Haydn Radford -A freelance writer born in Adelaide, who loves living here. I write about movies, theatre, entertainment, literary and art events. I am happy to promote & review your events. www.weekendnotes.com/profile/121822
Published September 13th 2016
There is magic if you know where to find it
If you believe in the magic that stories and movies can bring, there is lots of magic in this remake of the 1977 version of Pete's Dragon. The pink and green cartoon dragon has been replaced with the stunning Weta Digital-animated Elliott the dragon. The star-studded cast performing numerous musical routines are replaced with a feel-good, exciting, adventure-packed, high quality family drama. Elliott the dragon and the cast deliver impressive and engaging performances. The movie is presented so we want to believe in Elliott, just as we have accepted other magical characters in movies like E.T, BFG, Jumanji, Neverending Story, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Harry and the Hendersons.
As with many Hollywood movies, you can't afford to let your editor into your thinking and reasoning, and risk spoiling what is basically a very good story. In Pete's Dragon there is magic afoot in the way Pete (Oakes Fegley) and Elliott communicate and relate to each other, and how Elliott, this monstrous dragon, can make himself become invisible. Elliott deserves a special mention for his impressive performance, stylish realism and the heartwarming connection he has with Pete.
The filmmakers have obviously placed a lot of thought and planning into Elliott the dragon, as he doesn't communicate with speech, but expresses himself with grunts and growls. We need to accept that Elliott has an amazing command of English, as does Pete who has been raised from about the age of five by Elliott over a six year period in a cave in a dense forest without any other human contact. Pete in turn, has moments when feeling upset he mimics Elliott's howling. This provides an endearing connection between the pair, which has moments where some viewers may find themselves on the brink of tears. However, let me assure you, despite Elliott looking and sounding so believable, no dragons were harmed in the making of this movie.
This gripping story is crafted with great cinematography of wonderful widescreen landscapes and exciting seat hugging 3D rides over dense forests. Pete is seen clutching to Elliott's coat of fur as they fly high above the clouds. As much as I believe in their magic, Elliott and Pete wouldn't have got me up there, but it was a lot of fun to watch them.
While the attraction for many audiences will be seeing this incredible CG dragon, this film may surprise many with its human moments including a grim opening with Pete and his parents travelling in the family car when a deer bolts out in front of the car and Pete's parents are killed. Pete wanders into the forest and is chased by wolves. Elliott, a giant green, furry dragon comes to Pete's rescue. What will delight children are Elliott's endearing doglike animal mannerisms as he looks wobbly when he flies and will surely raise much laughter when he is seen chasing his own tail.
There is an eco-friendly slant to the story, which is not over-done as a forest ranger called Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) finds Pete six years later, while she is checking endangered trees at risk of being cut down by a lumber company managed by her fiancé, Jack (Wes Bentley).
Grace takes Pete into her home in town where he forms a friendship with Grace's daughter, Natalie (Oona Laurence). Screen legend Robert Redford plays Grace's father, who years before crossed paths with Elliott, and for a while, he is the only one to believe there is such a creature as a dragon living in the forests.
There is a further lesson involving friendship, when Elliott, missing Pete sneaks up outside the home at night to see through a window Pete being cared for by Grace, Jack and Natalie. We realise how much Elliott is grieving for Pete, his need for friendship and how important Pete is to him.
The villain in this film, is Gavin (Karl Urban), Jack's trigger happy brother, who initially sets out to shoot Elliott, but decides Elliott is more valuable as a public exhibit and decides to capture him, which leads to a car chase and exciting action scenes and dashes of humour.
The major lessons in this delightful film are about the importance and value of family and friendship, irrespective of your size.