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5.0 out of 5 stars The origins of Pan, 22 Feb 2014
This review is from: Neverland - The Complete Series [DVD] (DVD)
The SyFy Channel has been doing "reimaginings" of classic public-domain books for the past few years, such as "Tin Man" or "Alice." But "Neverland" is a little different. Rather than reimagining the tale of Peter Pan, this miniseries presents the story of how a street urchin became the flying boy who never grows up, and the beginning of his war with Captain Hook.

In 1906, the fallen arisocrat James "Jimmy" Hook (Rhys Ifans) has collected a gang of young boys who steal things for him, lead by the impish Peter Pan (Charlie Rowe). But when Jimmy and the gang vanish, Peter must use a mysterious black orb to travel into a wholly alien world -- Neverland. In this world, there are silver faeries, a pirate ship, and a lost tribe of Indians.

The pirate captain Elizabeth Bonny (Anna Friel) quickly fascinates Jimmy, especially when she reveals that the fairies have magical dust that allows flight. Peter is horrified by his father figure's betrayal, especially when the pirates kill one of the boys. His only goal is to get back to London, and the only way he knows how is to seek out a hooded man who appears in his dreams with the black orb.

With the help of Aaya (aka Tiger Lily) (Q'orianka Kilcher), Peter ventures into a strange lost city, where he discovers the truth about Neverland. But when the pirates attack and capture the boys and Aaya, Peter must use his newfound powers to save them and defeat Captain Hook...

J.M. Barrie didn't really go into the background of Peter Pan in his original novel -- Peter Pan just sort of EXISTED, like a nature sprite or some forgotten deity. But "Neverland" does do a decent job trying to spin up a backstory for Peter and Captain Hook -- it tries to explain the battle between Hook and Peter, what Neverland is, and how pirates and Indians got to it.

And there is a really whimsical, fantastical air to the story -- silver faeries, fallen comets, eight-legged crocodiles, an orb, and a vast city made of woven trees.. The giant white CGI trees are kind of goofy, though.

But the movie also uses its length to establish the bond between Peter and Hook, which is a genuine connection of father/son love and trust that is corrupted by greed and cruelty. Rowe reminds me of a younger, more expressive Daniel Radcliffe, and Ifans is absolutely brilliant as a complex man who is both cruel and kind, compassionate and utterly ruthless.

And it has a solid cast, with Anna Friel as a cold-heart swashbuckler, Bob Hoskins as Smee, and a bunch of pretty talented kids as the Lost Boys. The one problem is Kilcher, who is so wooden you could saw her into logs, but she's balanced out by a more realistic, well-rounded depiction of the Indians ("Dinner." "You're going to eat us?" "Why, do you taste good?") as shown by Raoul Trujillo and George Aguilar.

"Neverland" is a pretty decent what-if tale about the origins of Peter Pan, which does a fairly good job at explaining Neverland without robbing it of magic. Not the best classic-based miniseries, but a good one.
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