Peter Pan’s world gets gritty in ‘Neverland,’ and not in a good way
Wed, Nov 30, 2011 (5:15 p.m.)
Following 2007’s Tin Man and 2009’s Alice, Neverland is Syfy’s third somber reimagining of a children’s fantasy classic, taking the grim-and-gritty approach to the story of Peter Pan. Like those other two miniseries, Neverland was directed by Nick Willing (who also wrote Neverland and Alice) and produced by miniseries titans Robert Halmi Sr. and Robert Halmi Jr., who’ve been turning classic literature into bloated, effects-heavy TV epics for decades. Also like its predecessors, Neverland is deadly serious, applying a dark sci-fi tone to what was once a whimsical story about childhood.
- December 4-5, Syfy
- Starring Charlie Rowe, Rhys Ifans, Anna Friel
- Directed by Nick Willing
Taking place before the familiar Peter Pan story, Neverland introduces Peter (Charlie Rowe) as a vagabond on the streets of turn-of-the-century London, where he leads a band of boy thieves overseen by James Hook (Rhys Ifans). Peter, Hook and Peter’s companions find a mystical orb that transports them to Neverland, where they encounter familiar characters including Indians, pirates and fairies. Willing saps almost all of the wonder from the story, insisting on detailed explanations for every element of the fantastical world, and turning the Peter/Hook dynamic into a bitter tale of revenge.
Hook isn’t convincing as a tragic figure, although at least Anna Friel shows up as a gleefully villainous pirate captain who guides Hook to the dark side. As in Tin Man, there’s a second-rate Star Wars vibe pervading the story (at one point Neverland is referenced as being in a “galaxy far, far away”), and Willing manages to turn a beloved, unique children’s fable into generic sci-fi dreck just a step or two above Sharktopus.