Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Neverland (2011)

Intellectually, I understand the appeal of the Peter Pan character; 'the boy who never grew up'.  The yearning to return to the carefree days of youth, and admiration for his fearlessness and adventuresome spirit.  But the thing about young people is that they're often self-centered, capricious, and even cruel ('innocent and heartless' as the author of the original novel put it).  To my mind, the important part of growing up - as opposed to merely growing old - is overcoming those traits.  Which means that by definition, this is something Peter Pan will never do.

Now admittedly, in that regard he's not much different than a lot of adults.  But those adults are not the protagonists of novels, plays, movies and this TV miniseries.

Neverland is the origin story of Peter Pan.  It begins on the streets of London in 1906, where Peter is part of a gang of street thieves under the tutelage of a Fagin-like character named Jimmy.  1906 is a couple of years after the original Peter and Wendy play came out, but we'll overlook that chronological oddity.

Peter, his gang, and their mentor are all drawn into Neverland by a strange glowing orb that Jimmy was hired to steal.  There they find ice-plains, giant eight-legged crocodiles, and a gang of pirates led by the beautiful but wicked Elizabeth Bonny (Anna Friel, who gives every impression of enjoying herself immensely in this bad girl role).

Many adventures ensue, as Peter must also encounter the Kaw (native Americans), their 'beautiful' princess Tiger Lily, and of course, Tinker Bell.  There's also the small matter of the man who hired Jimmy in the first place.  Though honestly, the explanation of that is some scientific mumbo-jumbo that neither feels appropriate to the overall tone of the show, nor terribly convincing in its own right.

Ultimately, this is a somewhat uneven and episodic affair; I think the best section is probably the opening half hour or so, with the remaining sequences varying in excitement and interest.  None of it is outright bad, really, but I can't help but feel that a lot of it comes across as padding the run time.

Harmless enough, and both Friel and Rhys Ifans are good in it.  Ifans plays Jimmy, whose full name ... well, I doubt I'm spoiling anything if I tell you that it's James Hook, am I?

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