Peter Pan’s Wendy is Growing Up

19 Apr

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Available online on VOD & iTunes

Anyone attempting to reimagine the whimsical nature that defines Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie for cinema is in for a challenge. Writer-Director Benh Zeitlin tries, and with Eliza Zeitlin sharing the credit in their screenplay, the story can’t decide if it should entirely focus on this title character or simply be about motherhood.

The odd part is that Wendy (Devin France) is the youngest of the Darling family and along with her older siblings are wisked off to a fantasy island where they can be care free.

The core elements require revealing when Wendy meets Peter (Yashua Mack playing the plucky hero almost like Gary Coleman), how the Lost Boys came to be and where Neverland lays. It’s an island paradise located perhaps somewhere in the Florida Keys. Spirits exist here and we know the main one as Mother; she can be as caring as the name implies or very primal, manipulating the forces of Nature should anyone piss her off. The potential to explore the legend of Peter Pan in a supernatural context in what keeps them young is missed.

The better moments in this film is with Wendy doing her best to teach others how to survive. Being a child isn’t so bad. This young lady, however, knows taking responsibility is part of growing up. This fact is defined in the introduction. To say I never want to age, however, is not without certain caveats. A few aspects in life will remain a mystery through the veil of youthful ignorance. This film tries to stick to that ideology but fails when Zeitlin knows that one day, the Lost Boys have to grow up.

To reveal who will eventually become Captain Hook felt off. The motivations from the canon material is as convoluted as the biographies from other adaptations as he appeared in other works. Sticking to Barrie’s interpretation is better here, and I’m sure nobody wants that origin story to reveal the two main characters are more closely related than literature realized them to be.

Despite a wonderful soundtrack and masterful cinematography to make the visual elements stand out, these alone can’t save a confusing film. I much prefer the British flavour from Disney’s take and having an actor of colour playing Peter Pan makes for a unique change. Because this tale is set somewhere in the Deep South, perhaps he lived at a plantation and ran away when he was mistreated. To parallel his plight to Wendy and her brothers, they wanted to escape from the doldrums of a fate they didn’t want. Perhaps this generation of lost boys escaped the harsh realities wherever home formerly was. My question is in how far away is this Neverland, because if they simply took a canoe to the island then who knew how to get Wendy back to civilization?

3 Lost Boys out of 5

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