The first peek at the newest installment in Disney’s scheduled series of remakes of their animated classics has been released to an unsuspecting public. It’s Pete’s Dragon this time, and the movie retells the story of an orphan named Pete who is befriended and protected by a dragon nobody can see but him.
The original Pete’s Dragon wasn’t really fully animated, only the titular mop-topped Elliot bore that distinction. The rest of the film was live action, and therein lay much of its charm. It was a fairy story about a boy’s imaginary friend who just happened to be real. It owed much of its foundation to Disney’s 1941 short subject, The Reluctant Dragon. For this new reboot, Disney has apparently decided to ditch “charming and imaginative” and go for “action-packed”, and “dark and gritty.”
This trailer relies heavily on the mystery of a dragon that can’t be seen. The dialog is not especially inspired. The boy they got to play Pete (there are two actors, one young, one adult, but we only see the child in this trailer) has the apparent emotional range of a teaspoon. He does seem to jump off trucks and cliffs well, but we’re pretty sure those are CG stunt doubles.
The dragon? Yes, Elliot does make an appearance. However, he is essentially unremarkable as dragons go. We’ve seen better. Smaug from The Hobbit comes readily to mind (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), as does Draco from the 1996 film Dragonheart (voiced by Sean Connery). For that matter, so do the dragons from the truly horrible box office flop from 2000, Dungeons and Dragons (voiced presumably by whatever production staffers who could do a reasonable dragon noise). We’ve even seen more interesting dragons in computer games, like Skyrim. This dragon looks like your straight stock, off the shelf, giant leather chicken. Oooh, look. A dragon.
Can we tell so much about a film from 90 seconds? We think we can. If this film had any magic or sense of wonder to offer us, one would think that some shred of that would have found its way into that all important first teaser trailer. As it is, Pete’s Dragon looks to us not like the product of inspiration and imagination, but a corporate defined product release timeline. We may be horribly mistaken — and we desperately hope we are — but this trailer looks like it was done in paint-by-numbers fashion, and the film looks like a classic example of “punch the timeclock” film making.
Pete’s Dragon stars Robert Redford, Bryce Dallas Howard, Craig Hall, and Oakes Fegley, and releases in the U.S. on August 16, 2016.