12-year-old orphan Peter is spirited away to the magical world of Neverland, where he finds both fun and danger, and ultimately discovers his destiny -- to become the hero who will be forever known as Peter Pan.
In stifling Edwardian London, Wendy Darling mesmerizes her brothers every night with bedtime tales of swordplay, swashbuckling, and the fearsome Captain Hook. But the children become the heroes of an even greater story, when Peter Pan flies into their nursery one night and leads them over moonlit rooftops through a galaxy of stars and to the lush jungles of Neverland. Wendy and her brothers join Peter and the Lost Boys in an exhilarating life--free of grown-up rules--while also facing the inevitable showdown with Hook and his bloodthirsty pirates. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Remember Betty Bronson and Ernest Torrence as both Peter Pan and Captain Hook respectively? Doubt it. That is because to even my amazement, the last time the true story of Peter Pan was done in a live action format was in 1924 starring the two above mentioned actors that while appearing in over 80 films collectively, we probably wouldn't recognize them if they walked down the street with name tags on their shirts.
Enter December 2003, and P.J. Hogan's retelling of the classic tale that hit theatres amongst all the Oscar hopefuls and faded from memory before recouping even half of its reported $100 million dollar budget. Thank God for DVD.
To have to spend time telling the true story of Peter Pan would mean that the reader of the critique was robbed of an incredible children's story about a fantasy land where kids never grew up and a pirate by the name of Hook set out on a personal crusade to avenge the hand he lost in an earlier confrontation with his nemesis, Pan.
This updated version stars a bunch of newbies or character actors that might seem familiar if unplaced at the time of your viewing. In the role of Peter Pan is Jeremy Sumpter a young child destined for stardom that first took our notice as the young Adam in Bill Paxton's Frailty. He, alongside his fairy friend known to us as Tink', he travels from Neverland to England where he hovers outside a families window to hear the stories of adventure as told by the eldest daughter, Wendy (Rachel Hurd-Wood).
It is not long before the two become acquainted, and Wendy with her two brothers agree to leave their oppressive parentally controlled world and follow Peter and Tink back to a land where children run free and never get old. But pursued to the ruthless Hook and his pirates entourage, there are lessons to be learned, enemies to be defeated and as is ultimate in any fairy tale, a happy ending to endure.
One of the first things you will notice while watching Peter Pan is the incredible production values. Shot in Australia and New Zealand, Universal Studios spared no expense in bringing the childhood story to life. How Peter Pan chases his shadow, how the fairies all fly into their tree loft and the incredibly vibrant colors are all testament to P.J. Hogan's unique vision of telling story as it was J.M. Barrie almost 80 years earlier. Most fascinating is how the art of film flying has evolved from the blue screen laughers almost 80 years earlier. Most fascinating is how the art of film flying has evolved from the blue screen laughers as seen in the Superman franchise to its perfected state in Peter Pan. When Pan and Hook eventually fight amongst the clouds and ships masts in the climax, the shadows are just perfect, the effects are not hokey and the style allows for the actors to feel free from the restraints of the conventional wires we were accustomed to seeing in cheaper adaptations.
Sure, there was a few things that bothered me a little (the repeating 5 note musical score for one), but I was amazed how transformed I became while watching a movie that I was embarrassed that I coupled with Kill Bill Vol. 1 with my rental at the video store. A story that I had seen so many times before in so many formats (plays, animation etc.) was made fresh again by the highly entertaining energy that the cast all put into their roles.
I will admit that Peter Pan is not for everyone. The cynical will call it average and those that are still drinking heavily to try and forget Steven Spielberg's 1991 failed effort Hook, might not be over the nightmares to enjoy this jaunt.
However, with or without a family by your side, this is one of the forgotten films of 2003 that deserves a rental and an open mind.
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