Since I was very young I have always been fascinated and entranced by the world created by J. M Barrie. Peter Pan is a tale that transcends age, no matter how old you are or how young, you can always find an escape in Neverland. In the past the only movie depicting my favourite fairytale land was the original Disney version. And while I enjoyed this version when I was younger, as I grew older it no longer really held an appeal for me.
The original Peter and Wendy by J.M Barrie was written, as most fairytales of that time where, as much as a cautionary tale as a fantasy story. Mermaids and fairies where mysterious creatures of the wild, to be feared and respected and avoided unless you had a wish to leave the realm of mortals. This idea is best depicted in my favourite poem by W. B Yeats – The Stolen Child.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
Thankfully there are now two movies that I truly feel bring the magic of Peter Pan to life. They are Finding Neverland and the live action version of Peter Pan. Here is a review and some of my thoughts on each movie:
Finding Neverland is based on the life of Sir James Matthew Barrie (Johnny Depp) and the relationship he formed with Mrs Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her sons – Jack, Michael, Peter (Freddie Highmore) and George. The real story of J. M Barrie’s life is actually somewhat more scandalous than the movie makes it out to be, but I personally think that allowances should be made for the man who brought us the wonder and innocence of Neverland.
The story opens on the opening night of J. M Barrie’s latest play, unfortunately destined to be a complete failure. Undaunted by this setback, James escapes to his favourite writing retreat in a nearby local park accompanied by his faithful hound Porthos. It is here that he meets a family who are fated to become the inspiration for his next, and irrefutably greatest, story – Peter Pan. Having no children himself, he delights in joining the boys in various wondrous lands and scenarios born of their imaginations. Over time he adds many of the adventures he experiences with the boys to the story of Peter Pan.
Johnny Depp‘s portrayal as the great author is, in my opinion, one of his greatest roles. He brings to life the great imagination that created one of the most loved fantasy worlds in the history of children’s literature. The frequent flashes into the world of J. M Barrie’s imagination are wonderfully done and the scene at the end of the movie where he finally shows Sylvia Neverland are beautiful and breathtaking.
Although you don’t really see much of Neverland in this movie, it will always be a favourite because it reminds me that all we truly need is to believe, and our imaginations can take us to places we never dared to dream of before.
James: “You can visit Neverland any time you like”
James: “By believing Peter. Just believe…”
The classic tale of Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter), the boy who refused to grow up, is brought to life like never before in this movie. The storyline has been kept very close to that of the original Peter and Wendy, which is something I always appreciate in a movie based off of a popular novel. They even go so far as to include the story of Wendy’s hidden kiss, something which most people have never heard of thanks to the good folks at Disney.
Peter Pan is mischievous and yet still wondrously innocent as he convinces Wendy (Rachel Hurd-Wood) and her brothers to join him in Neverland, where they will never grow old or have to worry about grown up matters. Once in Neverland the have their first encounter with the Lost Boys, Peter’s band of fellow runaways, who are coaxed into trying to kill the dreaded “Wendy Bird” by Tinkerbell. They also encounter the infamous Captain James Hook (Jason Isaacs), who has been trying to capture Peter ever since Peter cut off his hand in a battle and threw it to a crocodile.
The mermaids are not, as Disney would have us believe, giggling half humans with seashell bras. They are, as most common folk tales describe them, dark and beautiful creatures of the ocean who try to drown humans who come to near to their domain. Visually Neverland is everything you expect it to be and this will always be one of my all time favourite Peter Pan movies.