[Spoiler Alert: Some plot points are discussed in this review.]
Last night I was left wondering if ‘Neverland’ would tie into Disney’s ‘Peter Pan’ or go into a completely different direction. With a darker tone than the Disney classic, ‘Neverland: Part 1’ provided us with a better understanding of Peter and gave us a fuller, deeper relationship between Peter and Hook. The parental-esque nature of the Hook-Peter bond remains central in ‘Neverland: Part 2,’ Syfy’s conclusion to its epic miniseries.
In true hero fashion, Peter “dies” and is reborn with mystical abilities gained from Tinker Bell’s people, the Tree Spirits. After Peter is healed, Tinker Bell (voice of Keira Knightley) is able to “speak” to Peter because he can understand her thoughts. When Peter emerges from the special pool with the mineral dust, he can fly because of his pure, innocent heart. The Grand Elders of the Tree Spirits tell Peter that they trust him with the powers they have given him.
The sequence between Tinker Bell and Peter shows how the two could form a bond, but the sequence is short. We don’t even get a training montage with Tinker Bell teaching Peter how to fully use his gifts, so how Tinker Bell and Peter form a relationship is basically unknown. Since we technically know the ending of the story, Peter lives and stays in Neverland, how the relationships develop is the real unknown and why many of us tuned in.
Of course Peter’s journey to becoming a legend is not easy, but, unfortunately, Peter is relatively inactive for the first hour of the movie. After he learns how to fly, he is quickly captured by the pirates. We spend more time with Hook and Bonny than is really necessary. Anna Friel relishes her role as Captain Bonny and shows us how being trapped in Neverland for 200 years can drive one mad, but the Hook-Bonny relationship was developed well in ‘Part 1,’ so seeing them bicker about their plans again are wasted moments. This is Peter’s story after all.
The action begins to pick up when Hook tricks Peter. We know Hook is duping Peter into exposing the way to the Tree Spirits’ home, but when Peter realizes Hook is willing to sacrifice their relationship for his own desires is heartbreaking. Hook is the only father Peter has even known, which is why Peter’s devastation understandably turns to anger, causing him to not tell Hook the consequences of Bonny’s dip in the magic pool. Hook deceived Peter, and Peter returns the favor. The relationship between Hook and Peter is as destroyed as the Tree Spirits’ home; we know there is no hope for any reconciliation. Because ‘Part 1’ established their relationship, watching Crowe (Peter) and Ifans (Hook) performances makes the moment painful and moving. The tears and anger are real as the betrayal cuts deep and severs their bond.
After Peter is rescued a couple of times and regains his memory, the action kicks into high gear. The battle between the Kaw and the pirates is filled with swashbuckling thrills and excitement. Cannons bombard the approaching Kaw, and when the Kaw’s canoes are overturned, the stunt work and editing make me tense and worried about who will survive and win the fight. The climactic battle between Hook and Peter is an intricate swordfight in a cave. Peter whizzes around, but he defeats Hook with both feet on the ground, proving to Hook that he has finally broken free from Hook’s corrupting influence.
‘Neverland’ successfully tells the tale of Peter’s origins. He goes from a clever street urchin to the eternal boy hero we are familiar with. The story’s structure makes Peter’s journey believable and justified. At the end, he tells the boys that Neverland is full of adventure and a place they can live by their own rules for all eternity. Hook’s deception and betrayal makes Peter’s vow of never growing up and being free of cheating, lying adults the only possible outcome for the story.
The writing, performances and special effects come together well and bring Neverland to life. Neverland is beautifully depicted as magical and dangerous. The crocs are large and menacing. The landscapes are vast, sweeping, and enchanting. Even Peter’s flying is convincing; flying is a difficult effect to achieve, and Peter moves through the air in a credible manner.
By the end of the movie, I no longer cared if the story tied into the Disney version of ‘Peter Pan’ because of the unique take on Peter’s tale. Syfy’s version of Neverland is a place I would like to return. My wanting for more character interaction stems from finding the characters engaging and interesting. I would like to spend more time with Peter, Tinker Bell, Aaya, Curly, and the rest. ‘Neverland’ is a charming movie that kept me fascinated for two nights and made me want to join the boys on their many adventures.