The story of Peter Pan or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up by J.M. Barrie has received countless adaptations over the years of its 119 year existence but none have captured the heart and attention than the original 1953 Disney animated film, at least back in its day. While the movie certainly has elements that would not make it past the sensors today, there is no denying that it should be celebrated for its animation and storytelling. Like most Disney animated classics, it was only a matter of time before a live action remake of the tale in Neverland was coming to the real world and here it is, in the form of Peter Pan & Wendy.
Director David Lowery (The Green Knight, A Ghost Story) takes what he’s accomplished with the 2016 retelling of Disney’s Pete’s Dragon and tells a familiar story that works for audiences of all sorts. The premise remains unchanged from the book and various retellings. Wendy Darling (Ever Anderson, Black Widow) is afraid of growing up and leaving her childhood behind which results in the arrival of the titular Peter Pan (Alexander Molony, in his film debut) at her home one night.
Pan ends up bringing Wendy and her two brothers: John and Michael to Neverland, the place where there are no parents, no school, no bedtime, and most importantly no growing up but is vacated by the ruthless Captain Hook and his band of pirates who has it out for the flying boy and all children. Wendy must remain alive and go on a journey of adventure and bravery and ultimately discover what it means to really be an adult.
The movie starts off as practically a rewatch of the original in live action form. While that may sound ignorant on paper, Lowery’s direction gives it a refreshing feel. From there, it begins to stand on its own, even correcting the original’s wrongs. It adds layers to the story and character development that has never been seen or explored before. While some characters may feel more one dimensional than others, the actors portraying them give it their all and are not a disappointment.
Alexander Molony is the one you want as Peter Pan, embodying everything that the character is – bright, innocent, and selfish at times but he also gives layers to Peter that make him much more likable in this version. Ever Anderson as Wendy is the star though. While Peter is the titular character, Wendy Darling is the main character of Peter Pan, both in the source material and screen adaptations. This movie finally realizes that and gives Wendy not only a place in the title, but also more of an arch and presence than any other version of the character seen before. Her acting along with the strong writing give us a reason to finally root and feel for her as we should.
Tinker Bell of course is delightful to see and this time isn’t as sadistic and jealous of Wendy. She’s more friendly and, in a way, embodies one of the key messages of the movie. Yara Shahidi (Black-ish) gives a performance that is cute throughout and heartwarming, almost tear jerking at the end.
No emotion is represented more than Jude Law (Captain Marvel) as Captain Hook. The filmmakers and Law himself give Hook more of a storyline that makes him out to be the most compelling aspect of the whole movie. Law shows the viewer fear when it’s meant to be dark and serious. He shows comedy when it’s supposed to be lighter, and emotion in the somber moments. All this, makes Jude Law probably the best Captain Hook ever seen in a Peter Pan adaptation.
The visual effects don’t take a backseat. The flying scene from London to Neverland, as well as the perfectly choreographed fights between Pan and the Pirates will have the viewers both filled with excitement and in anticipation for more. Most of its themes, aside from a few noteworthy changes, remain almost the same as usual which is fine because the theming of Peter Pan is what makes the story the classic that it is.
While its ending is a bit questionable, the overall result of Peter Pan & Wendy is exactly what a trip to Neverland would be like: a fun and adventurous journey. While it’s not the best of the live action remakes Disney has to offer, it leans more on the positive side than the negative. It’s a perfect movie for a family to watch together on movie night or if one wants to think back and wake up this inner child.
It has lovely nods to the 1953 film as well the source material to please die hard fans and breathes fresh air into it for a modern audience to enjoy.
Where to Watch: Disney +
A film enthusiast, I’m a senior year student at the Purdue University Northwest in Hammond, Indiana, set to graduate in May 2023. My degree is in Broadcasting with minors in Journalism and Advertising.