Pete’s Dragon | Review

It nearly destroyed me that I couldn’t make the preview screening for PETE’S DRAGON. The original is probably my favourite movie as a little tacker, it was the first movie that emotionally and truly heartbroke me. A remake truly suits the movie, the combining of animation and real life back in the day was pioneering but not the most effective compared to today’s CGI techniques. The premise is solid and the cast is strong. I am taking a friend to see this on Saturday night and cannot wait to see it but our dragon loving Kernel Jack hit this one up while I was chasing brumbies in the Snowy Mountains – nearly as good :). PETE’S DRAGON is out this Thursday 15th September in Australia from Disney, it is rated PG and runs for 103 splendid minutes. Enjoy Jack’s loving thoughts………all the best.

BY JACK DIGNAN

Disney have been on a mission lately. They’ve been on a mission to remake a bunch of their older films, mostly animated ones, and revamp them for modern audiences. While they’ve done it from time to time over the years, such as with 101 DALMATIANS back in 1996, over the last few years, and in the upcoming future, the quantity of remakes has increased drastically. In fact, this is the second one this year, the first being the marvellous JUNGLE BOOK remake. PETE’S DRAGON is the next film on their remake quest, taking the live action-animation hybrid from 1977 and creating a fully live action version of the film, and while I admittedly haven’t seen the original, there’s a strong chance it isn’t nearly as good as this new one is.

 

Pete's Dragon | Pete and Elliot Flying image

 

PETE’S DRAGON SYNOPSIS:

We’ve all dreamed of adventure. We’ve all grown up wanting to go on one, to be washed away into an exciting and dangerous tale where our wildest dreams become reality. Pete (Oakes Fegley) was a young boy going on an adventure for the first time, yet his adventure was cut short through unforeseen circumstances and he finds himself lost in the woods, all alone and having to defend himself. Or so he thinks, as to his surprise, living in these woods lays a green dragon. While fierce at first, the dragon and Pete soon become the best of friends, Pete naming the dragon Elliot.

Cut forward six years. Pete has been surviving, perhaps even thriving, in the woods with his beloved dragon, but things are about to change. He encounters a park ranger named Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), who takes Pete under her wing and looks after him. The problem is that Pete doesn’t want to be looked after, instead wanting to return to the woods to continue living with Elliot, whom he loves more than anything. While it may sound like there’s not a lot really going on, and the oh-so-brief description on IMDb may seem to back that statement up, there’s an awful lot that actually goes down in this movie, mixing a series of subplots that come together to make a rather wonderful movie.

 

Pete's Dragon | Oakes Fegley as Pete image

 

ELLIOT:

To put it rather bluntly, and to get this review off to a positive start, I want a dragon. No, no, not just any old dragon, actually. I want Elliot the dragon. If it weren’t for baby Dory in FINDING DORY, Elliot may just be the most loveable movie creature from 2016. Dragons have always been one of my favourite mythological creatures, and Elliot has, shockingly, proven to be one of the best. He’s like a massive dog in a lot of ways, chasing his tale or hoping the disappearance of Pete at the start of the movie (definitely not a spoiler, don’t worry) is just a game of peek a boo. It’s practically impossible not to fall in love with him. I know I did.

What makes Elliot Elliot, however, is the CGI used to create him. If JUNGLE BOOK proved anything (aside from how to tell a great story, create deep characters, improve upon the film you’re remaking and make a shit ton of money), it’s that the animators at Disney know how to make photorealistic CGI, and with PETE’S DRAGON, they strike again. The only real component of this film that’s digital is Elliot, and he looks flawless. When flying around or galloping through the woods, nothing about it felt off or fake in any way, shape or form, except for occasionally the odd bit of green screen when characters are riding on the back of him, but that didn’t take me out of the moment at all.

 

Pete's Dragon movie image

 

THE CAST:

As much as I would like to, I unfortunately can’t just talk about Elliot for this entire review. Believe it or not, there are other characters in this movie too, and some of them are actually pretty interesting. Oakes Fegley, who doesn’t have too many roles under his sleeve, does quite a good job at bringing Pete to life, especially considering that the kid has to act with a CGI character that isn’t there, and he makes their relationship look extremely believable.

I absolutely love Bryce Dallas Howard, and she was especially great in last year’s JURASSIC WORLD and 2011’s underrated gem 50/50, although her character was much less likeable in the latter one. She steals the show in PETE’S DRAGON, giving the best performance, but also managing to be the most developed and interesting character aside from Pete. The rest of the supporting cast aren’t nearly on her level, and that’s saying something when she’s working with such a talented cast, including the likes of Karl Urban and Wes Bentley.

Also in this supporting cast is Robert Redford, and who doesn’t love a good Robert Redford movie? Robert Redford, much to my surprise, is hardly in this film. He is essentially in the film once in the first act, once or twice in the second act and then not again until the third act, where he finally becomes of importance. His performance is good, as one would expect, but he’s not given a lot to do until late into the game. In terms of story, it works, but with such a fantastic actor portraying this character, it would’ve been cool to see him do just a little bit more.

 

Pete's Dragon Karl Urban as Gavin image

 

EMOTION DRIVEN STORYTELLING:

Disney is probably the most recognisable film studio to ever exist, and that’s because they have created so many iconic movies that almost everyone alive has seen a handful of. There’s no way you haven’t, and the reason they do it time and time again is because they rarely create two-dimensional stories. They create layered characters and place them in an emotion-driven story, conjuring up a timeless tale that families of all ages will adore for generations to come. With PETE’S DRAGON, they’ve done this once again, and the final product consistently had me on the brink of tears. I was invested in the character’s lives, particularly that of Pete, and I wanted to see them succeed at everything he was trying to do.

While it is technically a remake, the story does feel fresh. There’s small elements of the story that have been done to death, and some lines are far too overused, but as a whole, Disney have provided audiences worldwide with a mature and deep story that will dive right into the hearts of every single audience member. Full of creativity, smiles, tears and laughs, it’s definitely a film that’s worthy of your time, and if you don’t come out of it wanting to buy every single Elliot toy you can find, I don’t really know if I can trust you ever again.

 

Pete's Dragon movie image

 

IN CONLCLUSION:

PETE’S DRAGON is yet another fantastic Disney remake, and if Disney manage to keep this up, I would happily see them remake every single one of their old movies. In fact, is it bad if I kind of want them to? They’ve frequently managed to create brilliance by adapting their older work, and this film is no exception. Charming, hilarious, emotional, extremely loveable and full of great performances, I cannot wait for it to hit theatres this Thursday so I can experience the joy of watching it all over again.

 

4 Pops

 

 

YOUR REVIEWER:

When he’s not spending an embarrassing amount of hours browsing through Netflix, Jack Dignan dedicates his time to reviewing movies of all genres and languages, and has done so since 2012. He also maintains a website of his own – www.directorscutmovies.com – and ever since their interview, he’s been best friends with Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino just doesn’t know it yet. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.