Review by Michael Jacobson
Jeremy Sumpter, Rachel-Hurd Wood, Jason Isaacs, Olivia Williams, Lynn
Redgrave, Ludivine Sagnier, Harry Newell, Freddie Popplewell, Richard Briers
Director: P. J. Hogan
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Features: See Review
Length: 114 Minutes
Release Date: May 4, 2004
little children grow up…all except one.”
hard to believe, but apparently true: as
popular as Peter Pan has been over the years, it’s never been made into
a full length live action feature before. There have been animated versions, television productions,
plays, and even the awkward spin-off of Hook, but until director P. J
Hogan got his hands on the classic tales by J. M. Barrie, Pan had never flown
that matter, no version of the story has ever gotten the most crucial aspect of
it right before: namely, that
it’s actually a sad prospect for a child to never get to grow up.
If you’re like me, you’ve watched other presentations and wondered
why the Darling children ever go back to their real lives when Never Land and
staying a little kid forever seemed like such a blast.
In this film, we finally understand that Peter Pan’s life of eternal
youth comes with a price. When he
looks in the Darling nursery window one last time, we can see what he’s given
is also the first retelling of the story that recognizes that both Peter (Sumpter)
and Wendy (Wood) are at the age where they would be beginning to take notice of
the opposite sex. Not that
there’s anything lurid at play here; it’s all innocent and sweetly done.
But the fact that it’s there at all is quite a welcome change of pace,
and one that accents the underlying message of the story:
when Wendy starts to realize her feelings, she is sadly one-sided in
expressing them. Peter had to keep that sense of awakening asleep inside him
when he chose never to grow up, which leads to one of the story’s sadder
kind of skipped forward with the assumption that most people know the classic
tale of Pan. It’s all told here
with a remarkable faithfulness and an inspired visual style. Unlike say, the Harry Potter movies, which deal in the
fantastic but treat it as though it were a matter-of-fact part of reality, Peter
Pan is alive with bold colors, exaggerated sets, extreme lighting schemes
and over-the-top special effects. The
fairy dance is a beautifully crafted and executed sequence, but the flying
through the galaxy, aerial swordfights and mermaid lagoon are all wondrous.
The whole movie looks like something that was dreamed up in a child’s
is even something deeper to Captain Hook (Isaacs, who in a bit of dual casting,
also plays Mr. Darling) than we may have remembered. Here, he’s not the bumbling buffoon he’s typically
portrayed to be, but a darker figure driven by real obsessions and motivations.
His very tears of envy and hatred are poisonous, and he and the pirates
are basically figures who resent losing their youths and never having what Pan,
Wendy and the others had. He’s as
close to being sympathetic as he can be while maintaining the proper face of
essence, I’ve just described the main weaknesses of both foes, and those
frailties come into play in the great final battle between them at the end.
Hook almost brings Pan down by making him realize what he’ll never
have…while the children finally turn on Hook by forcing him to confront what
he’ll never be.
don’t want to make the picture sound too heavy handed…these are things for
grown-ups to recognize and for little ones to ponder in their own time.
The reason Peter Pan has always been a magical children’s story
is the fact that it touches right on the very real worries young ones might have
about growing up. I certainly had them when I was Peter’s age.
it took the actual act of becoming an adult to realize how sad it would have
been to remain a child forever. It
would have been fun for awhile, to be sure, but eventually, to never experience
the things life has to offer would have made for a truncated and empty
existence. No version of Peter
Pan ever gave me that lesson in my youth.
Thankfully, this thoroughly wonderful movie will ensure that future
generations have a chance to learn it while they’re still young.
TRIVIA I: The luminous Rachel-Hurd
Wood was actually chosen for the role in an open casting call.
TRIVIA II: The movie is dedicated
to the late Dodi Al Fayed.
far, this is my pick for best video quality of the year.
I’ve rarely seen color and lighting used so expressively.
Not only are the brash, bright colors of Never Land as vivid as could be
asked for, but there are all kinds of tricks employed like de-saturating scenes
or changing light schemes for maximum effect.
In the pirate’s cavern, everything seems dark and washed out…but a
flash of lightning will suddenly turn a bleak look scene into an explosively
colorful one, and back again…marvelous! This
is what DVD is all about, folks.
the 5.1 audio track is busy and potent. Between
the swordfights, the cannons, the flying sequences and other bits of action, the
full surround unit remains in an almost constant state of full employ.
Flying children, fairies and cannon balls will be whizzing over your head
in every direction, while the dialogue and music bed are crystal clear and well
rendered. The .1 channel keeps the
lower signal strong. Everything is
well mixed and balanced, with crossovers smooth and clean.
A terrific listening experience.
features are set up as exploring five areas of the story, so navigating can be a
little tricky, but there’s plenty of good stuff to be found.
In “The Darling House”, you’ll find an alternate ending and deleted
scenes. Board “The Pirate Ship”
for a deleted pirate song, a “Through the Eyes of Captain Hook” featurette,
and some of actor Jason Isaacs’ home movies.
In “The Never Land Forest”, you’ll get a look at bringing the
fairies to life, and meet the charming actress who played Tinker Bell.
Enter “The Black Castle” and you’ll see a featurette on learning to
fly and behind the scenes look at the mermaids.
The “Home Under the Ground” has a featurette on the history of the Peter
Pan legacy hosted by Duchess Sarah Ferguson.
throughout are outtakes with the Duchess, a look at the little girl playing
Tiger Lily and those lovable Lost Boys, effects sequences such as Nana the dog
and the shadow play, and more.