This live action re-make of the animated film is a lot bleaker and loses a bit of the fun and adventure that makes the J.M Barrie’s story magical.
This latest Disney live action film based on the company’s 1953 animated film feels a lot darker and more introspective than expected – which is absolutely fine but it loses some of the magic and imagination that children will be expecting.
Written by Toby Halbrooks and David Lowery (who also directs), this new adaptation of the story rightly places Wendy Darling at the heart of the story which is essentially a coming of age story. The night before she has to leave home to boarding school, Wendy and her brothers John and Michael meet Peter Pan – who whisks them away to Neverland for adventure and magic. As this reimagining of the story explores, this is a story of a girl who is about to take a step into an adult world but is reluctant to do so – believing that staying in the world of childhood is much safer – but as her encounters with Captain Hook prove even in the world of imagination life can be dangerous. Throughout it all, through a vaiety of events, Wendy discovers a lot more about herself and the life she could go onto live if she grows up – as highlighted in a wonderful moving sequence highlighted towards the end of the film in which she discovers what makes her happy is the life that she has yet to experience.
While the premise for the film is interesting, sometimes the script feels a little bit weak and not as meaningful as it could be – although it is interesting the way in which the story tries to add a new dimension by exploring a more empathetic side to Captain Hook’s personality by reimagining Peter Pan’s relationship with him. Themes of friendship and family are explored deeply and the scenes in which the lost boys really feel the loss of their parents is particularly poignant.
Lowery’s tone for the film has a sense of melancholy about it that will make it difficult for younger viewers to really appreciate and enjoy, but with the moments of magic coming more towards the end of the film that tidies everything up nicely and in many ways movingly. It is in places just lacking in the childish fun that you would expect .This being said, it has been an opportunity to right some wrongs, particularly with regards to Tiger Lily whose character is better integrated into the story.
In terms of performances, Jude Law as Captain Hook clearly relishes his role as the villain of the piece but with a sympathetic element that adds a different dynamic to the character. Meanwhile, Ever Anderson as Wendy is wonderful to watch she is fierce during the action sequences as she is compassionate in the way in which she handles the lost boys, getting the balance between adolescence and beginning of adulthood perfectly. As Peter Pan, newcomer Alexander Molony has plenty of energy and vulnerability but somehow struggles with the more buoyant aspects of the character. Alyssa Wapanatâhk as Tiger Lily is noteworthy for adding a hint of mystic to the character that is charming to watch.
It is overall a bit of a mixed bag of a film, but given the fact it gives Wendy the centre stage for the film it makes for a fascinating watch and reveals that there is more to the story than perhaps you would think.
By Emma Clarendon
Peter Pan & Wendy is available to watch on Disney + now.