Syfy channel has a knack for turning children’s tales into dazzling (though they be unorthodox) adaptations. “Neverland,” their take on the classic tale of Peter Pan, is no exception.
The three-hour, two-part miniseries begins in London, where James Hook, thief and expert fencer, has befriended a group of juveniles, led by Peter. Through a miraculous chain of events, the boys as well as Hook come to Neverland (in this work a far-away planet where no one ages) via a glass orb, which is actually a portal. Their entrance into Neverland is accelerated by Peter, who had insisted that he and his friends accompany Hook on a job, against Hook’s will.
Peter enters Neverland after the others, who are quickly captured by pirates (minus Fox), led by Captain Elizabeth Bonny. Cpt. Bonny tries to have Hook killed, but some expert swordsmanship proves him to be useful.
After Peter enters Neverland, he and Fox soon meet the Indians, as well as Aaya (Tiger Lily). They subsequently track down the pirates and plan a rescue mission. All goes suspiciously well—that is until Peter insists on going back for Jimmy, who has embraced his identity as pirate and refuses to leave. In the escape process, Fox is killed, a tragic burden that the Lost Boys place on Peter’s back.
Hook and the pirates set out after the mineral dust, which will allow possessors to fly. The dust belongs to a group of faerie-like creatures, among whom is Tinkerbell; although she doesn’t come into play until much later. The path to their “hive” is guarded by the Indians, who are seen as collateral damage by
Cpt. Bonny will eventually kill Peter—or so she thinks. He is rescued by the fairies, who turn him into the Peter that we know, who can fly at will. Unfortunately, he falls for Hook’s claims of reformation, which causes a lot of damage. This leads the fairies to make an attempt at wiping Peter’s mind, which is partially stopped by Tinker Bell. Tinker Bell now a rogue, she helps Peter in righting his wrongs.
After an untimely death by Cpt. Bonny, Hook takes over as Captain, and promises to bring an army from his native world to accomplish their mission. This all culminates in a blade exchange between Peter and Hook, in which Peter relieves Hook of his hand.
The film ends with Peter’s Lost Boys following him off for untold adventures, as one of them points out that his shadow is gone, thus setting up the events of the original beloved Peter Pan stories.
There are few things I didn’t like about this series, but there are a few. I didn’t think that Tinkerbell was done very well. The way they decided to do her visually was rather . . . shall we say, lame. She basically looked like a woman painted over with gray paint (why they chose gray, I haven’t a clue), who was clearly not even lip-syncing with many of her lines. This is partially because she is supposedly communicated by telepathy, but I don’t think that makes it any better. It looked pretty hokey. Also, while the series did a fantastic job setting up Peter’s relationship with most of the characters, he has basically no relationship with Tinkerbell at the end of the film. She’s helped him out, but they don’t really know each other. From the original stories, I would have assumed that he knew her just as well if not better than the rest of his friends.
With that said, the rest of it was done quite well. The thing that I found myself dwelling on more than anything was the dynamic of Peter’s mistake. I won’t go into detail of what it was, but it did cause quite a bit of damage, and really ruined others’ trust in him, including Aaya, who quite obviously had feelings for him (which is consistent with both of their characters, by the way. Remember, Wendy isn’t around yet). That in combination with Fox’s death paints a pretty clear picture: even Peter Pan isn’t perfect. The Lost Boys lose their faith in him, even. He also experiences the betrayal of a very good friend in James Hook. Peter’s life kind of stinks at that point. However, he never lost the will to do the right thing. Even when Tiger Lilly accuses him of blatant betrayal, he doesn’t desert them or “let them learn their lesson,” but he insists on helping them. It’s not about the attention; it’s about doing the right thing.
Early in the series, Peter tries to get to Hook by threatening Cpt. Bonny, who Hook has an attraction to. I didn’t care for that. It was a pretty significant blemish in Peter’s otherwise solid virtue, and made him not much better than Hook at that point. However, I felt like this was resolved later when he refuses to kill Hook when asked, saying “I’m not like you.” He should have realized that earlier, but it still is a good lesson to see from him.
Speaking of Cpt. Bonny, her and Hook’s relationship is one laden with moral troubles. Light kisses and cutscenes insinuate a sexual relationship, even though when Hook tries to profess his love for her, she responds “I’ll give you what you want if you give me what I want; but there is no us.” This casual approach to sex may be presented in the villains, a less than favorable light; but we cannot fool ourselves into thinking that seeing that approach won’t affect us. That’s something that needs to be taken into account.
With all of that said, the virtue of Peter throughout this story even in the face of distrust and disgust is something worth heeding for every one of us. I highly recommend this miniseries, and I might add that it did a fantastic job of giving us a fresh look on the classic tale while remaining a faithful prequel.