Synopsis: The adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon.
I finally got around to seeing the remake to Disney’s Pete’s Dragon. It’s a remake of the 1977 film of the same name but that seems to be the end of similarities which I think was a good decision. I’ve never seen the original Pete’s Dragon aside from bits and pieces but based on reading the synopsis of both films they seem to be almost totally different other than the fact that you have a boy named Pete who is friends with a green dragon that he names Elliot. So you got to give credit to them for having the courage to just completely rework the story to make it work in modern times. Pete’s dragon has some issues but overall I found it to be an enjoyable family movie with great performances and visuals.
Right off the bat the first thing that struck me about this movie is just how slow it is and how long it takes to get really interesting. I wouldn’t go far as to say it’s boring but not much happens aside from world building and character setups. It is necessary to build and setup all the characters and their relationships to each other as the movie hinges on a lot these relationship to pay off the end of the movie and it’s what gives the end its emotional punch. The climax and ending is where the movie gets very good and exciting. All that slow build up was definitely payed off well as by that time you're fully invested and root for all the characters. The place where the story telling kind of fails for me is when it comes to the character of Gavin, Karl Urban’s character. He’s played as sort of the villain of the movie but he’s not necessarily evil or even all that villainous and his motivation for anything he really does is so paper thin other than he does them because he’s just kind of a greedy ass. It would have been more compelling if there was some setup where he was struggling for some money, maybe he was scared by the dragon as a kid, or he has a love for hunting etc. I don’t know, anything. However Karl Urban and all the rest of the cast gave great performances, Robert Redford is especially a delight to see. He has great screen presence and does an amazing job conveying a warmth and charm quality. Oakes Fegley, who plays the titular character Pete, does a decent job. I wasn’t blown away by his performance like some other child actors this year but he did well enough not to distract from the rest of the movie.
Pete’s Dragon looks great with much of the movie taking place in the mountain forests. Much of it was shot on location in the forests of New Zealand and gives an amazingly real feeling which is especially helpful in grounding the fact that there is a big green CG dragon walking and flying around. The CG visuals are blended well with the live action all around it, Elliot himself looks great. I was actually really impressed how he seamlessly blends between the real actors and the environment around him. The way the actors interact with Elliot you’d never think that he was completely CG the whole time. It goes a long way because even today you’ll still see some shotty CG work that you can’t help but notice the compositing and it completely draws you out of the movie because of how distracting it is that what’s being seen seems out of place.
Not an instant Disney classic but an accomplishment considering they decided to almost completely redo the story of the original movie but I thought it turned out to be a good idea. Disney has been doing a great job lately updating their old classics. Pete’s Dragon seemed like a random choice among all the other Disney movies, but you can see no matter what they choose they know how to take care of their beloved properties. The movie also has minor themes of the negative aspects of deforestation and environmental preservation which is an awesome message to provide for the kids and even adults. Pete’s Dragon is a beautiful albeit slow movie that is a fun watch for all families.