The latest Disney live action remake of an animated film, and this time it is Pete’s Dragon, directed by David Lowery. Now I’ve never actually seen the 1977 version, or know much about it save from the trailers. And to be honest those trailers looked more Legend of Tarzan than The Jungle Book.
But wow are Disney our saviours this year, and they delivered again with such a beautiful film. The film is about a friendship between a young boy, Pete, who is the sole survivor of a car crash out in the woods and a dragon. Pete survives for 6 years in the wild thanks to the help of the dragon, who he names Elliot. He’s found by a forest ranger called Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard and taken to town. A lumber mill worker, Gavin (Karl Urban), discovers Elliot and attempts to hunt and capture him.
It’s a pretty simple story, and not one that revolves around a huge amount of action. Instead this is a film that is really focused on the character’s journeys and the emotion of the film. It spends a lot of time at the start of the film building Pete and Elliot’s relationship, and their characters as individuals. This meant that I did become hugely invested in these characters, and really cared for them. It did also mean that the film was a touch slow at the start, which could leave kids feeling a little bored, and they are a large part of the target audience for this film. Even the ending set piece isn’t really that action heavy; instead it is really the culmination of the character’s journeys. So whilst I worry that it may drag for young viewers, I personally loved it.
Elliot the dragon is an absolutely brilliant character. Yesterday I named my Top 5 Film Dragons, and he would certainly be in contention for that list. When I first saw his design in the promotional material, I wasn’t a huge fan. He basically looked like a big, green dog with wings. But when I got into the film, I realised that was kind of the point. He meant to reflect a dog in Pete’s childhood book, and you have scenes where he really acts like a dog; such as chasing his tail. The CGI work on him looks fantastic; Weta did such a wonderful job (hardly surprising as they’re the company behind the effects on the Lord of the Rings).
I thought that Oakes Fegley does a wonderful job as Pete. He’s not Jacob Tremblay in Room level, but he brings so much heart and charm to that character, and that’s exactly what this film needed him to do. Robert Redford plays Grace’s father, and he’s excellent. He has one scene with Bryce Dallas Howard where he talks about his encounter with Elliot and he absolutely knocks it out of the park. Karl Urban is one of my favourite actors around, he always delivers a good performance, and here is not different. Bryce Dallas Howard is obviously plays one of the main characters in the film, and whilst I’ve not always been a big fan of her work, she does a good job here.
But what really got me with this film was the heart and charm that Lowery installed in it. It’s such a lovely and fun time at the cinema, and it has all the innocence of classic Disney films. I honestly wasn’t expecting much going in, but I loved it. It may have a very simplistic story, and could potentially fail to capture a younger audience, but it is one of the best films of the summer, and only extends the hot streak that Disney currently finds themselves on.