Review: Disney shows how to pull off a remake with ‘Pete’s Dragon’


Zachary Jones, Staff Writer


Disney and other movie studios have started to make a habit of revamping older releases for a new generation. Disney’s releases of a completely remastered storyline to Sleeping Beauty and a long-awaited sequel to Finding Nemo have not lived up to the originals.

Disney’s newest release Pete’s Dragon, however, excels beyond the 1977 original release.

After a family camping trip goes awry, Pete (Oakes Fegley) befriends the Millhaven dragon, Elliott. They live in harmony and grow a genuine friendship over the next six years until one day a lumber company ventures “where nobody goes” in the forest. After being accidently separated, Pete and Elliot then venture throughout the town to find one another in a extremely sentimental, family-oriented story.

Pete’s Dragon brings new life to an older release through a realistic CGI dragon and strong lead actors. In the 1977 release, Elliot had little screen time and the bond between Pete and Elliot is not really developed.

The 2016 version addresses both of these critiques. Elliot has many stand-alone scenes where he explores the town of Millhaven and many action scenes where he fights for his life and Pete’s friendship. The bond between the boy and his dragon is quite obvious as Elliot is protective of Pete as he openly flies about in hopes of finding him although he may be caught himself.

The original Pete’s Dragon came out the same year as the first Star Wars film and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, two extremely successful movies featuring spectacular special effects for the time. Compare those two blockbusters to the Mary Poppins-like effects and semi-decent songs, and it is easy to see why many may have overlooked this movie while scanning the aisles of Best Buy.

The fact that Pete’s Dragon is so unknown just shows how Disney made a fantastic move by recreating this overlooked movie. Instead of trying to remake the classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and have a semi-decent remake like Universal Studios’ Snow White and the Huntsman, they have made a future family movie classic. Although Disney has hit a homerun with Pete’s Dragon, no movie is without its faults.

One small problem was the occasional obvious CGI effects. During the first flight scene of Elliot, there is a part where it is quite obvious Elliot’s flight is not following the movement of the camera or the landscape, resulting in Elliot standing out from the background with a cartoonish look. Other than that one scene, however, there are no other outstanding CGI failures.

The other problem was a personal preference. Karl Urban plays the money hungry brother who lacks a sense of empathy. The character was well developed, but Urban was not a fantastic casting choice. I find Urban monotone and not fun to watch in most movies. The only character I really like him playing is Dr. Bones in the Star Trek franchise where he has a dry sense of humor. This role lacks the humor Urban needs to succeed in a role, and he seemed out of place.

Overall, Pete’s Dragon redoes the original movie almost perfectly. Disney was able to implement its usual themes of family and love along with the original movie’s main theme of friendship. Besides some minor flaws, this movie is one for every age group because everyone wants a sense of adventure in their lives and this movie satisfies that thirst.

Rating: 8/10