I’m not sure how I feel about this remake. If I had to guess, I’d say cautiously optimistic, but not overly so. Although I take some issues with the original, I love the 1977 version of this movie and thus far the 2016 version looks as if it’ll be similar in name only. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, per se. After all, remakes need to be different enough to set themselves apart from the original. But if this trailer is anything to go by, the 2016 Pete’s Dragon looks as if it’s going to be much darker and serious, and that’s my biggest problem with it thus far.
The original Pete’s Dragon was a bright happy movie. Even if it did touch on some darker themes, like child abuse, the entire narrative and the way it’s presented leave an audience with a hopeful feeling. Pete, after being orphaned and abused by his new caretakers, finally finds himself a loving family. During his adventures, he’s accompanied by a bright green cartoon dragon that is literally his own imagination come to life, and he and everyone around him occasionally burst into songs about belonging and being loved.
In the new version, Pete isn’t raised by the abusive Gogan family. Instead, he’s been lost in the woods for the past six years with no one but the dragon, Elliot, taking care of him. This is a change that does make sense to me. After all, the remake takes place in modern times, and the idea that a family could get away with literally buying a child and enslaving him is much harder to sell—although, I suppose, it wouldn’t be entirely impossible.
One of the big themes about the original, though, was family. As such, as much as I hated the Gogans, they did have a place in the story. Pete escaped them only to find people who loved him and would stand up for him and protect him, the way the Gogans should have. The two families were juxtaposed against each other, and the Gogans ended up being the primary antagonists. Not only does the remake lack this conflict, for a movie that’s not going to have a child-abuse and slavery storyline, its tone is so much darker, and I have to question why. The trailer opens with shots of misty forests straight out of a Twilight or a horror movie, and when two of the characters are talking about Pete, they’re standing in a needlessly darkened room. Even the dragon, though thankfully still cartoonish in appearance, is a significantly darker shade of green.
Part of me is concerned that I’m being too hard on this remake, since my judgement is clearly clouded by my love for the original. Hopefully future trailers will make me more optimistic about this movie, because I really do want to go see it when it comes out in August.