Last night, I introduced Thing 1 and Thing 2 to my favorite version of Peter Pan. The aptly named “Peter Pan,” released in 2003 stars Jeremy Sumpter in the pivotal role, with Rachel Hurd-Wood as Wendy Darling. Rounding out the cast are Jason Isaacs as Mr. Darling/Hook, Olivia Williams as Mrs. Darling and Lynn Redgrave as Aunt Millicent. I won’t bore you with a plot run down because if you haven’t watched or read any version Peter Pan, you may have just crawled out from under a rock.
The two unknown, young actors slipped into their roles and solidly possessed them. Formerly suffering from a cartoon or female interpretation, Peter Pan finally gets a fresh actor to peel back the layers of the only boy who will never grow old. This film gleans closer to J.M. Barrie’s book and Peter is not as carefree as he pretends to be. His cocky smile and mischievous nature coupled with his messy hair and dirty hands lend to the boy’s adventurous nature. But the film isn’t Peter’s story…it is Wendy’s.
In this version, Wendy is on the cusp of becoming a Victorian woman, forced out of sword fights and story-telling and into her own room. So when she sees the handsome boy, offering her adventures, luring her from the window, it is in her nature to hesitate and be responsible.
“Forget them, Wendy. Forget them all. Come with me where you’ll never, never have to worry about grown up things again,” Peter whispers into Wendy’s ear. Her expression is one of enchantment and wonder. Who wouldn’t want to have to leave their troubles all behind?
Wendy and her brothers, clad in only their pajamas, fly off to Neverland, in its full Technicolor glory. Thing 1 thought the colors were over-the-top until she was reminded that it was an imaginary land that was run by a boy who flew. Suddenly, cotton candy colored clouds made sense. (all hail the alliteration!)
Peter Pan’s nemesis, Hook, takes on a much more adult role in this version. He is old and bitter. That said, he is the one who ultimately discovers Peter’s secret…but I’ll get to that in a few paragraphs.
Throw in a fabulously jealous Tinkerbell, Lost Boys who are lovable but clueless and Tick-Tock, and the storyline follows pretty closely to the cartoon Disney version, with the exception of Wendy. On the precipice of becoming an adult, she is head over heels with Peter. For all of her feelings toward the boy, he resistant to admit anything on his part:
Wendy: I think you have, Peter. And I daresay you’ve felt it yourself. For something… or… someone?
Peter: Never. Even the sound of it offends me.
[Wendy tries to touch his face, and he jumps away]
Peter: Why do you have to spoil everything? We have fun, don’t we? I taught you to fly and to fight. What more could there be?
Wendy: There is so much more.
Peter: What? What else is there?
Wendy: I don’t know. I guess it becomes clearer when you grow up.
Peter: Well, I will not grow up. You cannot make me! I will banish you like Tinkerbell.
Wendy: I WILL NOT BE BANISHED!
Peter: Then go home. Go home and grow up. And take your feelings with you!
And with this, Peter Pan is distinctly not a cartoon. He is a selfish boy who wants it his own way or none at all. Wendy finds herself in Hook’s company and he is more than ready to treat her as an equal, in the form of Red Hand Jane, the pirate storyteller.
When Wendy, her brothers and the Lost Boys are captured by Hook and Peter comes to their rescue, we are given another glimpse into Peter.
Captain Hook: She was leaving you, Pan! Your Wendy was leaving you. Why should she stay? What have you to offer? You are incomplete. Let us now take a peep into the future, shall we? ‘Tis the fair Wendy. She’s in her nursery. The window is shut.
Peter: I’ll open it.
Captain Hook: I’m afraid the window is barred.
Peter: I’ll call out her name!
Captain Hook: She can’t hear you…
Captain Hook: She can’t see you.
Captain Hook: She’s forgotten all about you.
Peter: Stop! Please! Stop it!
The irony of Hook telling Peter that Wendy would forget—just like Peter had coached Wendy before they flew away. Unlike the neatly wrapped cartoon version, Peter deflates before the viewers. And with a pop of revelation, you realize: he loves her.
I’m sure you can guess the ending because you’ve seen it before. But do yourself a favor and watch this version and its conclusion. If you’re hit hard in the feels like Thing 1 and Thing 2 were, you’ll agree P.J. Hogan did a wonderful job directing.