Peter Pan & Wendy (2023) is a solid live action reimagining of a Disney classic

Another Disney live action remake has crash-landed on our screens, and this time it’s actually good. Much to my surprise, Peter Pan and Wendy is a competent remake that sticks relatively close to the original, while making plenty of timely adjustments to the narrative that update it for modern audiences.

The first thing any fan of the original animated film will notice is the stark difference in tone. While the original was a lot more playful and fun, with iconic musical numbers and a very innocent vibe, this remake is heavily stripped back – adopting a more serious/slightly darker tone without the playful songs of the original. On paper, the changes sound like they’re setting the film up for failure, but I really like the changes. Some would argue the shift in tone and slightly revamped story goes against the idea of a ‘remake’, though I’d say this is exactly what the Disney live action remakes should be. Sticking too close to the original is a recipe for disaster… looking at you Pinocchio (2022)… as going from animation to live action doesn’t work as a 1:1 translation. In the case of Peter Pan and Wendy – some elements are removed, some are limited and some are built upon in a way that gives this entry its own identity while still feeling recognisable as “Disney’s Peter Pan“. I shout add that it’s not all dark and dreary – it runs at an upbeat tempo in an attempt to recapture some of the original’s vibe, and it somewhat works.

This retelling hits most of the beats of its original animated counterpart, following the same over-arching story while updating some of its character relationships to work in a modern, live action setting. There’s a different connection between Peter Pan and Wendy than in the original, and also a much deeper relationship between Peter Pan and Captain Hook. Both of these are very welcome additions that strengthen the story and make it a little more relatable for kids and adults alike. Even the climax takes on a different, more action-oriented approach – something a little more Pirates of the Caribbean-esque – that really elevates the ending. In contrast, the opening all the way through to our arrival in Neverland is a bit more of a love letter to the original, and that works too. It all strikes this pleasant balance of old meets new – working well throughout the film.

As far as gripes go, there isn’t anything that I thought ruined the film, just a couple things that didn’t hit as well. Firstly, the overall look of the film was a little dull – the colour grading makes everything feel flat, with a lot of browns, greys and dark greens making up every shot. It limits the awe and wonder associated with Neverland as there’s a lack of vibrant colours and environments. That’s the main element where the film is lacking – the wonder of Neverland is gone, leaving it to feel just like a random section of Newfoundland. I guess that’s a byproduct of going for a more serious approach, but they could have still brightened it up a little. Something else I feel isn’t as strong as it should be is the presence of the Lost Boys. There’s not a memorable character in the group, and they all blend into miscellaneous background folk. With a greater focus on things like Peter Pan and Hook’s history, I’d have liked a few more substantial moments with the Lost Boys. Lastly, a couple of isolated moments feel a little too forced in pushing the film’s social message of inclusivity. You can have a more inclusive story, it just doesn’t have to be so blatant as it is in here.

I can see a few reasons why Disney has opted to change the title to Peter Pan and Wendy. One of those reasons being that Ever Anderson’s Wendy feels like the lead moreso than Peter Pan. She doesn’t have any huge, memorable moments, but I like the way she plays this version of the character. There’s a bit more of an edge to the character this time around – she’s a little more complex – and that gives Ever Anderson enough room to showcase some of her acting chops. She shares some good moments of chemistry alongside Alexander Molony’s Peter Pan, who is very well suited for his role. Having Jude Law play the villainous Captain Hook is a fantastic choice, especially considering the fact that this version of Hook is explored in greater depth than just being the “bad guy”. He flexes his talents and makes the character really stand out whenever he’s on screen.

In the end, I was pleasantly surprised by Peter Pan and Wendy. It’s by no means a great film, but it’s a good live-action remake of a classic Disney property. I like the majority of the changes they made in terms of the narrative – they’ve simplified certain areas of the story, while expanding a few key relationships to make them deeper and more engaging. I wish some of Neverland’s wonder was retained – the world looks very flat and monotone – but the relatively upbeat tempo keeps things fun right through to the action packed finale. Available right now on Disney+, it’s a good time for kids and adults alike.



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