Disney Plus’ new release Peter Pan & Wendy, directed by David Lowery and starring Jude Law as Captain Hook, started streaming this weekend. The new adaptation of the Peter Pan story came under major fire once its diverse casting hit the public, with speculation that the world didn’t need another version of Peter Pan.
Now that it is available to stream, how does the work hold up? WARNING: Major spoilers ahead.
A Quick Synopsis of How Peter Pan & Wendy Starts
Lowery’s vision for Peter Pan & Wendy was to tell the story from Wendy’s perspective. This is clear as we enter on the Darling siblings acting out a familiar bedtime story about pirates and Neverland. Wendy is being shipped off to boarding school, and it’s clear she’s not ready to go. Mrs. Darling insists Wendy must set a proper example for her brothers and puts them to bed.
It’s not long before Tinker Bell (Yara Shahidi) and Peter Pan (Alexander Molony) burst through the window to take the trio to Neverland.
What’s Missing in Disney Plus’ New Peter Pan & Wendy
One major criticism is that events happen rather quickly without much substance between them. The film ultimately lacked vital character development for most of its main characters, which left me feeling uninvested in their fates. This problem seemed to come from dialogue that felt forced and a bit too on the nose, even for a children’s movie.
The real disappointment comes from Alexander Molony’s performance as Peter Pan. His acting lacked magic, fun, and the childlike whimsy that inspires Wendy and her siblings to take this adventure with him. Molony is monotone in almost every scene, and the emotion behind his eyes is relatively nonexistent.
Ever Gabo Anderson’s Wendy holds her own, but due to a flat Peter Pan and uncomfortable writing, the relationship between the characters suffers and never gets on track. Unfortunately this leads to a lot “high stakes” moments throughout the film to fall flat because they haven’t been earned.
Classic Character Portrayals Fall Flat in Peter Pan & Wendy
Other classic characters also suffered two-dimensional writing. Shahidi’s Tinker Bell had a small underwhelming part, and I wasn’t sure what her role in the story was. The film could’ve cut her part and barely changed. I was looking forward to seeing Tiger Lily’s (Alyssa Wapanatâhk) culture and backstory minus Disney’s animated “What Makes the Red Man Red,” of course, but her part was also so tangental it added little value to the story. At one point she swings from a rope on the Jolly Roger, which is badass, but empty because I have no connection to her.
The first time Peter Pan shows any kind of palpable emotion is when we find out he used to live at the Darling’s house. He chooses to go back to Neverland and says he’s not ready to grow up. Wendy is somehow suddenly able to understand what Tinker Bell is saying, which I can find metaphorical meaning for but felt sudden within the story. Wendy’s mother also seems to recognize Peter Pan as he flies away, but because we know very little about the mother, what felt like it could’ve been a beautiful moment didn’t resonate.
What Peter Pan & Wendy Did Right and Jude Law’s Contribution
Jude Law as Captain Hook absolutely carried this movie. Lowery promised a backstory for Hook, and he was really the only character that got one. As a result I found myself rooting for Captain Hook rather than Peter Pan. Law delivered a quietly unhinged Captain Hook that held the narrative together, although it didn’t always seem to fit the tone of the overall film. Can I say that Law is too advanced as an actor for this movie? I wish everyone was on his level of detail and character integrity.
Jim Gaffigan was a delightful surprise and offered layers to Mr. Smee in the short time he had on screen. They dynamic between Hook and Smee was one of the highlights.
It is revealed that Captain Hook was actually the first lost boy, named James. He and Peter were best friends until James admitted one day that he missed his mother. Peter Pan apparently ran James out of Neverland for this offense, and when James grew up he returned to get his revenge on Pan. I have questions about this backstory, but when Law delivered a monologue explaining it to Wendy, he sold it and made me feel for him. It feels like this scene inspired the movie, and everything else was added around it.
Peter Pan & Wendy Scenes That Worked
Other great scenes included Captain Hook getting the best of Pan by slashing a sword across the chest, sending Peter falling far to the ground with a thud. It surprised me and actually evoked an emotional response. When Wendy walks the plank and there is no splash, the pirates reactions and Captain Hook’s interaction with Mr. Smee was so well done with little to no dialogue. Lastly, when Hook is about to fall to his doom after Pan has apologized to him (with more expert acting by Law), Peter tells him to “Think happy thoughts,” so he can fly. Hook attempts it and says, “I haven’t got any” before falling. Because I really felt for Hook by this point, it stung.
Other pros included, the fact that Tinker Bell didn’t hate and hurt Wendy like in the animated version. Tick Tock the crocodile was massive and was honestly scary! I loved the criss crossed eyes, as well as the matched shot of Captain Hook balancing on the beasts jaws, calling back to the animated crocodile!
Stunning Visual Elements in Disney+’s Peter Pan & Wendy
Overall the cinematography and visual quality was masterful. Neverland was truly the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, and the pirate ship was detailed and breath taking. The Lost Boy’s hideout was so well done. The costumes were also a major highlight, with careful details and fantastical elements that helped support the magical world. Unfortunately, the visuals did a lot of heavy lifting where the acting and storytelling faltered.
Other Things Audiences Should Consider When Watching Peter Pan & Wendy
What did you think of the pirate’s sea shanty? Were they capitalizing on the recent TikTok shanty trend? I like the addition, but it felt a little pop-rock in genre for the world of Neverland.
There’s a lost boy who randomly loves hats, and I love him.
I wish Alan Tudyk had a bit more screen time as Mr. Darling! He’s such a gem.
What are your thoughts on why exactly no one can understand Tink? Do you think Peter understands her or is just pretending as Wendy suggested?
All in all, David Lowery’s Peter Pan & Wendy relied too much on audiences’ knowledge of the original story and therefore gave up substance choices that could’ve really connected to an audience. “Growing up Wrong” was a nice interpretation of the Peter Pan theme, but could’ve been more subtly delivered.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and may not reflect Disney Dining as a whole.