Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Comprehensive Peter Pan

Just finished watching Peter Pan (2003) starring Jason Isaacs (Capt. Hook/Mr. Darling), Jeremy Sumpter (Peter Pan) and Rachel Hurd-Wood (Wendy).

Can I just say that I had previously decided not to watch this because there was no way this could compare to the versions I watched growing up-- Mary Martin's musical Peter Pan (1960), Disney's Peter Pan (1953), and Hook (1991). But I guess the artistic nature of the cover and all of the pictures from the film sorta drew me in. And this is still one of the best things about the movie to me-- it was truly beautiful, and magical, just the way you might dream up Neverland in your own mind.

On top of it all, it blows my mind that this play is never given the same weight as other traditional plays like The Crucible, A Streetcar Named Desire, or anything of that nature. It's done as a primary school play. But why aren't the themes discussed, why aren't the characters dissected, why isn't this digested in 10th grade English class? Wouldn't high school kids better relate to this play than they would to the Crucible? The Scarlet Letter? (I know this isn't a play, but think about it...) Give kids something they can get into. Something they are interested in. Go over the classics, sure. But this is a classic too-- give it some weight.

It's interesting too, to consider the story line which revolves around growing up, in all different stages of growing up. As a kid, it's an adventure story, a creative way to escape the boring life of going to school, etc. As a teenager, you can almost see why Peter has no intention of ever growing up-- school is more demanding, and other realities of the world become more pressing, and sometimes you wish you could go back to the freedoms of being a kid, but you're also in that stage where you want to grow up, drive a car, be independent.  Then when you're an "adult" (but you're still growing up-- I maintain you're never really "grown up" until you're dead), you can see the sadness of Peter too, who is in a way left behind, left out of the loop, and lonely. The Darlings as well as the Lost Boys opt to grow up, while he stays behind. He never really knew a mother, and so he seeks Wendy out in his own way to play his mother and companion. That's the true beauty of this story-- that it can be both a way to live vicariously as a child forever, but you understand the importance of growing up--- almost like the life cycle makes more sense this way. But at the end, it doesn't take itself too seriously.  Unlike all those stuffy stories from which teachers squeeze meaning from each and every line (sometimes each syllable if you happen to get a particularly tiresome one), this story can be dealt with quickly, painlessly. But at the end, still leaves you thinking, and without a sour taste in the back of your mouth.

So I just wanted to give kudos to this movie, which I deem to be well worth watching. It's fun, fantastical, and really brings the story to life.

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