Peter Pan (2003) – Where Adventure and Adolescence Make Magic for the Soul

This is one of those movies, which I watched in my early teen years. It came out in 2003 and I think I even had the DVD (which seems to be lost or has been given away). I completely fell in love with this movie. I have read the original 1911 book almost to bits (so much I think I need to buy a new copy at some point) and I used to listen to the BBC Radio Drama version on repeat on my iPod so many times it became rude. This film hold a special place in my heart like no other film does. It was a critical point in my development when I saw it, and looking back I see the effects of it still lingering in my longing for fictional men who fly like Howl in Howl’s Moving Castle, a dream of a dance in the moonlight and just simply not being afraid to keep the child at heart, because in this depressing world I would rather smile than turn in to a complete cynic and when I am excited I clap and laugh because that is how I feel no matter how “uncool” it may look to others. Children, we often forget, are after all what we all wish to be when we grow up. To be in that happy place of care, comfort and open possibilities in our imagination.


In the 1900s in Bloomsbury live the Darling-family with Mr Darling, Mrs Darling with their children Wendy, John and Michael. They have a dog named Nana and a intruding Aunt Millicent. One night Peter Pan comes to the Darling’s window to look for his shadow, but ends up taking the Darling children with him to Neverland.



There is a lot of positive to be said about this film. First, it stays more closer to the book than the Disney animated version and is all the better for it. Second, its absolutely beautiful even with 2003s CGI which is seamless and just the right amount of obvious that it makes the whole experience of watching the film feel like a child’s imagination brought forth to its fullest extent. The colours are bright, Neverland is lush and full of wonder, the Darling’s is the sun in the otherwise grey and dull London, the Crocodile is MASSIVE, the mermaids are not the mermaids you are thinking of, the costumes are period accurate and yet are memorable and magical, there is a fairy dance and it is the most precious romantic thing one can think of as a tween, actual Native/Indigenous American language used in the film with real Native/Indigenous Americans in the cast and so much more.


The highlight for me has always been James Newton Howard’s score for the film, which is by far one of the best soundtracks there is. It is filled with magic from the first, with delicate sounds and soundscapes that transport you to the movie and its world as well as just simply having the ability to make me cry whenever I hear certain pieces from it. It is simply beautiful and deserves a listening. It is on Spotify!


The acting is beyond perfect as well. With many newcomers as the children and veterans of the British stage and screen filling the other roles. Everyone is memorable and unique. No one disappears in to the background and you will certainly have favourites after watching the film.

The title character of Peter Pan is played by the mid-teenage American actor Jeremy Sumpter. At first having an American in the title role of a British story seems odd, but he makes it up for his just by his mere charm and cleverness in embodying the character. Peter is not perfect, indeed in the book he is far from it if you look close enough, but he is somehow still lovable and sympathetic through it all. Sumpter, with his earnest acting and pretty blue eyes makes for the obvious crush of many, many, many young children and teenagers who watched the film (myself included). He is the perfect yet human (non-human??) character to have a crush on at that age. Far better than some of the supposed teenage heartthrobs of today (I am looking at you After-movie and all the likes).

Rachel Hurd-Wood as Wendy Darling is a step above the sexist writing of the day when J. M. Barrie wrote the play and book as well as the Disney version. Indeed the character has had a tiny makeover in being both the motherly child and a swords bucking storyteller who changes stories like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty from their obviously dated stories in to ones where women take up the sword and fight and go adventuring, It is a nice change that I approve of, especially at this day and age. And the change is necessary to make it appeal, it is by no means a forced one of one looks at it from a logical point of view. Would you rather be kissed without consent when you are asleep? Or would you go to the Prince’s ball to fight a bunch of pirates? I would like the latter option  myself. Rachel Hurd-Wood is a stubborn, very empathetic and is going through the motions of childhood and adulthood with a wonderful no-nonsense attitude. Then when the playing turns too real for her she dazzles in her moments with Stumpler with their chemistry that is hard to deny on screen. She is someone we all want to be at that age and continues to be so.

Her character is at the centre of the story. Wendy is in the end the every girl of her time as well as ours. It is her story as she learns to not be frightened about growing up and when she is ready she goes back home. It is a metaphor that we all live through (especially girls) who are forced to grow up before our time, because it has been deemed fit to have us teach boys how to act even though we aren’t their parents who really should be the ones to teach them right from wrong. Sorry for the tangent here. Let’s move on.

Mr Darling and Captain James Hook have, by the theatre’s tradition been played by one actor. Here it is Jason Isaacs (many know him as Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter movies) who dons both the tux and the hook. His Mr Darling is a shy, awkward man who doesn’t put himself forward and it shows and when he does his wife, played with motherly warmth and love by Olivia Williams, is the one to give him the encouraging smile and he smiles back with love. Their love is subtle one, but it is effective, especially with rewatches. As Captain James Hook he turns as dark as that can character can possibly be allowed to become. There are shades of a sexual predator in his interactions with Wendy and we actually see the stump on his hand!! The movie gives us many shades of Hook, the one who injures children, the one who is rather pleasing on the eye, the Crocodile food with comedic screaming Disney style as well as the newly added depth of longing for companionship and love as he looks on at Peter and Wendy. His malice is not so much out of pure villainy, but jealousy.

Peter_Pan-838064072-large.jpg  The rest of the cast is equally wonderful as well. Carsen Gray as Tiger Lily is pure energy and hearing her speak a real Native/Indigenous American language is a treat for anyone and it is used effectively. The words are supposedly Iroquois, but I have heard other reports, so please correct me if I’m wrong. Richard Briers as Mr. Smee is using his best British deadpan humour with his interactions with the audience and it works every single time. Lynn Redgrave as Aunt Millicent, a new addition to replace the housemaid Liza, which makes perfect sense and her character is wonderfully over the top as well as the catalyst for the events before Peter Pan makes his appearance. All the Lost Boys are just cute enough and memorable enough, but the stand out is the not knowing know-it-all Slightly played by Theodore Chester. Tinker Bell was originally going to be CGI, but thankfully we have the very expressive French actress Ludivine Sagnier to play here to both her comedic and jealous heights with some well done CGI to make her a shimmering gold spark,

This movie was a flop when it came out in 2003, having the misfortune to be coming out a week after the final Lord of the Rings movie, but it didn’t deserve to be. Critics praised it and it has lasted long in the minds of those who watched it. It is now on Netflix and Amazon Video so go watch it! I honestly recommend this to every adult and child from here to eternity it is just that perfect of an adaption as well as a movie! It is one thing to see a movie with magic and a movie that is the pure embodiment of it. This is the latter in all its forms.


Thank you for reading! 

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