I can’t help but think that we’ll be seeing a lot more live action Disney animated classics in the near future, we’ve already had Jungle Book which clawed back our nostalgic childhood to some degree of success and there’s also Beauty and the Beast in the future so it’s pretty set in stone that this is Disney’s new production tactic. But for these types of films in order for them to be successful they have to retell the story that many of us had told ourselves should not be altered in any way shape or form. So to me Pete’s Dragon was at a disadvantage considering I have never seen the 1977 original live action mixed with animation Disney classic. I was more of a Bedknobs and Broomsticks type person myself.
So this modern retelling of the film had the most difficult job of all, too impress an audience member not familiar with the story, and it worked. Simple as that. It’s very challenging for someone like me to criticise a feel good family film (which is what Pete’s Dragon ultimately is) for the reason that I find family films have only one goal, to bring kids closer to their parents. In order to find any accomplishment in this goal I had to ask myself what would my 10-year-old self say about this?
Getting into the characters of the film, the two focus’ should be Pete and Elliot (his dragon) and the film does this by allowing the two characters’ equal screen time separately, however it’s the time they spend together in the film that bugs me. The two spend moments with each other having already established the type of friendship they share in such a concentrated amount of time. You will be able to experience this most notably in the opening minutes of the film which is the only dirty stain on a solid introduction to these two.
It is my belief that when filmmakers have creatures such as dragons in a screenplay, they have to handle them is a very delicate way otherwise the misrepresentation backlash from audiences could end up being as ferocious as the beasts themselves, but I doubt that very few people will be able to walk away from this film outraged at Elliot. During the film I had taken an issue that Elliot seemed too domesticated for a dragon, too polite in a way, but nearing the end of the film, director David Lowery decided to show all the kids that end up wanting a pet dragon for themselves the reality of Elliot. That reality is that Elliot is first and foremost a dangerous, fire breathing dragon and it’s important for a family film to inform children about the tiniest bit of reality that needs to be embedded into their minds.
Drawing our attention to the side characters, the film is too basic when revealing their personality and traits, you have the caring mother and father in Bryce Dallas Howard and Wes Bentley, the daughter and young girl Natalie who Pete’s has a onetime attraction to, the member of the family who ends up being the main antagonist in Karl Urban who strangely feels too polite in his performance to pull of this duty and Robert Redford as the wise old Mr. Meacham with fascinating tales of seeing Elliot when he was younger, who seems to disappear after his introduction until the story demands it.
Continuing with the story, there will come across a lot of times where characters will do or say something for the sake of the narrative, in a way the events become too predictable even for the younger audiences of the film, but unlike the children, we the adults won’t be cheering every time there is a positive outcome after every seemingly negative situation because we’ll have seen it all before and that I feel is where the film will start to lose the interest of the parents.
The whole CGI vs practical effects debate in film is possibly one of the most divisive questions that could ever exist. I’ve seen it fracture friendships and destroy filmmaker’s reputations. My voice on this is that as long as the CGI isn’t distracting, it’s perfectly acceptable to present to the audience. Which brings me to the question would the film be any better if Elliot was completely practical? Probably not. The film CGI doesn’t draw our attention away from the tone or feel of the film despite one or two odd moments, but the power of telling a heartwarming story will triumph over the clear CGI that is being viewed on the big screen.
Stylistically there is nothing much to say apart from some strange editing choices. It’s hard to pick at a film stylistic choices when style isn’t the films main priority, I agree that it there were areas of the film that needed more attention but overall it was quite gratifying.
Pete’s Dragon then is a good film that easily falls into the selection of films that a parents would show their children on a family night to remind the kids the values of friendships and family. If I’m completely honest I really believed that Pete’s dragon would be a 50/50 film but after seeing it for myself, it is easily the biggest surprise I’ve seen this year.
Final Result: 7/10 – Good
Have you seen Pete’s Dragon? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments.
Next Time: David Brent: Life on the Road