“Every legend has a beginning”
Directed by Joe Wright
Starring Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara and Amanda Seyfried
Before the story we know, there was another. The story of how Peter Pan came to Neverland, how he met Captain Hook, and how a friendship became an enmity which would change Neverland forever.
What’s wrong with it?
First of all, I’ll admit I didn’t really give this film a chance. The movie starts with a young woman running across London in what appears to be the Blitz, wrapped up in a coat. She effortlessly leaps the gate of Kensington Gardens in a single bound, which I can cope with, and then teleports to an orphanage in South London, which seems unnecessary. Why didn’t she go there first? Does the Neverland Express only stop at Paddington?
She then produces a GIANT BABY BOX. Seriously, it’s a crate the size of a five year old. Apparently she’s been carrying it under her coat. She drops it, containing one baby and a selection of carefully chosen prophetic and sentimental objects on the doorstep and then does a runner.
At this point, my sympathy is low. It then goes subterranean when the narrative flashes forward a decade. It’s still the Blitz. Only the Blitz with a Catholic orphanage (in London. Was the Catholic church that big a deal in 1940s London?
[Your valiant reviewer goes to check]
OK, they did, but mostly for Catholic children. Barnardo’s or something similar would have been more likely, and I’m also not sold on the Irish nuns. But that’s OK. Because it rapidly becomes clear that this is no ordinary Catholic orphanage! No! This is an orphanage immune to the ravages of time! Immune to the Fisher Education Act 1918! These kids aren’t in school! They are in the 19th century instead, being fed gruel and forced to scrub the ceilings to fill in time before being sold off to aeronautical world hopping pirates.
The film lost me at the Oliver Twist alike orphanage in 1941.
What’s right with it?
Um. It has pirates. Everyone loves pirates, right?
It does have a stellar cast, even if they have the look of men trapped in a hideous dream, and some of the visuals are very pretty. I also sort of appreciate the attempt to take the original’s notion of a world made up of childhood fantasies updated to a modern psyche. At least, I hope that’s what they were doing. Not just hopping on a steampunk bandwagon.
How bad is it really?
Honestly? It’s really bad. The original was light hearted, escapist glorious nonsense, with a bit of a fuzzy message about hearth and home. This appears to have taken that tone, chucked it out of the window, and replaced it with a heavy handed and totally unnecessary saviour narrative (when was Neverland ever in danger? Why does every magical land need to be in danger from great forces? Wasn’t the crocodile enough?). The pantomime villainy of Hook is replaced with Hugh Jackman taking himself a tad too seriously as Blackbeard and Young Hook being tediously clean cut.
I get that Once Upon A Time has turned Hook into a heart throb, but I’m going to put it out there; Garrett Hedlund does not fill that guyliner.
Best bit (if such there is)?
I quite liked the soundtrack.
What’s up with…?
What is the deal with the nuns and the pirates? How did that even get going? Did Blackbeard just run into the Mother Superior down the pub one night and ask ‘ever thought about the slave trade?’
And if you’re going to update Peter Pan to the modern age, why pick World War Two and then ignore the presence of the war throughout? And why make the orphanage such a nineteeth century throwback? Why not just stick to the 1870s or something to begin with?
Why does Peter’s dad never have a name? I think he’s just ‘the Fairy Prince’ throughout.
The whitest Tiger Lilly ever. Yeah, I had to bring that up. It makes no sense. The rest of the aesthetic wasn’t hugely changed from bad racist Native American, just given a nice Caucasian sheen. And that’s not OK.
Production values – a lot of money went into this. And it shows. 5
Dialogue and performances – I have never yearned so much for the subtlety and nuance of Wolverine. 13.
Plot and execution – I suppose it’s not exactly meant to be deep. But did there have to be a Chosen One? 12.
Randomness – World War Two Oliver Twist. 10.
Waste of potential – honestly, it could have been so much more. Steampunk pirates? And you made me bored? 15
Overall 55 %