“In Victorian-era London, young Peter belongs to a gang of pickpockets run by enterprising criminal Jimmy Hook, and when they are all whisked off to a magical land inhabited by tree spirits, they find themselves competing with pirates for treasure.”
–Netflix summary this time.
Well, I guess that’s the ultra-basic summary.
It’s an origin story, pure and simple. It’s about how Peter Pan becomes who he is and how Captain Hook becomes his enemy (they start off buddies).
Peter, desperate to prove to Hook that he’s good enough now to be treated as his partner in crime and not just a kid, ignores Hook’s orders to stay away from a theft the gang has been hired to pull off. The theft is of a glass orb that, through various legends, is said to be cursed.
Whenever someone hits the orb there is a sudden explosion of light and force, and everything in the vicinity vanishes. The size of the impact is directly proportional to the force with which it is hit.
Hook interrupts Peter and his gang mid-theft and while Peter is exploring off on his own, the orb is accidentally struck, taking Hook and Peter’s crew into oblivion. Peter alone is left, and he steals the orb, feeling guilty for causing the death of his friends. The orb falls off a table and, in another burst, Peter finds himself in a strange world.
Hook winds up joining with the beautiful pirate captain Elizabeth Bonny, while Peter and his friends join with an Indian tribe also trapped in Neverland. Tensions rise between the Pirates and the Indians over mineral dust collected by tree spirits who are protected by the Indians. This mineral dust is what fans of the classic Peter Pan tales know as fairy dust.
On my own I really love this mini-series, but strictly speaking (typing?) I’m in love with it’s potential rather than what it actually is (if that makes sense).
The story is kind of choppy and cliche, it is certainly not among the other Peter Pan classics like the Disney film or Hook (if you haven’t seen that stop reading this and go to iTunes or Amazon or an actual DVD store or something, it’s the best by far).
The biggest problem, I think, is the character of Peter (notice I didn’t say actor, character). Things happen to him quickly, and while he seems streetwise originally, all the other boys from his group, known in other adaptations as the Lost Boys, seem to know better than him what is going on and how things stand. Peter blindly trusts Hook, even through repeated betrayals where he cries and does the whole “how could you” routine.
There is also a spot of trouble Peter finds himself in during Part 2 (I won’t spoil it), basically he’s a bit batty, but it literally lasts 2 minutes, leaving me thinking… OK, what was the point of all that? It just doesn’t work, mainly because there is no follow through with that line of the story.
Another area that is patchy is the relationship between the Indians and the tree spirits and how everyone gets along, because the tree spirits seem pretty much against mostly everyone but Peter, and supposedly they’ve had this great relationship with the Indians for however many years.
It’s very anti-climactic and there are severe logic problems throughout, but like I said earlier, I love this mini-series. I can forgive it most of the shortcomings of storytelling, but that’s because I imagine its potential if it were a bit polished.
OK, I’m going to break this into 3 sections. First off- who did a good job. All the Lost Boys were fun to watch and seem to be very promising actors. I also loved Anna Friel’s Captain Bonny. She seems to be one of those actresses who does a very hit-or-miss performance, but she is on her game here.
I also want to give a shout out to the most excellent Bob Hoskins who played Smee in “Hook” (that movie I said you should have watched before finishing my review) and also plays Smee in “Neverland”. He rocks.
OK, the Room-For-Improvement group! Leading this team we have Rhys Ifans, our James Hook. He does a very good job, and is almost in the Good Job section, but there are a few areas that seem forced and I just don’t buy what he’s selling in a few key scenes. Hook switches sides a lot, but he doesn’t give us any subtle hints as to why he is with this group or that group, and it’s not so much an error with the writing, he just doesn’t put a lot of depth into Hook’s character.
Next up is the lead- Charlie Rowe as Peter. He is perfect as that kind of impish boy who likes adventure and to stir up trouble and is just a free spirit, but any scene particularly emotional (either in the direction of sad or angry) just doesn’t hit. Think Daniel Radcliffe in early “Harry Potter” films- how he would kind of grit his teeth and breathe hard to show anger. There is definitely promise here, but he just doesn’t have the power behind the performance yet. And I’m emphasizing YET, I think he’s done wonderfully in past performances like “Golden Compass” and I’m sure he will continue to improve.
I’m putting this here because it’s weird- Tinker Bell. Now, the voice work by Kiera Knightley is wonderful, I think she is one of the best Tinker Bells yet, but the acting part by Charlotte Atkinson isn’t working for me (yes, Tink’s body and voice are two different people). Tink looks angry half the time, and Part 1 with her just isn’t that good. Part 2 is perfect, she is doing fine, but Part 1 is rough, like she hadn’t quite found her stride with the character yet.
Finally, I have to call out a single actress for the Please Go Back To Class actors- Q’orianka Kilcher, who’s character name is Aaya, but at one point they mention that means “Tiger Lily”, so she’s her. I know the actress gave a great performance in “Pocahontas”, I’ve heard lots of good things about her, but in this her performance just doesn’t fit. It feels like she is trying to play a character different from the one who was written, and it comes out as very disjointed and almost bi-polar in the personality department.
Also, I don’t know if it’s her real accent or not (she is half Quenchua-Huachipaeri) , but the Indian accent she does sounds forced at times, and over-emphasized like a really cartoon version of an accent. It also comes and goes how well her character can speak English, which also makes it hard to get a read on if the accent is faked or legit. Regardless of the accent, it’s a sub-par performance from her, and below her regular standards, so I hope after a bit of practice she can come back and deliver more consistent characters.
Age Recommendation: 7+
There’s violence, but no more than in the original Peter Pan. Well,the Disney one, I don’t know if there was another earlier one that can be considered original. There is some implied sex between Hook and Captain Bonny, but nothing more than kissing is shown. Nudity is in one scene, but the person is covered in clouds and light and all that, so you don’t have to worry there. It’s a very kid-friendly show. If you’ve seen “The Thief Lord”, it’s pretty much the same.
As always, this is courtesy of IMDB.
This was the final TV role of Bob Hoskins (eternally Smee) before he retired from acting.
… that’s kind of all I found worth mentioning… Most of everything else I’ve already mentioned or it’s one of those “This actor was almost cast for this role but it went to someone else”, which isn’t really trivia, it’s just showbiz.
One Last Thing
Despite my review being rather harsh on the mini-series and some of the actors, it is definitely worth a watch. Younger kids will like it more, and I just about guarantee that. Older audiences may be skeptical, but Tywin Lannister is in this and so that’s pretty much why you should watch it right there.
He’s awesome. He always plays what looks like the same kind of character, with the same voice and such, but without perceivable effort or explanation he is sometimes a nice old man you find yourself smiling at and sometimes you feel like he’s imagining what it would be like to dip you in acid and squish your eyeballs with his teeth (hello Tywin).
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