Peter Pan (2003 Version) – Calluna

Another Patreon request! I take a look at the 2003 live action film of Peter Pan, which markets itself as “the REAL Peter Pan story.” If that’s the case, why does no one remember it?

About CallunaReviews

One of the newest producers for Channel Awesome. I take a look at everything: movies, tv, video games, etc. Wearer of many hats.

22 comments

  1. Decent movie, but the best version is still Peter Pan & the Pirates. Tim Curry as Hook is hard to beat.

    • AmbrosiusAurelianus

      Still haven’t gotten to see that yet. Too bad Disney doesn’t seem to want to release a DVD set. Although funnily enough, back when I was a kid in the 90s I actually had an action figure from that TV show. Didn’t know the show existed back then; I just assumed they’d messed up Peter Pan’s colors.

      • Pretty sure Peter Pan and the Pirates isn’t Disney. It was made by Fox as I recall. Remember, Disney might have their own version of Peter Pan but that doesn’t mean they own the character.

        • AmbrosiusAurelianus

          Peter Pan as a property for adaptation is, best as I understand, in the public domain, so no one can own the story, just the things they add to it. I learned of the show from a Nostalgia Critic video, where I seem to remember him saying that Disney acquired the show after the fact and essentially buried it so it wouldn’t compete with their property. Can anyone confirm if this is true? There’s no DVD-set for it that I could find, only used VHS copies being sold online.

          • I’m not sure it is public domain. J.M. Barry left the rights to a London children’s hospital (or maybe The London Children’s Hospital), and any adaptations are up to them. BUT I think it might’ve gone P.D. in the US in the last decade.

  2. AmbrosiusAurelianus

    Congrats! You got me to make an account just so I could answer your closing question. 🙂

    Thanks for the review. I’ve been singing the praises of this movie for years and am always sad at how it gets overlooked. Hopefully your video will get more people to enjoy it!

    Personally I think it’s the best Peter Pan adaptation on film. Even the elements that you found odd or random seemed, to me, to fit strongly into the themes, approach, and aesthetic the filmmakers wanted.

    For example, I think the film builds really well on the book’s presentation as a sort of children’s mythology. Peter’s not just a magic boy, he’s essentially the nature spirit of Neverland, who most purely represents the character of the place. Everyone seems kind of obsessed with him, but for that reason. The landscape and weather itself respond to his moods. He’s not a god or anything, but is so tied to the land that his very return causes winter to flee and plants to bloom. It’s very much the old mythological trope of the Return of the King, where the kingdom’s wellbeing, down to nature itself, is dependent on the king’s own wellbeing and presence. “Hook” played with this trope too, but in less magical form, when Rufio kneels to give Peter his sword back and essentially swears allegiance.

    The romance angle didn’t seem awkward to me except when it was purposely meant to be so (hey! Pre-teens are awkward folks!). You’re right that it’s a significant departure from the book, though. Normally that kind of change would bug me, but I think the movie handled it really well. It explored some of what it’s like for 12-13 year-olds to start going through puberty, with all the fear and hope about love and growing up and losing the fun and security of childhood.

    The power of kisses in the movie plays into this. Yeah, it’s not really explained, and it works as a sort of super-power injection, but thematically I think it does work. A romantic kiss shouldn’t really be taken lightly — it’s a very intimate way to show affection and care for the other person, and it can be innocent but meaningful at the same time. I think the movie shows this a lot. Ex. Tiger Lily kissing John out of gratitude (and maybe a little crush) tells him “You’ve already proved you mean a lot to me and did something good for me”, which gives him the strength to do even more. Same for Wendy kissing Peter, because the reminder of her love, especially when he’s weakest and feels the least like himself, brings him from despair and fills him with a literally explosive joy. Peter refuses to grow up, but he’s terribly afraid of being lonely and abandoned by his friends. I think these are awesome and beautiful moments.

    A final point about the special effects: I like them a lot, and think they age really well! This is because they don’t try to be realistic, but are purposefully stagy and representative of a child’s imagination. Just look at those planets and stars hanging like magic balloons in a cosmic space that seems alive and joyful rather than empty! So anyway, I like the look of the movie just fine, and think the art direction is very purposeful and serves the story well.

    Also, the music. The music is delightful.

    I’ll close with a quote from Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy Stories,” since I think the movie fits his standards of a fairy story and really nails the essential tragedy of the character of Peter Pan:

    “Children are meant to grow up, and not to become Peter Pans. Not to lose innocence and wonder, but to proceed on the appointed journey: that journey upon which it is certainly not better to travel hopefully than to arrive, though we must travel hopefully if we are to arrive. But it is one of the lessons of fairy-stories (if we can speak of the lessons of things that do not lecture) that on callow, lumpish, and selfish youth peril, sorrow, and the shadow of death can bestow dignity, and even sometimes wisdom.”

    Cheers, and God bless!

    • “A final point about the special effects: I like them a lot… they don’t try to be realistic, but are purposefully stagy and representative of a child’s imagination.”

      The trouble with that is, the Blue Filter (orange and teal! Stop the Madness!) that Calluna mentions. A child’s imagination is usually in colour – bright colour, and lots of it.

      Though I’d agree with most of your other points.

  3. I think no one remembers it is because not many actually saw it, myself included. I do however remember seeing a trailer for it on tv and thought it was going to be boring.Which is why I never bothered to see it in the first place.

    • Great review. You brought up a lot of ideas and other things from the story I had never heard of before.

      For those that haven’t seen it, I think that if anyone remembers this movie it’s because of the trailer and Jason Isaacs. I know those are the only reasons why I remember that it even exists.

      All I ever saw of it was the trailer and if it weren’t for Isaacs I wouldn’t have recognized anyone in it. Everyone in it seems to either be British or have a vaguely identifiable English-type accent. (I’m not looking it up.) ‘Hook’ and Disney’s animated ‘Peter Pan’ were the biggest adaptation successes up to that point and still seem to be. With ‘Hook’ having big stars of the time and the Disney version being beautifully animated and produced they each had something to attract audiences and that gave them the highest chances for profit. The 03′ version just didn’t have enough to draw people in, here in the states anyway, and even with Isaacs’s visibility in movies like ‘The Patriot’, ‘Black Hawk Down’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’, as well as several others, the movie just didn’t have enough of anything that any-one wanted to see.

      I guess it seems that if you hadn’t seen the movie for yourself it would have been easily forgettable. I know if you hadn’t reviewed it I never would have thought about it for the rest of my life, that’s just how forgettable it was.

  4. As Ambrosius says, Peter Pan is not just a boy who won’t grow up, but a nature spirit, akin to Jack in the Green. When he leaves, winter sets in.

    Another way to look at it is that he’s a boy playing make-believe, and all of Neverland is his projection. There are hints in the book that he and Hook are two aspects of the same person, like a boy playing make-believe by himself and inventing all the characters.

    I also agree that the kisses are significant. When you’re 12 (as I was 48 years ago) you wonder what a romantic kiss will be like when you first receive one, and you can easily think it is going to be a mind-blowing experience.

  5. I think this film is pretty decent, but the decision to release around the same time as Return of the King was pretty much asking for it to bomb, especially since the film itself was only okay. It’d be like releasing a quiet sci-fi movie the same weekend as The Force Awakens.

  6. The Tiger Lilly kiss scene was a good addition.

    It shows that kisses-superpowers are part of how the Netherlands works (you know the world that allows you to fly if you have fairy dust and happy thoughts).

    It would have been weirder if Peter was the only one who got powers from a kiss, he is just better at channeling emotion-powers that Netherlands grant since he has been living in it for years if not decades.

  7. I think of the Mary Martin version, thanks to a much-watched VHS taping off PBS.

  8. I don’t even remember even hearing about this movie, maybe did not had any interest since I was in college back then

  9. I DO “remember” this film. Seeing it? Never have. But the trailers did look interesting. And I have heard some of the soundtrack. It got me curious to see the film, though I still haven’t seen it yet. But I at least do know it exists.

  10. I’ll start with your final question: Does anyone remember this movie?
    Apart from the below commenters, clearly your patreon patron does. 🙂

    I remember it exists, but the only thing I remember about it, from the one time I saw it, is that it makes nods to the way Peter, in the book, constantly forgets everything around him.

    Also: “at least this movie made sure to cast an actual native American actress” as Tiger Lily.
    For bonus points, wasn’t this movie filmed in Australia? She would’ve been very hard to find here.

    Actual, mythical mermaids are a lot like sirens – dangerous, and trying to seduce people into the sea.

    Much as I don’t like the blue filter over everything either, I wouldn’t single out any one movie for it, since every single movie since O Brother, Where Art Thou? has done that. (Or orange.) (Though do note my planned response to Aurelius.)

  11. Well, obviously there’s a patron who remembers this movie.

    Me? Not at all. Maybe it played on TV, but I don’t remember it.

  12. Is this turning into Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita?

  13. Peter Pan as a story or plot device might have been some of the inspiration for the novel Lolita by this Russian-American writer in the 1950’s in the exchanges of “join the pirates” temptation dialogue between Hook and Wendy, eww, pedaph-eww. And the Lost Boy characters I think are practically independent male group Soviet Communist Pioneer campers or might have served as a possible inspiration for Communist Youth camper groups around the world especially in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics led by Russia. Although there is no evidence and my grandparents highly doubt that Vladimir Illich Lenin or other Bolsheviks read James Matthew Barrie’s Peter Pan or have seen it’s play since it’s publication 1904.

  14. Oh yeah, of course I remember this film. Isaacs is the best, yes, but the strength of the cast in general keeps the film worth watching. The sets and costumes are great, even though I agree with you about the filter and how some of the effects don’t hold up. For me, it is the definitive Peter Pan adaptation, and I like to watch it in connection with “Hook.” It’s not one of my favorites or anything (“Hook,” for example, is a much better movie), but it’s not one I forget.

  15. I definitely remember and love this movie! I grew up reading the book and loved anything fantasy or mythology related. I enjoyed this way more then the disney version or hook and still watch it now. The cgi is not the best but the overall story acting and how much i enjoy it makes me overlook it.

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