting history. At the time it was a diss since George Lucas was no fan of theirs. Willow is a lot of fun across the board except those stupid thumbelina sized people, the 'comic relief'.
09 Falkor in The Never Ending Story (1984)
I don't remember this movie well at all. In fact, just about the only thing I remember was that I was really in love with it when I was much younger. But now I don't remember why. But it brought me joy then so I figured I owed it to him. And to whoever thought up a dog-like "luckdragon", more cuddly than fearsome, long before the cat-like Toothless, I salute you.
08 Madame Mim in The Sword in the Stone (1963)
We said no dragons!
Madame Mim does not play fair in her shape-shifting comic battle with Merlin, the highlight of this lesser Disney effort. But Merlin's revenge is visually funny - this dragon doesn't know what hit her - and the animators provided exceptional personality for Mim in her every incarnation.
07 King Ghidorah/Mecha Ghidorah in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
Because three heads are better than two (sorry Eborsisk) and in the summer of Godzilla you have to have this formidable foe.
06 Vermithrax in Dragonslayer (1981)
For nostalgia reasons: This is the first dragon I ever remember seeing at the movies as a kid and I l-o-v-e-d it despite being terrified. I tried to watch it recently on Netflix but I'd forgotten about my Peter MacNicol allergy so I didn't make it very far in. But damn that dragon was scary and they didn't shy away from her bloody violence what with maiden sacrifices (who aren't rescued!) fed to her dragon babies ON CAMERA and all.
05 Toruk in Avatar (2009)
Every sequence involving the dragon-like beasts in the biggest hit of all time from the initial cliff climb to the training to that daring leap onto the Toruk (aka the Great Leonopteryx) is mesmerizing. Plus it makes Jake Sully a Toruk Makto and thus he becomes way cooler. This movie sometimes gets a bad rap but I'll never forget the first and second time seeing it - still the most impressive iMAX 3D experience ever.
04 饒速水琥珀主 "Haku" in Spirited Away (2001)
Sure most of the time Nigihayami Kohakunushi (nickname Haku) the river god looks like a teenage boy but in his powerful dragon form he is beautifully graceful and Eastern in this animated classic from Hayao Miyazaki. This needs to go on the "rewatch" list.
03 玉嬌龍 in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000)
Sure, Zhang Ziyi's "Jen" is only a figurative dragon but she flies, she's unexpectedly deadly and she's the quickest and most agile dragon the movies ever saw outside of animation. It helps to be made of flesh and blood and lithe muscle and not from weightless computer pixels, jerky stop-motion, or elaborate puppetry. Bonus Points: She stars in the greatest film ever made with "dragon" in the title.
02 Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty (1959)
She's only a dragon for a short time and this transformation proves to be her undoing but go out with a bang and not a whimper, right? This is one of the scariest transformations in cinema and the sorceress even punctuates it with some frighteningly direct shout out to demonic black magic. Disney has since defanged their greatest villain (sigh) but if the magnificent animated Maleficent ever met Angelina Jolie, the otherwise formidable movie star would be toast. Burnt, nay, charred toast.
01 Toothless in How To Train Your Dragon franchise (2010-2014)
Let's pretend he didn't become some sort of ridiculously powerful King of Dragons in the sequel and admire him for what he once was: the cutest dragon of all time that also just happened to be the only known living Night Fury, among the deadliest and rarest of dragon breeds. The only thing more powerful than his blue laser kill shot is his ability to magically remind every single living person of a) every wounded bird (figurative) they've ever wanted to help heal and b) their most cherished pet (literal).