When you speak with someone who thinks movies aren’t what they used to be and that Hollywood has run out of good ideas, they often point to the “Easy to Kick” — can we trademark that term? — categories.
Reboots, remakes, sequels, prequels and superhero films have taken over the business in recent years, and folks missing the halcyon days of ’70s rebel filmmakers (Scorsese, Ashby, Altman) or ’90s indie auteurs (Tarantino, Soderbergh, Spike Lee) see them as a harbinger of TV’s supremacy over the silver screen.
In the last decade, the 35-year-old Bryce Dallas Howard has starred in more of these movies than anyone. From 2007’s “Spider-Man 3” to 2009’s “Terminator Salvation” to the Twilight films “Eclipse” and “Breaking Dawn: Part 2,” she had built a solid career jumping into successful franchises at the midway point. In 2015, she successfully re-booted another franchise with “Jurassic World,” and this Friday (August 12) she remakes the 1977 Disney film “Pete’s Dragon.”
Six films in ten years? Chatting with Zap2it, Howard was quick to offer a counter-argument to the haters. In her mind, “Easy to Kick” films are where creativity lives these days.
“For ‘Pete’s Dragon,’ I saw that David [Lowery] was the director, and I had seen ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,’ he is such an emotional director and a sensitive director and he has a quietness that he brings to everything,” explains the actress. “I had read the script, and knowing that it was David, I knew that it was going to be something that was different.”
Different? But isn’t that antithetical to the term “remake”? In actuality, Lowery’s “Pete’s Dragon” sees the ’70s version as little more than a spirit animal.
Howard, who aspires to direct feature films someday, says that working on these projects has given her the chance to quasi-apprentice under the likes of Sam Raimi, David Slade — “I loved ‘Hard Candy’,” she enthuses — Colin Trevorrow and other distinctive filmmakers — even if they are bringing their unique styles to studio films.
In addition to her eventual desire to slide into the director’s chair, Howard is also a proud mother, so she sees immense value in a film like “Pete’s Dragon” — and reinventing it for a new generation.
“These Disney movies can be very healing and very therapeutic,” she reasons. “This is a movie about what it takes to find your family when you think you’ve lost your family. These stories play a role in our society that is of service to children.”
This new “Pete’s Dragon” follows a little boy (Oakes Fegley) who finds himself alone in the forest after his parents die. Raised by a frequently-invisible dragon, he eventually finds himself coming across a kind park ranger (Howard) and her family, who help re-acclimate the wild child to society — and come to his side when the outside world threatens the life of the beast.
“She’s there initially to protect the forest,” Howard says of the character. “But that shifts, really beautifully, when she sees Pete and takes on a very maternal role with him. When you see a child in need like that, you become the protector.”