Peter Pan & Wendy finds itself stuck trying to be fresher than - but not too similar to - the original.
BY ALEX GILSTON APRIL 28, 2023
Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie is one of the most famous stories of all time. It was brought more prominently into the public eye in 1953 when it was adapted into an animated film by Walt Disney; since then it’s spawned a handful of live-action retellings - to varying levels of success - but never by Disney themselves. Disney have handed the reins back to David Lowery - who adapted Pete’s Dragon - to add to their growing list of live-action films based on their animated classics.
You know the story; Wendy Darling (Ever Anderson) lives with her two brothers, John (Joshua Pickering) and Michael (Jacobi Jupe), and her parents. It’s the night before she goes to boarding school but she loathes the idea of having to face it and in the process grow up. The Darling siblings go to sleep until - of course - Peter Pan (Alexander Molony) comes flying in with Tinker Bell (Yara Shahidi) to find his lost shadow, and enlists the help of Wendy, John, and Michael to catch it. Peter then whisks them all away to Neverland where they must fight against the evil pirate Captain James Hook (Jude Law), with the help of Tiger Lily (Alyssa Wapanatâhk) and the Lost Boys - who this time around aren’t all boys, something that is acknowledged in a fun way.
Peter Pan & Wendy finds itself stuck trying to be fresher than - but not too similar to - the original. This is the main problem with every Disney live-action remake; if it’s too different it’s unrecognisable, if it’s a lot of the same then what’s the point? Watching the opening sequence was worrying because it’s beat for beat the same as it’s predecessors.
The trip to Neverland marks the film's first departure from its source material with an eye-widening-ly cool reimagination of the “second star to the right, and straight on ‘til morning” sequence. Peter Pan and Wendy continues to walk the same boards as the film it’s adapting but offers just enough variety in the big set pieces to make it all worthwhile. There’s also a twist to the original story that intrigues and befuddles in equal measure.
Disney has slowly - emphasis on the slowly - been trying to improve the diversity in its films and Peter Pan and Wendy feels like a step in the right direction. The array of representation on show is great to see, including Noah Matthews Matofsky - who plays Lost Boy Slightly - the first ever actor with Down’s Syndrome to be in a Disney film.
Wendy’s appearance in the title translates into the film itself as she has a bigger role to play; oftentimes feeling like the main character and getting the acknowledgment she deserves. Wendy and Tiger Lily are no longer reduced to damsels in distress and get stuck into the fighting. Ever Anderson is an interesting Wendy and she does carry the scenes solely among the children. The role of Captain Hook has been played by many people and Jude Law does him justice. He also gets the opportunity to show a different side to the classic arch-villain.
Disney will continue to make live-action versions of their beloved animated classics, to varied levels of success. David Lowery has produced one of the better ones with Peter Pan & Wendy. But - as with the rest of them - it’s impossible to shake that overriding feeling of; What’s the point?