The idea behind Pete’s Dragon has always been a little sadder than the musical, generally lighthearted tone that the original 1977 film takes. After all, it’s about a boy who’s spent years alone in the forest with only a dragon (one invisible to just about anybody else) for company. That Elliott the dragon is actually real is almost beside the point; the story is one about lost kids who don’t belong in the bigger world trying to find their way.
This seems to be the highlighted idea at the center of the latest in Disney’s ongoing litany of live-action reboots of old properties. It’s less of a stretch here than it’s been for other films in recent years, since the original Pete’s Dragon was itself a live-action/animation hybrid. But the charming hand-drawn animation that brought Elliott to life has been replaced by a vivid, semi-realistic dragon, a fire-breathing creature of immense scale. This is an Elliott for the How To Train Your Dragon years, an immense and seemingly menacing creature with a heart of gold.
David Lowery, who last helmed the lilting neo-Western Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, seemed at first to be an odd fit for such a whimsical story, but the more frightened and paranoid tone on hand in this trailer suggests that maybe Lowery’s sweeping natural vistas and general visual grit will be effective in a story about a town forced to come to terms with something it can’t understand. It’s a bleaker version of the “boy and his dragon” story for sure, but perhaps also a hopeful one.
The film stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Karl Urban, Wes Bentley, Oona Lawrence, and Oakes Fegley as Pete. It’ll hit theaters on August 12th, but in the meantime, check out the full trailer up top.