When a mysterious 10-year-old boy, Pete, turns up, claiming to live in the woods with a giant green dragon, it's up to a forest ranger, Grace, and young Natalie to learn where the boy came from, where he belongs, and the truth about this magical dragon.
Disney is knocking out some remakes of their beloved classics recently, and they seem to be enlisting the help of some great indie filmmakers to handle these revamps. The latest being the remake of 'Pete’s Dragon‘, which originally came out in 1977 and mixed live action with animation. It was a big hit for the studio and became universally loved by children of the 70s and 80s. Cut to present day, and we have Disney making a remake of the film with state-of-the-art visual effects and A-List talent in front of the film. Not to mention a great indie filmmaker from the DFW area named David Lowery (Ain’t Them Body Saints), to co-write and direct this remake.
Lowery took a big Disney character and story and grounded it very well, making it look like a great indie film with a giant dragon. There are no buildings or skyscrapers falling to the ground here, which is very refreshing. The story is straight to the point and never goes off on tangents. In fact, the film has about an 80 minute run time, so there is no time for anything else other than the story at hand, which is one of the complaints I have for ‘Pete’s Dragon‘. Here you have the likes of Bryce Dallas Howard, Karl Urban, Wes Bentley, and Robert Redford headlining the cast, but all of them have so little screen time that there is zero character development or transitioning.
There is really no reason to care for any of the characters besides Pete (Oakes Fegley) and Elliot the dragon, who forge an unlikely relationship after Pete’s parents perish in a car wreck when he’s little in the forest. It’s very much a story similar to ‘E.T.‘, but without all the emotional tones or fun to it. The dragon himself is very cute and is exactly like your favorite big floppy dog when you were growing up. This dragon has green fur instead of scales and big endearing eyes. He plays fetch and chases its own tale. Soon on though, both Elliot and Pete soon realize they can’t live together forever in the forest, and are split up. There’s nothing new here that you haven’t seen before as far as story or filmmaking, but Lowery really captures the small town life and simplicity of the entire story and characters, perhaps to a bigger degree than it should have been.
I’m not saying the movie is bad at all, but to doesn’t pack the emotional punch that it was trying to get at, even though there was a ton of sequences I very much enjoyed here, including the usual Disney tropes. I know the younger crowd is going to love it for sure and there is a dose of nostalgia for the older audience as well. You can see why Disney has invested in David Lowery as a director too, since he will be in charge of the ‘Peter Pan‘ revamp next.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This release comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc and a DVD copy from Disney that are Region A Locked. There is an insert for the digital download as well as a promo item for Disney. The discs are housed in a hard, blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve.
'Pete's Dragon' comes with a very good 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.39:1 aspect ratio. I wouldn't say this is an overly colorful film, but it has some excellent earthy tones of deep greens, browns, and blues. The detail on Elliot The Dragon is phenomenal here. Literally every strand of green hair can be seen easily as it flows through the wind. This was top notch visual effects here, particularly on the dragon.
In well lit scenes, other detail is fantastic, such as dirt, beads of sweat, makeup blemishes, and individual hairs show up nicely on the actor's faces. Wider shots show the depth of the forest, when it's well lit as well with the detailed leaves and wood bark on all of trees. Most of the time, there is also a a light haze to the image, which seems like a style choice in regards to a fantasy like tale, but it does take away from some of the detail. Other times, or shall I say a lot of the time, the film has a fairly dark image, where things are difficult to see.
There are certain moments where the green hair on Elliot sticks out and the blue sky is bright and beautiful, but other than that, there aren't a ton of primary colors that pop off screen. Black levels are rather deep and inky most of the time and skin tones are natural. There was some video noise here and there that spiked, but other than that, no other compression problems.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix and sounds excellent. This is not an overly aggressive mix, but it stands out when it has to. Ambient noises in the forest of nature and the wind blowing through trees sounds amazing. When Elliot is running through the forest with Pete and all of the branches are breaking and the loud foot stomps are stampeding, the directionality and prioritization are incredible.
The score is moving and sweeping, and always adds to the emotion and tone of the film without drowning out any other sound element. The low end brings the bass consistently with Elliot's roars, heavier action scenes, and some of the other big sound effects. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, and shrills. Great audio presentation.
Audio Commentary - Director David Lowery, Writer Toby Halbrooks, and actors Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence deliver the commentary track here. Everyone was together in the same room and is quite charming and fun with some cute jokes, fun anecdotes from the set, and some technical information. A delightful audio commentary.
Notes To Self: A Director's Diary (HD, 8 Mins.) - David Lowery narrates his personal diary of making the film in very short segments that includes some on set footage and clips from the film.
Making Magic (HD, 2 Mins.) - Cast and crew discuss how they used practical and CG effects to create Elliot with some behind the scene's footage. All too short.
Disappearing Moments (HD, 9 Mins.) - This is a collection of deleted, alternate, and extended scenes, all of which are worth watching with an intro from director David Lowery.
Bloopers (HD, 2 Mins.) - A very short montage of the cast laughing, missing cues, and flubbing lines.
'Nobody Knows' Music Video (HD, 3 Mins.) - The Lumineers perform their song in this music video.
'Something Wild' Music Video (HD, 4 Mins.) - Lindsey Stirling and Andrew McMahon perform their song in the music video.
Welcome to New Zealand (HD, 2 Mins.) - Cast and crew discuss filming in New Zealand with some cool shots of the country.
This is a solid remake that the younger crowd should love. Older audience will relate and feel the nostalgic filmmaking and music from their childhood as well. There were some great performances, even if they were too on the nose with some strong visual effects. The video and audio presentations are both good and the extras are decent, despite being very short. Recommended.