2016 has one of the biggest release slates in Disney’s history. With Captain America: Civil War, Zootropolis, The Jungle Book, Finding Dory, Doctor Strange, Moana, The BFG, Alice: Through the Looking Glass, and Rogue One, Pete’s Dragon isn’t exactly the most exciting film they’re giving us this year. It’s also a live action adaptation of an older Disney film, but one not as many people have seen, or even heard of. Early on in the marketing campaign, we were given a a full look at the dragon, which was furry and green, something audiences didn’t react very well to. All of this combined with a general lack of awareness means that Pete’s Dragon is a film not a lot of people are excited about, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be good.
Whilst driving through a secluded forest in America, five year old Pete’s family are in a car crash, and he suddenly finds himself alone in the woods. After wandering into the forest, he makes a new best friend that he names Elliot, who, as the film’s title might imply, is a dragon. Six years later, he encounters other humans for the first time since the car crash, and while some of them want to help him, not all of them have such good intentions.
The big thing people want to know about this film is whether or not the dragon looks good, and the answer is a definite yes. While the design is certainly unique, and not dragon like at all, if you can get past the fact that it’s green and fluffy you’ll see that he’s wonderfully realised. His facial expressions are spot on, and are perfectly complimented by the expressive and varied noises that he makes. Also, if you’re a dog person, you might have a new favourite CGI animal.
While Pete’s Dragon is by no means a bad film, it doesn’t feel like a film that should be coming out in the present day. Everything about it is very 90’s, which might just come from it being a live action family film, something we don’t see as often anymore. Apart from the opening scene, which is a masterclass in immediately making you care about characters, most of the film plays out exactly as you would expect.
There are a few things in this film that don’t really work. The characters are all one dimensional, especially the ‘bad guy’ played by Karl Urban, and the plot never deviates from a very linear path, but Pete’s Dragon still left me feeling like I’d seen a good film that I would happily recommend to people considering giving it a watch.
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