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Thoughts on 'Peter Pan'

Finally saw the latest film version of Peter Pan last night. I don't ordinarily rent "kids' films" for my own viewing, but for that story, when it looks like someone has done it right, I will make an exception.

Well, they strayed from canon, of course. But they were still closer to it than any other version I've seen yet (do not get me started on the obnoxious "cuteness" and bad songs in the stage musical) - and in short I quite liked it.

The acting of the leads was remarkably good, especially in the case of the two youngsters, Rachel Hurd-Wood (Wendy) and Jeremy Sumpter (Peter). Jason Isaacs makes one of the most sympathetic Hooks ever, which could be argued as a bad thing (Hook? Sympathetic?), but at least it made him interesting to watch.

They made the romance between Wendy and Peter more overt than the book had it, but that's okay, because it always was a romance; it was just couched in "mother" terminology. Man, this story is a Freudian field day. Got to love it.

The movie managed to include most of the things I liked about the book. They showed Wendy as kind, and Tinker Bell as something of a treacherous little twit, which is proper to the story. I don't like the Wendy-bashing some people get into. They also did well at capturing the poignant mix of emotions in the original story. This isn't all sweetness and light. People die. Children kill. Running amok in the wild is fun, but not safe. Nature is beautiful, but dangerous. (Those mermaids will "sweetly drown you" if you get close enough.) Wendy and Peter's mutual love is innocent, but isn't. Peter's eternal youth gives him some joys, but excludes him forever from other kinds.

And, most importantly, being able to fly is really cool.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 27th, 2004 12:00 pm (UTC)
I thought this film was really great, especially in contrast to pre-existing horrors such as Hook. I haven't read the books, but there was a level of charming wit and a dark edge that I suspect came from the source materials. (e.g. The interjections from the lost boys, e.g. "Good shot, though!" when they're standing over Wendy's apparently dead body.) I relish anticipation of the day, already presaged by J.K. Rowlings' efforts, that adults realize that kids are neither stupid nor naive, and tailor juvenile literature to reflect this.

May. 29th, 2004 10:27 am (UTC)
Exactly. Some of those fairy tales in their original versions are the darkest stories out there, making "adult" literature look like silly soap operas. J.M. Barrie's book wasn't quite as morbid as some of the Brothers Grimm's, but it did have an elegance and seriousness, laced with plenty of wit, that can be found in the Narnia books - and certain places in Rowling.
May. 27th, 2004 03:39 pm (UTC)
"Slightly had begun to count..."
Sounds good. I must go and rent it. You've filled me with curiosity. Did they keep the part with the Lost Boys counting as they kill pirate after pirate? Hmmm. Rather a fun parallel there. "That still only counts as one," says Gimli!
May. 29th, 2004 10:28 am (UTC)
Re: "Slightly had begun to count..."
Hmm, I don't recall them counting, but at least they did keep the names of the Lost Boys. Slightly was a cute and clever little kid. :)
May. 28th, 2004 07:49 am (UTC)
I thought it was a quivering pile of goo, personally.

Vic rented it and I found the acting awkward and forced.

Would have made a much better stage production with the cast they had.

May. 30th, 2004 04:52 am (UTC)
How coincidental; I watched Peter Pan for the first time just the other day as well. I liked this version's sensibilities, and how it showed how so many things have a downside as well as an upside. It didn't mitigate the issues that were at the heart of the story. Well done.

And I am slightly disturbed by the application of Freudian psychoanalysis to the story. Following the theory... John and Michael should go all Oedipal on us and should have a subconscious desire to kill Peter so they can marry Wendy. The more you apply Freud's theory to the story, the more disturbing it seems to get.
May. 31st, 2004 10:18 am (UTC)
Heheh. Well, they did abandon Peter in the end to stay with Wendy...
And in the book the "mother" stuff is even more prevalent. The pirates say they want her as their "mother" too. I do have to wonder what Barrie was doing, or if he thought he was being innocent by putting it all in terms children would understand. Hmm.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )