By: Amanda Guarragi
The story of Peter Pan has been adapted many times over the years. Every filmmaker who modernized it has added much more to the world and the character. This Disney live-action remake, Peter Pan and Wendy, is a darker reimagining of the animated feature many grew up with. Director David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, The Green Knight) recaptured the magic from the animated feature by creating similar visuals through special effects. It was fast-paced and intriguing, and the story was simplified to focus more on Wendy than Peter and the lost boys. There was some charm and pixie dust sprinkled throughout, but it did overstay its welcome. The story beats did change, but that’s because Lowery went in a different direction that paid off.
What was so wonderful about Lowery’s vision was that he visually made it as accurate as the animated feature. From the shadow leaving Peter (Alexander Molony) to the Darling siblings flying mid-air with pixie dust to the crocodile attacking them, Lowery did make it magical. It’s hard to have special effects in a live-action film appear similar to the animated feature they’re drawing from, but it worked. When the Darling siblings fly with Peter Pan, the well-known song wasn’t sung, but Daniel Hart, who composed the score, worked it into the score. So audiences get that nostalgia and familiarity without feeling too similar to what they have watched before. The film moved fast in the beginning for them to get to Neverland, but it lost steam towards the middle.
This film wouldn’t have worked without Jude Law as Captain Hook and Jim Gaffigan as Mr. Smee. The two had great chemistry and banter that carried the film. Law has one of the best portrayals of Captain Hook. And he looked like he had fun with the character. He was charming and intimidating, adding some humour when needed. He wasn’t as over-the-top as previous portrayals, but Lowery’s version is a much more subdued remake of the story. It felt as if Lowery took his time with the characters and building this world, and that’s why Neverland felt so whole. The production design was beautifully constructed to make it feel like Neverland, so it was important for Captain Hook to fill the space with his personality. Law’s version gets into the head of the children and the viewers, which is why Captain Hook stays in your mind after you’ve watched it.
Peter Pan & Wendy is a solid live-action retelling of one of the best Disney animated features in the vault. Even though the songs were integrated differently and some character relationships were changed, it still felt unique to Lowery’s style. It was nice to see a different approach to live-action special effects that still felt magical even though it was animated. Yara Shahidi’s Tinker Bell was a huge surprise because of the scale of the live-action fairy compared to the rest of the actors. She brought some spunk, but they also changed Tinker Bell to warm up to Wendy even faster than she did in the original. It was more female-centric than Peter Pan-centric, and that’s because it was always a coming-of-age story for Wendy. Co-writers Lowery and Toby Halbrooks changed the focus and made Peter a secondary character. Even though it’s not meant to be a social commentary through animation, Lowery’s version does choose that thread to build the story around.