Page 1 of 3
We had always assumed that Neverland was at least Earth-adjacent, but in this Rhys Ifans Peter Pan yarn, it's a totally separate planet. Who knew....?
Vivendi / 169 Minutes / 2011 / Unrated / Street Date: March 13, 2012
Viewers anxious to affix a specific address to the homes of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys will be thrilled by Neverland - not only do we spend a lot of time in that magical place, but this SyFy miniseries goes out of its way to define the place as an alien planet, a galactic orb distinct from Earth. Science fiction allows for the definition of anything the mind can conjure, right? So J.M. Barrie's place where no one grows old doesn't need to remain a fabled locale, a lesson learned: It can be defined via a fictional set of scientific truisms.
In any case, deciding whether Peter Pan works as a piece of fantasy modernism is one thing, but Peter Pan as science fiction gets real thin real fast. This adaptation by Nick Willing - more an elaborate prequel that an official telling, I suppose - hits the bulletpoints of the Peter Pan saga, but riffs on it in fascinatingly off-kilter ways, as if the novel were being made into an episode of Lost. Willing actually spends the first forty-five minutes here giving Peter Pan (Charlie Rowe) an origin story, documenting his early days as an Oliver Twist-esque London orphan who has turned to a life of crime in order to feed himself. Yeah, I don't remember that from the original story, either.
I'll give it to Wiling that the advent of an origin story - an addition to the Peter Pan universe rather than a retread of it - is theoretically implicitly bold and interesting, but it immediately dislodges any major oomph this Neverland tale might have. Watching Captain Hook (Rhys Ifans) and his band of pirate fellows actually transport to the planet Neverland is a unique and (for my eyes) heretofore unseen plot device, but it seems so divorced from the drama within the original Peter Pan universe that once things simmer down to simple PP actions, one is left to wonder what the Hell the point of these off shoots really was.
One's tolerance for Peter Pan and its endless reinventions also needs to be taken into consideration when assessing Neverland. Barrie's story has been told and retold in a number of incarnations, so while one might have a "Do we really need another Peter Pan movie?" moment here, it goes without saying that the tale has proven to be one of the world's favorites, so it will get a revamp - whether it deserves it or not - every couple years. Neverland, though, is one of ol' Pete's least effective outings, a super-sci-fi interpretation whose most memorable elements are its dumbest (let's put it this way: we learn how Peter Pan can fly, and it's very midichlorian-esque).