Friday, August 26, 2016

Movie Review: PETE'S DRAGON (2016)

While on an adventure in the forest, Pete (Oakes Fegley), along with his mother and father, are involved in a terrible car accident, leaving Pete alone in the middle of nowhere. He journeys deeper into the forest where he encounters Elliot, a large, green dragon. With no reason not to accept the kindness the dragon showed, Pete decided to go with him, marking the start of a long friendship. Six years later we find Pete and Elliot living peacefully in the deep of the forest, only to learn that humans are about to discover their home.

Without ever having been a fan of the original and actually actively hating the film as a kid, 2016's Pete's Dragon proves to be one of the most surprising films of the year. A story with murky potential is turned into a modern fairy tale, full of sensibility and emotion which touched me in a way I was not expecting, even if the coating might occasionally be too sugary.

David Lowery really shocked me with this feature. I wasn't familiar with his previous work, but I am sure to go back to it now that I have seen this wonderful vision of his. Whilst there are sporadic moments of too many people hugging and melodrama emerging, Lowery has crafted a picture of small moments and deep emotions, all encapsulated into a film visually breathtaking both in its big moments and, especially, in its more contained ones.

The relationship he manages to build between Pete and Elliot solely through visuals is truly touching. Yet, his great sensibility doesn't stop there: he crafts a fantastic visual piece throughout the whole duration. There are great moments made so by very simple, but incredibly effective editing. The visual grammar that the film establishes is never broken and combines storytelling and beauty seamlessly, bringing to life a world that I got truly immersed in despite its bare setting.

Yet, the great world building doesn't stop there, as the filmmakers apply it to everything and the character work is just as brilliant. I have no idea where Disney finds these child actors, but it seems they are casting one after the other, just trying to surpass themselves, and every time I find myself saying there will be no way Raffey Cassidy in Tomorrowland could ever be beaten. Then Neel Sethi comes in and leaves us all open-mouthed. Finally, here comes Oakes Fegley playing Pete and standing up with, if not surpassing, his counterparts. We are going to need to start talking about getting underage actors their own Oscar category because as it stands right now they are squeezing the space for the main categories. I mean this is a great performance on its own not even considering he is a child. It's incredible, there are no other ways to say it. You are absolutely convinced of him as a character and his co-star Oona Laurence is just as good as him.

The whole cast, however, has to also be taken into consideration. Karl Urban, Wes Bentely and Robert Redford all do the good writing they are served justice and don't end up feeling like the flat characters they might have been, all while having a worthy three dimensional dynamic in place. Bryce Dallas Howard unfortunately, whilst great in her moments, does end up feeling slightly two dimensional and positive of a figure for the film's own good.

I keep coming back to Lowery, but his vision is so complete and coherent, he really left me with something to think about. From the way the dragon is used, to the way Pete moves, everything rings so true to the story world. By the way, the effects on Elliot were cutting edge, I mean the weight they managed to convey on the creature was incredible, showing once again that CGI is not a problem, the way it is used is the real challenge and the filmmakers might have just given us an ultimate example on the correct ways to do so.

As I said the movie can get a little too pushy with the emotions, but those moments are really overshadowed by the amazing moving moments that ring true and gut wrenching and give the film a depth and a thematic value that I really was not anticipating. Pete's Dragon is one the best films of the year, a new beautiful fairy tale of our time.

James's Score: 8/10

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