Pete's Dragon Blu-ray Review
Mining its own back-catalogue for revisions and remakes, Disney revisits Pete's Dragon to wonderfully homely effect.A family favourite for generations, Pete's Dragon was one of those beloved features that blended a live action cast with cartoon elements - namely, the Dragon. Decades later, remaking it using modern CG technology seems like a logical decision, although it may take a while for longtime fans of the classic to actually accept a dragon that looks 'real'. Admittedly this dragon is more like a Muppet puppet than a 'real' dragon as you'd imagine one to be, replete with thick green fur and cuddly toy paws, but the change from cartoon is a jarring one nonetheless for those familiar with the original. Once you get past that, though, you'll find this modern updating is one of the warmest, most engaging family films of the year - a classic tale enriched by modern effects; an unmissable adventure that, if you haven't seen yet, would make perfect Christmas viewing.After a terrible tragedy, Pete finds himself alone in the woods, with his only friend a giant green dragon. Years later, when park rangers discover the young wildling, it's not long before they discover a lot more, but the possibility that there is a giant dragon living in the woods draws the interest of both the curious and the calculating; with Robert Redford's old man enrapt by the magical allure of these majestic beasts, whilst Karl Urban's logger remains determined to make his millions. Despite treading familiar territory, Pete's Dragon does so using modern effects perfectly blended with classic themes and ideas, and the rich values, morals and sentiments of the tale are at the core of Disney's most prestigious titles. The sweeping family tale; the excellent wilderness adventure and the peppered aerial action all leave this another great Disney retelling.
Picture QualityPete's Dragon hits UK Region Free Blu-ray complete with a stellar 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. Shot with a 70s/80s period vibe, there is a classic feel to the presentation too, which embraces the natural landscapes, and broad, vibrant vistas.
There is a classic feel to the presentation which embraces the broad, vibrant vistas
Detail is excellent, bringing life to the unreal muppet-puppet-style beast with his thick green fur that is rich and layered. Pete's mop of hair and dirty, wildling look is authentically represented right down to the finest nuances, whilst the crags and lines on Redford's ageing visage are on full display here. The colours, whilst entirely natural (Elliot himself notwithstanding), still allow for vibrant, lush landscapes; beautiful blue skies, and stunning woodland sequences as shafts of sunlight cascade through the trees in a way which would make both Terrence Malick and Alejandro Inarritu proud. Black levels are strong, rich and deep, primed with excellent shadow detail.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is also a tremendous piece, delivering the warm, rousing score and bristling ambient effects with pride and passion.
Pete's Dragon boasts tremendous video and audio
Dialogue is firmly prioritised across the frontal array, only dipping into the surrounds when people are shouting out off-screen, and delivered clearly and coherently. Effects bring the woodland environment to life with every crack of wood underfoot and gust of wind whistling through the trees whipping across the soundstage, whilst the larger elements - trees thunderously falling down, vehicles throttling down the road, and shots (albeit tranquilizers) - ring out. A healthy amount of LFE input underpins the track, whilst the outstanding score drives the heart and soul of the piece.
Steelbook ExtrasThe Blu-ray does a commendable job on the extras front, headlined by a strong Audio Commentary from Writer/Director David Lowery, Co-Writer Toby Halbrooks and child actors Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence which offers up plenty of background into almost every aspect of the production, from the blend of live action and CG effects, to the classic story retold and the cast and crew who put it all together. Lowery returns for Notes to Self: A Director's Diary, an 8 minute piece looking at his planning and shooting of the film, and the accompanying piece Making Magic spends a couple of minutes looking at the creation of the dragon, whilst Welcome to New Zealand spends an equal amount of time looking at filming in NZ. The disc is rounded off by a 9 minute selection of Deleted and Alternate Scenes in 'Disappearing Moments', a couple of minutes of bloopers and some Music Videos, as well as, of course, the obligatory Disney Trailers.
The Blu-ray does a commendable job on the extras front, and the steelbook is a shiny, impressive piece of work
Zavvi's steelbook release looks a lot nicer in hand than the online images allow for, with some semi-glossy silver shards giving life to the blue-silver sky background, and the dragon itself, whilst not embossed, is certainly lacquered and popping with shiny excellence from the image. Those understandably frustrated by the lack of titles on Disney steelbook releases won't be happy to know that this is no exception to that rule, but it's a good looking release nonetheless, arguably surprisingly so given the potentially bland offering that it looks like in test images.
Blu-ray VerdictThe sweeping family tale; the excellent wilderness adventure and the aerial action all leave this another great Disney retelling
Pete's Dragon is a fantastic family film that boasts tremendous video and audio, as well as a healthy selection of extra features, all delivered on a surprisingly nice (given the preview images) Zavvi steelbook, making it yet another must-have to add to your collection for Christmas. Highly recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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