Neverland (BLU-RAY)


On Blu-Ray: 
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Running Time: 
169 minutes
You'll Have to Listen

Keira Knightley is also in Neverland, but you won't see her. She is the voice of Tinkerbell, but not the body.

Before Peter was Pan, and before Hook was Captain: Neverland. Nick Willing, the man who brought us Alice and Tin Man, now takes on the tale of Peter Pan imagining the story that came before the one we all know and love. Originally broadcast on Syfy in the US, it is now coming to BLU-RAY and DVD for you to watch any time you like. But this isn't just another Peter Pan rehash...

We open with a fairy racing toward a man standing on a mountain top as two meteors fall from the sky directly at him. He reaches for the meteors, the fairy calls out to him, he turns and shouts "No!" And then, pirates. It’s the 1700’s and they are firing upon and English vessel, on the verge of sinking it. When it finally goes down, the men bring the booty they’ve recovered before their captain, Elizabeth Bonny (Anna Friel). The box they open reveals a shimmering sphere, within which there are images of another world, which the pirates think are ghosts. The captain pulls a gun and fires at the sphere and the entire ship vanishes in a flash of light. The sphere hangs eerily over the ocean.

And now it’s 1906, London. We watch as a group of street thieves work, most of them on the street picking pockets while one dances from rooftop to rooftop using songs played on a flute to direct the actions of those below. This is Peter (Charlie Rowe), and he and the boys all work for a arch crook and ace fencer, Jimmy Hook (Rhys Ifans). We meet all the boys and learn that Jimmy steals in an attempt to curry favor with people who might be able to help him return to polite society, a position he lost some years ago. His latest job he deems too dangerous for Peter and his cohorts, but they try to do it anyway. While the boys are doing the deed, Jimmy comes to do the job himself. Jimmy and Peter argue. Jimmy cracks the safe and inside, on a high shelf, they find the box he is looking for. Peter runs to find something to pry open the box, but while he’s gone Jimmy manages to unlock it. The boys gather around, dazzled by the shimmering lights emanating from the sphere within, but Jimmy slips while getting the box down, the sphere hits the floor and half the building, the boys and Jimmy vanish is a flash of light before Peter’s eyes. The sphere hangs eerily in the empty space.

Peter goes to find the man for whom Jimmy was stealing the sphere, Mr. Fludd (Charles Dance), who reveals a little of the nature of the sphere. Jimmy and the boys (and we can assume the pirates) aren’t dead, they’ve simply gone through a door to another world. Peter runs home and taps on the sphere himself, opening the door in a flash of light.

Welcome to Neverland!

Immediately we meet an eight legged crocodile, and soon we run across fairies and pirates and indians and all the things from the tale of Peter Pan. We watch as the story unfolds and slowly every character becomes the one with which we are familiar. Jimmy Hook becomes Captain James Hook, and street thief Peter becomes Peter Pan the boy who never grows up, flies, and seeks adventure at every turn.

I enjoyed many of the twists of the story, the nature of Neverland and how it relates to the world we know, and how all of the characters become who we know them to be. And every actor here plays their part well. It was a treat to see Bob Hoskins reprise his role of Smee from Spielberg’s Hook. However, the nearly three hour length show is almost ruined by so many of the effects. As with numerous shows these days, they saved on budget by filming over 70% of the show in a green screen studio, with the bulk of the sets and scenery to be filled in later by computers. Because of this, so much of the film has an unreal quality, and not in a "Neverland is a magical place" sort of way. Actors appear to be standing in front of paintings of backgrounds, or running at not quite the right angle for the path on which they run. In many cases it is almost cartoon-like, and not in a good way.

The BLU-RAY features a full length commentary track by writer and director Nick Willing, which occasionally proves interesting. There is also a featurette on the process of filming with green screen and how they transform nothing into something. The cast interviews are about what you would expect, with everyone saying that everyone else is fabulous, and there is an Access All Areas short which is a sort of long behind the scenes commercial for its run on the Sky network in England. And lastly there is an Art Gallery that has storyboards and concept art, some of which is worth taking a look at.

All in all, Neverland is fun to watch once, it has a few moments that might be a little dark for younger children, and is an interesting take on how these characters came to be. But it is far from perfect.

Review by Jason Pace
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