So once again our screens are graced with an adaptation of the J. M. Barrie classic. This story has had rather a disappointing history on screen. I never really enjoyed the Disney version, even though it’s often considered one of their better animated outings. It was enjoyable but there was something missing. Then of course we have Spielberg’s Hook – an absolutely atrocious film in my opinion. I have spent many many years since seeing that film trying to wipe it from my memory.
Then along comes P. J. Hogan’s version. Wow. This film is everything the Peter Pan should be.
Peter Pan is a wonderful story. Not only that, but it is a fascinating fable that explores the paradox of growing up. J. M. Barrie’s tale is a very effective exploration of the wonder of make believe, the loss of innocence, and the tragedy of ageing. This film never ceased to amaze me – it had not only the fairy-tale like wonder that kids would love, but also the very mature concepts and morals that were thought provoking for someone my age. This film truly is spellbinding, and although I have never read the book or seen the play, I am sure that this is the best screen adaptation that has ever been done.
Hogan’s film is absolutely beautiful, every frame rich in colour and texture. This is a special effects film, in the sense that very little of what we see was created outside a computer, but this is one of the rare cases where it actually works. And, of course, this is a film with heart – a beautiful and touching story that is very intelligent and never talks down to the viewer. In fact there are no throwaway lines in this film at all – the script is perfect.
The acting was all great (I could have done without Peter’s American accent, but I guess they had to keep US audiences in mind), and we are treated to a host of lesser-known actors, rather than Spielberg’s version which tried to wow us by saying ‘oh look! It’s Julia Roberts! Oh look! It’s Dustin Hoffman!’ Bruce Spence also makes an appearance as (surprise, surprise!) a pirate… is there no end to this man’s career? His strange appearance has enabled him to have a wonderful career, even if I haven’t seen him in a main role since Mad Max 2. (He wasn’t really that important to Matrix Revolutions, merely a means to an end.) Also Jason Isaacs plays both Wendy’s father and Captain Hook, not that I noticed this at the time.
This film is spectacular in not only the visual sense, but also in its ability to make the audience want to scream out ‘I believe in fairies!’ Truly fantastic.Rating: