PETER PAN & WENDY
April 28, 2023 / Disney+
Starring: Alexander Molony, Ever Anderson, Jude Law, Yara Shahidi, Alyssa Wapanatâhk, Joshua Pickering, Jacobi Jupe, Molly Parker, Alan Tudyk, Jim Gaffigan
Directed By: David Lowery
A Disney+ Original movie, “Peter Pan & Wendy” is a live-action reimagining of the J.M. Barrie novel and the 1953 animated classic. Directed by David Lowery (“The Green Knight,” “Pete’s Dragon”), the film introduces Wendy Darling, a young girl afraid to leave her childhood home behind who meets Peter Pan, a boy who refuses to grow up. Alongside her brothers and a tiny fairy, Tinker Bell, she travels with Peter to the magical world of Neverland. There, she encounters an evil pirate captain, Captain Hook, and embarks on a thrilling and dangerous adventure that will change her life forever.
Written By Darren
Rating 4 out of 5
Peter Pan & Wendy captures all the necessary magic in translating this timeless Disney classic into live action and updating it for today’s society with outstanding cinematography and strong performances from the entire cast, that under the capable direction of David Lowery will make audiences want to fly away to Neverland once again.
Peter Pan is one of the most iconic Disney films of all time thanks to its memorable characters and sense of wonder and amazement. However, the animated film has not aged well due to its depiction of Native Americans nor its portrayal of its female characters. Returning for his second Disney live action remake after 2016’s severely underrated Pete’s Dragon, Lowery’s visual flare captures the magic of Neverland and mixes it with an edge that you do not expect from a Disney film. This results in not only making the wonder more magical than ever, but Lowery’s updating of the source material creates a truly enchanting experience that is a prime example of why Disney animated films should be remade in live action.
It’s a story that audiences have seen many times, but one that never fails to capture the hearts of viewers. One night, Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn’t grow up, breaks into the nursery of the Darling family where he meets Wendy, a young girl who does not want to leave her childhood home. Along with her two brothers John and Michael, Peter takes the Darling children on an adventure to Neverland, a place beyond their wildest imaginations, full of wonder and danger as they face off against the dastardly Captain Hook.
For a story as classic as Peter Pan, and one that has been told countless times, the audience has an expectation of what they are going to get sitting down to watch the film. There is small leeway in which Lowery and his team can change the film before changing it too drastically from the animated classic before enraging fans, while also not leaving him with a lot of room to differentiate his version from previous ones that have come before him. Though Lowery and his team find the perfect balance between paying tribute to the source material and providing something new to audiences. While the overall story is the same, Lowery enhances the danger and darkness of Neverland. Tick-Tock is no longer a cartoonish crocodile, but a giant beast that flips boats and chases his prey with a vengeance. The second act is drenched in darkness, both thematically and visually, amplifying Captain Hook’s dark deeds and puts Peter Pan, the Darlings and the Lost Boys in grave danger. But this allows the magic, wonder,and emotions of the story to shine through brighter than ever before, resulting in a film that will make you feel like a child again.
At the same time, Lowery and his co-writer Toby Halbrooks do some major work on the characters of Weny, Tinkerbell and Tiger Lily. Unlike in the original animated film where both Wendy and Tiger Lily were damsels in distress and Tinkerbell a jealous woman in love with Peter Pan, all three of them are written as strong and independent women. Wendy is just as much a hero as Peter Pan, not only helping defeat Captain Hook, but helping Peter Pan resolve the emotional baggage he is carrying around. Tiger Lily is a wise character, imparting wisdom upon Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, acting as one of their crew rather than just the local native girl she was in the first film. And Tinkerbell, while still as feisty as ever, is an intelligent, compassionate and true light within the film that is a portrayal of this truly legendary character unlike you have ever seen her before. It’s the exact update needed for these characters to match modern values, though Lowery and Halbrooks ensure they are still the characters that audiences love and know.
Lowery’s films are always a visual experience, and Peter Pan & Wendy is one of his most visually exciting films. The real life locations of Newfoundland, Canada perfectly bring to life Neverland, that combined with some wonderful cinematography, helps to create some unforgettable moments in the film. Whether it be Peter Pan and the Darlings flying over the rooftops of London, the sweeping shots of Neverland, or that miraculous shot Peter Pan jumping off the cliff and launching himself at Captain Hook’s ship, there is no shortage of moments captured beautifully by Lowery and his cinematographer. The set design is outstanding, especially for Peter Pan’s lair, and for the most part the CGI is great, ensuring that there is all the pixie dust needed to bring Neverland to life on screen. All combined with Lowery’s frequent collaborator Daniel Hart, who has composed an exciting and magical musical score that delivers a majestic musical sound for the characters and Neverland, while incorporating the classic “You Can Fly! You Can Fly! You Can Fly!” throughout the film to evoke that Disney nostalgia. The result is a mesmerizing experience, that while audiences will be forced to watch on Disney+, should have been released theatrically as Lowery has delivered a film that demands to be seen on the big screen.
As amazing as the visuals and design of the film are, this live action remake would be nothing without its talented cast. Jude Law is great as Captain Hook, creating a truly sinister villain while also finding compassion for the character as we learn why he is dead set on defeating Peter Pan. Alexander Molony captures the playful and heroic nature of Peter Pan, while bringing an emotional vulnerability as he explores why Peter does not want to grow up, which will tug on your heart strings, especially during the film’s final minutes. Yara Shahidi is delightful as Tinkerbell, saying so much without uttering a single word through her facial expressions and body language.
Though, it is Ever Anderson who steals the film as Wendy. Anderson possesses a true gravitas as she brings to life Wendy, capturing her determination, curiosity and compassion throughout the film. Her playful banter with her costars allows the child within Wendy to appear on screen, while the scenes where she acts as a mother figure to the Lost Boys and Peter Pan allows her to convey her character’s growing up. Her chemistry with Molony is beautiful, most notably during the touching final scene which is just the cherry on top of an already excellent film.
Continuing the outstanding bar he had previously set while remaking Pete’s Dragon, David Lowery once again captures pure Disney magic while bringing the beloved classic Peter Pan to live action. Some may call it pixie dust, but Lowery’s brilliant reworkings of the tone of the film and female characters helps create something truly special, that combined with incredible visuals, a memorable musical score from Daniel Hart, and wonderful performances from the entire cast, ensures that audiences will believe they can fly and making them never want to grow up after experiencing Peter Pan & Wendy!