02 January 2004

Eye of the beholder

I was so looking forward to the new Peter Pan film. I had heard it was closer to the book than any other films had been, that it was somewhat dark...

First off, let me just say that if you have never read the book, the film was spectacular. The costuming and sets were beautiful. The casting was perfect (although I have ever pictured Peter as having darker, almost reddish hair, not blonde). The story was action-packed. I loved that they used exact text from the book. I went with a friend who had not read the book and she enjoyed it immensely.

However, I have read the book, and my overwhelming reaction was this: Peter Pan was a stupid movie. I didn't like the contrivance of Wendy getting in trouble at school in the beginning. I didn't like the added character of Aunt Millicent. I didn't like the lack of "good form" and fairness that is so important in the book. I didn't like the overt love story between Pan and Wendy. I didn't like that Hook flew. I didn't like the aggressive malevolence of the mermaids. I didn't like that Tink betrayed Peter. I didn't like that sometimes the text they quoted was changed a bit or used somewhat out of context. I didn't like Wendy seriously thinking about joining the pirate gang. I didn't like Wendy saying she never saw Pan again.

I was bored. I kept looking around, waiting for the film to be over. The filmmakers seemed in love with their special effects to the detriment of the story. I wanted to leave, but I kept hoping they would get it right.

My favorite part of the film was the kid sitting behind me. He was about the same age as The Boy (13-ish) and had clearly read the book, because throughout the movie, I could hear him make sounds of displeasure -- groans, "oh no!"s and the like. When Hook flew, he said, "oh, I can't watch this!" and got up to go. His father tried to get him to stay, but he said, "this sucks!" and left. Hee.

I re-read Peter Pan when I got home from the film and was charmed anew by J.M. Barrie's tale. I love the snarkiness of the text and the narrative asides. I love the depiction of the Neverlands as being universal, something ever child knows. I love the image of mothers tidying up their children's minds each night.

Go see the movie, if you must. You may well be more forgiving than I and will find it a marvelous family film. It is.

But do yourself a favor and read the book, too. If you read it once before, it will be a treat to revisit. If your only experience with Peter thus far has been Disney and various other film renditions, you're in for a fabulous surprise!

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