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Pete's Dragon Review

Updated on December 16, 2016
Stevennix2001 profile image

Steven Escareno is an amateur film critic that writes about movies in his spare time.

Stevennix2001's Rating:

8 / 10

Pros:

  • Great visual effects.
  • Sound effects were spot on.
  • Cinematography was great.
  • Plot was interesting, and well written. I liked how they managed to give it a modernized update, without compromising the core elements of the original story.
  • Acting was OK.
  • Pacing was good. It was slow during the moments it had to be, so we could soak in the tender moments of the story, while still keeping it flowing at a decent pace.
  • While I can't say I was a huge fan of Elliott's design, I will say that his design is arguably one of the more original ones out there for dragons on the big screen.
  • I liked how the story manages to cover the concept of Pete finding a family, while still keeping the focus on his relationship with Elliott.

Cons:

  • Robert Redford tends to be a bit too hammy at times, with his sly way of how he just naturally accepts that dragons exists.
  • Story was predictable, even if you've never seen the original.
  • Although the remake is supposed to set in a more contemporary setting, it doesn't make a lot of sense why the government never found out about Elliott, or his race, in this film. At least in the original, you could chalk it up to the fact that it took place in the early twentieth century, where things like TV and the internet didn't exist yet. But in an era where practically everyone carries a camera with their cell phones these days, while posting almost everything and anything on social media, it's a bit hard to believe that the government never once saw him, before Pete came to town to meet his potential new family.

In an era where remakes have flooded the film industry, there's been quite a few bad ones in the past, with the good ones being far few and between. Unfortunately due to poor marketing, "Pete's Dragon" wasn't given the proper attention it deserved, as it's arguably one of the best remakes out there.

The remake is a bit of a modernized update to the original in that it takes place in a contemporary setting that's not all that dissimilar from our own reality. Gone are the classical musical numbers, the corny bad guys, and cheesy exposition. No, this new "Pete's Dragon" is a bit more grounded and realistic, while still maintaining it's childlike sensibilities.

Although the only problem is that since this story takes place in modern times, it makes you wonder why Elliott, the dragon, wasn't spotted by the government ages ago? Seriously, we have satellites that can monitor tornado formations and hurricanes from space, yet none of these satellites were able to capture an image of Elliott, or any of the other dragons shown in this film? Granted, you can try to argue that Elliott, and his dragon buddies, probably used their invisible camouflage ability like he did in the original, but there's several scenes, where he's seen flying in broad freaking daylight without it. How in the world is the government not aware of Elliott's presence? At least in the original, it took place back in the early twentieth century, so it made sense that most people didn't know about Elliott.

Here, it just feels like lazy writing; especially when you consider how everyone always carries a freaking camera on their phone, and most of them tend to take pictures of anything and everything these days. But I digress.

That minor nitpick aside though. The rest of the movie isn't that bad. Apart from a few modernized updates to the original story, the bare bone structure of it is still relatively the same. Pete is still an orphan living with Elliott out in the wilderness. Unlike the previous version, where it was implied that Elliott was some divine being that helped other kids like Pete, this remake has a bit of a different spin on the tale. Here, Elliott is more of a lost soul as well. Unaware if there are others like him out there, as he's virtually alone in the world until he meets Pete. In fact, there's even added backstory to the lore of "Pete's Dragon" that somehow manages to make Elliott feel more like a complete character. Whereas in the first one, his origins were never explained, as it was vague and ambiguous at best.

Anyway, the two of them form a bond, as Elliott raises and protects Pete out in the woods. However, through a series of random events, Pete inevitably comes into contact with a little girl and her family. After taking him in, they start to contemplate the possibility of adopting him if his parents aren't found. Needless to say, this worries Elliott because he's not used to being without his friend. He goes through the city rushing to find him, but inevitably gets himself spotted, which sparks the entire town to come after him.

And like the original, It's up to Pete and his new foster family to save Elliott before it's too late. As I mentioned earlier, the story is generally the same, with a few updates. And for the most part, the changes they made to the story kind of work. At heart, you still get the same heartfelt story about a boy wanting to find a family, while still keeping the focus on Pete and Elliott's relationship.

The humor was funny. Granted, it's not as over top and campy like the original version, but it's still fairly entertaining. And unlike the original version, where all the bad guys were silly and cartoonish, this remake doesn't have a true villain, as it's more like it has characters being put into antagonistic roles. Sure, you can cite how some of the town folk wanting to capture Pete are the bad guys, but their motivations are reasonable because they're just doing it because they see him as a threat their families. In a lot of ways, it makes the story feel a lot more realistic and grounded in a lot of ways.

Sure, Robert Redford's performance was a bit hammy at times, but it's kind of expected that you'll get a few actors doing that in these types of family films.

As for the visual effects, I have to say I was thoroughly impressed by them. While I can't say I'm fond of Elliott's new look, I will say that it's fairly impressive, and original, considering how many different dragons we've seen on the big screen before.

Overall, "Pete's Dragon" is probably one of the best family films that Disney has produced in recent years. Is it a masterpiece? Certainly not, but if you're aching to take your kids to see a decent film, then it's worth checking out.

© 2016 Steven Escareno

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    • Stevennix2001 profile image
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      Steven Escareno 9 months ago

      I'll say. The fact that the original was campier made it more plausible, along with the pre techno era setting of it. Here, there's really no excuse other than lazy writing if you ask me. Oh well. Still a good movie though.

    • CYong74 profile image

      Cedric Yong 9 months ago from Singapore

      You're spot on with the cons, esp the last one. The original was campy, so it was easy to suspend belief. The more serious premise of this remake makes it feel implausible that the national guards weren't sent it, or that nobody leaked this out to social media and created a sensation.