My favorite Peter Pan has to be the one who has been terrorizing the citizens of Storybrooke on Once Upon a Time this season, but I think as a whole the 2011 mini-series Neverland is the most interesting (re)interpretation of J. M. Barrie’s classic story that I have come across. Or rather, this story is of what came before Wendy and the Darling boys made their sojourn to the third star on the right.
In this two-part miniseries, Peter and the Lost Boys are pickpockets on the tough streets of London. Their convivial though crooked caretaker, Jimmy Hook, has rescued the orphans from a life on the the street and his protege, Peter (played by Charlie Rowe, whom I recognized as Billy Costa in The Golden Compass) feels a deep gratitude for the life they now lead. So it is no surprise that when Jimmy tells the boys about a potentially lucrative burglary Peter jumps at the chance to prove himself to his mentor. In the end, Jimmy says it is too dangerous for the band of boys to help him with the caper and tells Peter to forget the whole thing, but Peter is in such a hurry to grow up and take his place as Jimmy’s equal he lies to the other boys and tells them they are supposed to commit the crime without Jimmy to guide them.
Upon discovering their empty beds, Jimmy heads to the antique shop and catches them in the act. The jewels are all well and good, but there is something far more valuable and mysterious waiting for them and it was this artifact that Jimmy was hired to retrieve. While Peter is in the other room looking for something to use to pick a lock, the object is triggered and seemingly disintegrates Peter’s whole crew, leaving a glowing orb behind. As Peter soon learns, the orb is a gateway to another planet: Neverland.
Peter follows his comrades to Neverland, a place of surreal and wintry beauty. The cast of characters you expect are all there, pirates, Indians, and giant crocodiles, but this looks nothing like the Disney movie. For one thing, the crocodiles have 8 legs. But, my favorite twist is that the dreaded captain of the Jolly Roger is a beautiful woman so the character of Captain Hook is more or less split between Captain Bonny and Jimmy. (Or perhaps more accurately Bonny is the shape of things to come in Hook’s life)
When Peter arrives Cpt. Bonny has taken Jimmy and the Lost Boys captive, though Jimmy is less of a prisoner and more of a willing participant in the cruel beauty’s schemes. Peter attempts a rescue but Jimmy’s hesitation leads to the death of one of the boys at the hands of a trigger happy pirate. The boys become allied to the Indians (whose motifs loosely resemble Pacific Northwest tribes rather than the iconic plains folk) and must help them to protect their mountain stronghold and the “tree spirits” (ie fairies) who take refuge there from the dastardly pirates. The fairies control a mineral that has volatile but intriguing set of side effects, including the ability to fly. Peter and the chief’s daughter, Tiger Lily, set off in search of a way home and stumble upon an alchemist who reveals the secret of the mysterious orb that transported them and the unique position of Neverland in the universe that keeps time standing still.
You can check out the trailer below.