[MOVIE REVIEW]‘Peter Pan’: No fun for kids of all agesThe first 21st-century version of “Peter Pan” boasts picture-perfect scenes (thanks to the almighty computer), showing children flying through space, the pink cotton-candy clouds that cushion them and a jungle-like Neverland that is mischievous, fantastic and eerie at the same time.
But the overt efforts by the director P. J. Hogan (“Muriel’s Wedding” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding”) to create the version that is the most faithful, among the numerous film and theatrical variations, to the original 1904 work by J.M. Barrie have resulted in a mixed blessing.
While Hogan does not miss the story’s subtleties, such as the sexual subtext among Wendy, Peter and Captain Hook, or the bittersweetness in the idea of clinging to everlasting youth, the film ends up neither child nor adult, but something in between.
Wendy Darling (Rachel Hurd-Wood) is a girl from a middle-class family in Victorian-era Britain facing the onset of puberty. When her father declares it is time for her to grow up, she escapes the pressure by following the eternal youth, Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter).
With the petulant fairy Tinkerbell (Ludivine Sagnier) and Wendy’s two younger brothers, they fly to Neverland on the power of happy thoughts.
There, the siblings have adventures they’ve only dreamed of, dueling with the nefarious Hook (Jason Isaacs, who, suggestively, also plays Wendy’s father) and fighting other pirates too.
Peter and Wendy are attracted to each other, but while Wendy acknowledges it, Peter resents having any feelings, trying to hide in the safety of youth.
It will be refreshing for Korean audiences, at least, to see a boy playing a boy. Judging from the assertion that Jeremy Sumpter is the first actual boy to play Peter Pan, Koreans must not be the only ones who’ve seen plenty of plays or musicals in which an adult woman fakes boyhood (the most famous local case being Yun Bok-hui, a petite Korean singer from the old days).
The “adventures” depicted in the film are supposed to be the materializations of the most yearned-for dreams of children ― and the now-lost dreams of adults, preserved in the closet like the dreams of Wendy’s father.
But as presented by Hogan, this Neverland holds no nostalgic appeal for the adults in the audience. Peter, the embodiment of eternal youth, is not depicted as an attractively innocent boy ― the quality adults might miss most from their childhood.
Rather, he is an immature lad who abandoned his parents to pursue eternal youth, and who refuses to feel anything, because that would be a sign of growing up.
At the same time, Hogan’s determination to make this more than just a children’s film leads him to include a level of violence that would make most parents frown on their children’s behalf.
Peter’s idea of fun, for instance, is chopping off someone else’s hand (Captain Hook’s) and laughing. Hook himself shoots, to kill, anybody who crosses him.
Hogan tries to evoke a sense of longing for innocent days, but the world of childhood he’s built up ― maybe because he had to be loyal to the original source ― does not exude the sort of charm that would make a person hesitate before deciding to go back to the real world.
Adventure / English
by Kim Hyo-jin