Peter Pan swaps the magic and wonder of Neverland to live the dream of growing old, becoming a Lawyer and raising a family with Wendy’s granddaughter Moira. Now as a middle-aged man known as Peter Banning, he must face his past to rescue his children from the clutches of his old nemesis Captain Hook. Returning back to the place he once called home, and facing the ones he left behind, he must somehow remember who he once was to help rescue his children and keep the life he has built.
Was it Good?
The story of Peter Pan is one of magic and wonder, it’s an awe-inspiring story that still has a place in the hearts and minds of children and adults. It shouldn’t have been difficult to build on this already well-loved story and make something equally as magical. And this film had all the right ingredients in place to make this happen. Spielberg at the helm, a dream team of a cast, decent budget and rich source material to go back and draw inspiration from.
None of the above was enough to stop the wood rot from setting in.
There have been many people who have said that the film suffers from a lack of depth in the second act, but I have to disagree with this statement. There are huge flaws popping up from the start. One recurring thread of contention is the lack of any true depth or progression for most of the characters, and this is truly frustrating. From the beginning, you are meant to be looking at a family that is under strain from the father’s hectic work schedule. But this isn’t really shown as well as it could’ve been. Even though its meant to be a family film, you get the feeling that the family’s problems on the whole are being swept aside so that we can focus on the one missed ballgame (the most important game of the season no less) that will later act as a catalyst for a plot thread. This is just pure laziness and totally insults the intelligence of the viewer.
We also have the issue with Peter forgetting that he was once an all singing, all dancing, pirate fighting flying boy, to the point where he has gained a fear of heights and flying. We later find out that the reason why he left Neverland was so that we could be with Moira after falling in love with her while looking at her sleep. With no traumatic event to do this, just a desire to get married and live a normal life, there should be no reason why heights or flying should induce any kind of fear. But again, this will be used as a lazy plot thread that causes more frustration to the viewer.
The first act can be described in bullet points it’s lacking that much detail.
1. The film begins with Peter’s daughter Maggie ‘s school play, the play is Peter Pan
2. Peter misses his son Jack’s ballgame because of an overrunning meeting, even after promising that he wouldn’t. Apparently, his word is a bond not worth cashing
3. Family go to see grandma Wendy in London. Wendy still lives in the house that she’s always lived at, where she used to fly with peter to Neverland
4. Wendy took in a lost boy, and he’s lost his marbles
5. Grandma Wendy is getting an honour for her work with orphans. Everyone goes except the kids, the marble losing Lost Boy and the elderly house keeper
6. During the honour ceremony, Hook kidnaps Peter’s kids and takes them to Neverland
7. Tinkerbell, in order to help Peter, first tries to get him to remember how to fly, then just straight out kidnaps him and takes him to Neverland
We have a random snapping when Peter is trying to take a phone call and he can’t hear them due to the noise the family are making. But that is really it.
When Peter arrives at Neverland, the bamboozle of the set pieces are overbearing to say the least. Neverland itself looks like a pound shop having a 50% off sale. Too many bodies wondering around for no other reason than to look busy. The whole place just looks cluttered and tightly packed in. So much money was spent on it all but not enough thought it seems. The ship and crew of Captain Hook just looks like every clichéd pirate troupe ever, every stereotype to do with pirates has been stamped and copied in triplicate. Even the forest hide out of the Lost Boys looks like what some middle-aged man thought a bunch of pre-teen boys would what to have in their own hideout. Skate ramps, basketball courts and rolling track system are included here, but no decent cooking facilities.
The plot from the second act onwards was that Peter had to become Peter Pan again to save his kids from Capt. Hook, who’s sidekick had hatched a plan to turn Peter’s kids against him and adopt them as his own. And to get to the end of that that very basic plot, we have to go through a lot time and unnecessary effort. And this mainly because nothing goes into great depth, and the story becomes so dull and boring that you just stop caring.
Another frustrating flaw in this film is that not a lot of detail went into the writing of the characters. Of all the major characters, only 3 have any kind of extended time allotted to them (4 if you include Hook’s sidekick).
We follow Peter through to Neverland and he remains a middle-aged man in a child’s world until the third act of the film, and that’s a long time considering he was meant to be rescuing his kids. We literally see multiple people tell him that he was Peter Pan and even telling him how to become him again for two thirds of the film. We even have to sit through a crap montage scene for this, only to see that it wasn’t working. For a man trying to rescue his kids, he doesn’t really try that hard to save them. For a man being told to think happy thoughts to be who he needs to be to defeat Hook, he takes is ruddy time doing so. And when he finally remembers everything, the transformation is quick and the time on screen is too brief to make any sort of lasting impression. And the main problem was Robin Williams seemed really restrained in this until the final part. His genius spark was made for this film, but the script just seemed to not allow him to shine.
When you get to Captain Hook, you have to wonder what seaside pantomime performance Dustin Hoffman watched as research for this. I’d like to say that he came across as a third-rate Tim Curry tribute act, but Tim Curry would’ve acted him off the stage in this. Every time Hook was on screen, you could feel a bit more of the scenery being gnawed on. His presence never felt villainous or smart and because of this he comes across as a buffoon who’s is too reliant on his sidekick. There is a scene where we see Hook getting his breeches in a twist over a pocket watch, this then leads on to a scene where we see a bunch of clocks broken by Hook. This would turn out to be one of the only enjoyable scenes in the film, as it actually had a bit of feeling in it.
Peter’s son Jack just comes across as a brat. We don’t have that much time with him to be fair, but we see him turn his back on his father over a ball game. For a brief moment in time, he would rather side with the man who kidnaped him then have faith in his father. It turns out the best way to get this kid on your side is just inflate his ego and pander to his daddy issues.
As for Moira and Maggie, we don’t get to see them much past the first act. In fact, Moira doesn’t feature in the second act at all. Even though this is meant to focus on family, this half of the family don’t seem all that important.
We spend a good chunk of time with the Lost Boys, but all they seemed to be good for was a brief training session, and comedic relief. These were meant to be a major catalyst within the plotline, yet none of them are memorable. Even Rufio, the leader in Pan’s absence, is pretty much a non-entity. His main goals were to be bitter about Peter returning, being shown up by Peter and wishing he had a dad like Peter when Hook kills him.
Tinkerbell was woefully underused, but thanks to some fairy dust from Carrie Fisher’s script doctors bag, was a welcome sight in the film. Although, we could’ve done without the unrequited love between Tinkerbell and Peter, it really wasn’t necessary.
The last part of this film was underwhelming to say the least. The fight scenes were uninspired and really badly choreographed. The Lost Boys input into the whole affair made the fights in Bugsy look like Goodfellas. Pan leaves Rufio to fight and be killed by Hook, sparking a weird moment where the words of a dying kid saying he wished he had a dad like Peter snapping Jack out of his little sulk and realizing that his dad was actually alright.
The dust up between Hook and Pan was weak as piss and over way too quickly. Even the death of Hook was pretty much meh. A throw away comment about the crocodile who ate his hand being made into a clock by Hook (which is weird, because apparently Hook hates clocks) comes back in his death scene thanks to the clock croc eating him. Even though the croc was meant to be dead, thus making digestion impossible.
Then we get the whole no place like home moment when we get to see the whole family together and Peter has learned that you should never forget who you really are. Everyone lives happily after in a sickly-sweet moment.
Did the film deserve the critical panning?
The film is forgettable at best. How it was possible to make a movie where you actually don’t give a shit about ready established and loved characters escapes me. Everything seemed more focused on the scenery and the script really suffered for it. Even the most talented script doctors in the business couldn’t save this film, and that to me says that there was nothing worth saving.
The fact that this was made on Spielberg’s watch is absolutely heartbreaking. The man is a genius, who can take anything and make it into gold when he tries. But this was absolutely atrocious.
We all have a blip on our records, and this Spielberg’s.