By Thomas Griffiths (Cardiff)
I’ve seen nearly every Peter Pan remake/sequel ever, and there have been a whole ton of them in the past century – this one is probably the best Peter Pan remake ever. It stars Jeremy Sumter, Rachel Hurd-Wood and the legendary Jason Isaacs as Captain Hook. It’s a really great film, which I’ll probably say again and again in this review. I can tell you one thing – the film stays very loyal to the original 1800 book, which I haven’t read but probably should, I don’t know. The fact that it’s a Disney film, starting with some teenage girl telling a story that convolutes Cinderella with pirates and all that, that’s very well done. There’s this scene where Wendy, John and Michael are acting out this very imaginative-looking story, and it’s very well done, it’s very appealing to the target audience. It also establishes the nature of the characters which is most important – they are children, they have vast imaginations and malleable understandings of real from unreal.
The first act of the film, which establishes Wendy, and her dad, it was quite alright to be honest. It’s played out very quickly, and very well – there’s this scene where Wendy gets detention for not doing her work cos she’s romanticizing about Peter Pan, and that’s very primary-school stuff, and where she chases the post-boy to stop him from taking news of her detention to her dad, and that’s surprisingly intense. Then it kind of speeds along to the point where Peter Pan is finally introduced into the story, and it’s very reminiscent of the animated feature. There’s that coolly-choreographed scene where he chases his shadow, but then it goes straight to Wendy’s first meeting with the title character. That part of the film sort of drags along, and these two are obviously trying to flirt so subtly that it sticks out like nothing else in the film. The part where they learn to fly is a bit cliché-driven, but then the actual flying scene is freaking phenomenal. They encircle London, do some very funny things, and then they go into space – which is so kid-centric it’s almost Looney-Tunes level.
The next part of the film introduces us to the main villain, and before we do that I’m going to talk about the antagonists that appear in this story. Richard Briers does a very good job as Smee, being the subtly idiotic, innocently naïve loyalty to Hook that was typical of the character, but I think Tony Robinson – who does an extremely similar character with Rowan Atkinson – would have done a much better job. Then, we actually meet Captain Hook, and I’m going to talk a lot about that: Jason Isaacs is in-credible in this movie, as the dastardly Captain Hook. He does the character extremely well, does it so much credit with his performance. And there’s this moment in his first scene where he holds up his hook and snarls ‘He’s back!’ which was just chilling! Hook’s costume is really authentic, even when compared with Dustin Hoffman in Hook. It actually looks realistic, not one detail is excessive, not one movement is unnecessarily flourished. He looks so evil, I was even slightly scared of him!
Back to the story, there’s this scene where Peter and the kids get cannon-shot at by Hook’s men, and I think that was a little cartoonish for a live-action film. Then we meet the Lost Boys, which were slightly more iconic in the cartoons because they had their own little costumes that stood out amongst one-another. We have this really fierce scene where Peter finds that Tinkerbell, who was too centric on the animated character to be likeable, has manipulated the Lost Boys into shooting down Wendy, to nearly kill her, it’s actually really cold. The look on Peter’s face when he looks at the Lost Boys shows us that, though he might seem happy-go-lucky and laid-back, he has a dark side which everyone is frightened of, and he vents his rage by banishing Tinkerbell, by telling her to sod off, and that’s just dark.
The next bit of the film is quite a blur, until we see Captain Hook again, and we finally get to see him get his hands dirty. He sets up this really elaborate plan to draw in Peter Pan – which he will obviously spend the entire movie trying to do, time and again, until the final showdown. He captures this Indian Princess, Tigerlily, and Peter is asked to go save her, and he takes Wendy with him. He even gives her a sword, a dangerous weapon she hasn’t professionally used in her life, and they have this fight to test her skill. And then we have this very convoluted battle between Peter, Wendy and the pirates.
There’s this well-done scene where Peter gets trapped under the water by a net, and he escapes and, like a Horror movie villain, there is Hook. He overpowers Peter with complete ease and he says ‘You shall die!’ and Peter just defiantly claims that to die will be the next big adventure. That scene’s actually pretty tense, and then we finally get a look at Tick Tock the crocodile, and we don’t even see him at first, we just hear the tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock of the clock in its stomach. That’s brilliant, it’s like Jaws for kids. Hook tries to escape, but then he realizes that Peter has gone, and suddenly he’s standing on the boat, and salutes Hook – that scene is so cool, so badass!
Then there’s this Indian shaman healing process for Michael’s bear which I didn’t understand, and then we cut to Peter and Wendy. They have this really heartwarming dance scene with some near-Tim Burton-level music, and that’s really sweet. Then we meet Captain Hook, who meets Tinkerbell and he realizes that Peter cares about Wendy. That’s really worrying, because of Hook’s hatred of Peter, and we know that Hook will somehow use Wendy against him. And it seems quite ironic that, when Hook shows up – and Peter doesn’t even see him – and the dance stops, the moment is over and Peter is suddenly tense as a wire. But Wendy? No, Wendy doesn’t even notice this. She straight up, after trying fairly subtly, asks if he loves her. His reaction is classic Peter Pan, he snaps at her at last, and he tells her to go home with her feelings and never come back, and he storms off in a huff and that’s one of Jeremy Sumter’s glowing moments in this movie. Wendy starts crying, and we know we’ve found an obstacle between them, and we finally get what Hook will do to Peter. Then, Wendy wakes up on the Jolly Roger alone, and we hear Hook playing a piano. Smee’s just watching this happen, so casually, like he always does, and Hook is playing the piano with his hook and then he stops and meets Wendy.
This is a unique scene because this is the first close-up meeting between Hook and Wendy, and the big cheese is that Wendy only knows about Hook what Peter has said about him and what she saw of him on Skull Rock earlier in the movie. There’s this seriously mellow scene where Wendy dines with Hook, and they both seem to subtly give this scene their all, and it’s really well-made. Hook shows a side to him that we are unfamiliar with so far in this film, where he is genuinely nice to her, and he manipulates her so transparently into spying for him. The important part is that Wendy is falling for this, because Peter is no longer her idol because he’s denied his love for her, and she wants to spite him fully in the face, and the thing is we are all screaming, “Do not fall for this, you stupid little… “ you know. We all know that Hook is one cunning bastard, he has no conscience and he will always be there to draw swords against Peter. All-in-all, that’s a fairly decent new scene, it isn’t featured in the original film, and the acting in this scene is really good.
Now we cut to Peter Pan and the Lost Boys and they have this big chin-wag about Hook’s new recruit – which, we know, is actually Wendy. Peter Pan turns up, all big-shot and confident-as-hell and claiming that he will cut the new recruit limb-from-limb, and then everyone’s cheering for him. Suddenly, Wendy draws a sword and turns on Peter, revealing herself as the pirate. Everyone just goes silent, and everyone’s shocked – except for Peter, who just looks pissed off. There’s this really tense scene where Peter just swipes at her, and they have this really brief duel and he easily beats her and nearly kills her. She then quietly points out that he acts like a grown-up and he’s just a boy. This really shuts him up pretty well.
The next bit of the film is really vague, so we cut to the big showdown. Peter’s assumed dead after Hangman’s Tree was blown to kingdom come, and Wendy assumes he’s dead, but she still believes in him. That’s serious Disney right there. Hook shows up, all triumphant and mighty and all that, and says either they join his crew or they, surprise, walk the plank. They all say no, and Wendy is the first who is put to death. They have this really creepy scene where she calmly walks the plank and jumps, but there’s no splash. Turns out, Peter’s alive and rescues her. He then faces off against Hook and they have this huge battle between the crew of the ship, and the Lost Boys. In the middle of it all, are Peter and Hook, facing off one another like awesome enemies they are. Hook finally speaks his most famous line ‘Proud and insolent youth…prepare to meet thy doom!’ and I really loved that scene. The two of them get into a really climactic sword-fight which, I have to admit, is really, really great. It’s so awesome and well-choreographed, and then we get something we haven’t seen before in the Peter Pan films: Hook flies.
This takes the scale of the fight to whole new levels and now they both take to the skies in their duel. Then, probably because of his newfound happy thoughts, he starts taunting Peter. He taunts her, like all great villains, with the truth: that she was thinking of leaving her, and that they could never be together. This hugely disorients Peter, and he actually pleads for mercy in this scene – it scares him that he can never be with her because they are two very different people. The important thing is that Peter seems virtually incapable of sadness or depression, otherwise he can’t fly, so when Hook brings this up, it really breaks him in half. Hook actually comes close to killing him, when Wendy revives Peter with a kiss – Disney’s all over this film, isn’t it – and he’s filled with new happiness knowing that they love each other. Now the tables are turned – Peter taunts Hook and it really shatters the guy knowing that he’s lost.
Now we meet the crocodile again, who is literally jumping out of the water to try and get at them. He finally beats Hook, and the guy lets himself fall into the monster’s mouth, and everybody cheers. The scene where Peter returns Wendy is really heartwarming. Now we get Wendy, John, Michael and the Lost Boys, all of them living at the Darling house, and now we have Peter lingering by the window with Tinkerbell, watching them so silently. He flies off, but Wendy rushes after him. She asks if he will forget her, and he says he never will. When asked if he will come back, he happily says that he might come back. Then he flies off into the distance. And that’s when we get this really crushing piece of information from the narrator, who turns out to be a much older Wendy. She says, very sadly, that she was never to see Peter Pan again – he never came back. Instead, she tells her stories to her children about Peter, and they tell it to their children. Now that’s some really tragic stuff, I mean, who didn’t get choked up by that?
One thing I haven’t mentioned that is absolutely incredible in this film is the musical score. It’s absolutely magical. Especially the first scene where they fly, and the music just takes centre stage and it’s just completely out-of-this-world. I think this is a really great movie – great story, great acting, great cinematography, great action, great music, great tone, everything about this movie is awesome!