Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Never Ask Why, Apparently.

Well the first thing to report about SyFy's Neverland is that I don't have to hate it.  But that doesn't mean there's really all that much to like, either.

If you're not aware, Neverland is the latest made for TV miniseries venture from the network to re-present a well known fantasy story.  In this case, obviously, the story of Peter Pan.

WARNING:  This post contains spoilers!  Read at your own risk if you haven't seen it and care to do so without having bits ruined for you.

What to start with...???
I suppose I must say I am miffed at the very least that they made the Neverland a planet.  We learn this right at the beginning and I sort of purposely forgot about it until the very end.  That's when they referred to the fact again and made it worse in my eyes.  You see, the whole adventure takes place on one big island.  But at the end Peter is excited that there's a bunch of islands on this globe.  HEY!  That's MY creation!  Yeah, okay, I am aware that it's not an exclusive thought.  But NEVERtheless, it is rather irksome.  At least I have the satisfaction of knowing I came up with and presented it first.

Other than that, though, I don't have any problem with it.  By which I mean in terms of direct connection to Barrie.  I'd been quite "worried" since it's a prequel.  One that comepletely ignores the one that Barrie wrote.  So.... you'd think I'd be up in arms, no?  The reason I'm not is because of one word: Re-imagine.  This version is meant to be a brand new spin on the whole of it.  It's not, therefore, necessarily meant to be conjuncted to Barrie's tales.  But that doesn't mean no negative bewonderment is involved, either.  But these are minor, assuming the show really does wish to "be its own thing."

The real issues, however, are with the story itself.  Sadly, it's the best of the (so far) three re-do's by SyFy.  Tin Man (a.k.a. The Wonderful Wizard of OZ) had some great tweaks, bits and ideas.  But ultimately it fell apart.  Alice (obvioulsy Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) proved to be unwatchable.  Yes, really that bad if you ask me.  Neverland isn't as terrible as all that... yet it's still a half-baked mess with ingredients from just about everything other than Peter Pan.  It unfortunately FEELS like a mash-up and Barrie's tale is just the backdrop for the peppering of others.

Andrea Jones (Hook & Jill) sent me this article from the New York Times.  It's DEAD ON RIGHT, people.  So perhaps you want to read IT before you read my extra rants.  It will also save me from explaining much of what's going in this version.

I've seen many people complain about Peter's age in this show.  He seems well past the six-to-twelve span of Pan.  This, however, didn't bother me so much as other bits.  Like the fact that he behaved nothing like Barrie's boy, unless one counts reckless bravery.  At one point he became forgetful of his entire past, on account of the Tree Spirits (a.k.a. fairies) cursing him for being responsible for their home being destroyed.  But he quickly regains it when the 'Lost Boys' (never referred to as such... they're just rejects from Oliver Twist here) play "La Marseillaise" on his flute.

It's more like I have a bunch of "Why in the world...?" questions.  Like:  Why does Tinker Bell look like an Annie Lennox to whom time has not been kind?  Why do we not FLY to the Neverland?  (It's a magic orb that transports what surrounds it in an explosion relative to how hard it is struck.)  Why does the crocodile have extra limbs?  Why are there a lot of these crocodile-pedes?  Why did they make Starkey (an English school teacher turned pirate) into the Italian Cecco?  Why did they add a lost boy named Fox (oh, right, I knew the answer to this right away... so they could kill one of them and not erase one of Barrie's!)?  Why does Peter willingly wear a suit and tie at the end?  Why is he concerned with doing the right thing all the time?  Why does he never receive the name Pan [especially when the [as the show claims] 'power of a god' is given to him [flight/danger-sensing]?  Why is Hook the true name of Hook?  ...etc.

By the time we reach but one half hour left of a four hour show, Peter has not yet cut off Hook's hand.  And so, it all feels horribly rushed at the end.  It tries to be clever... having "Jimmy" say to Peter (in an effort to have him join forces with him when he steals the power of the Tree Spirits) Take my hand, Peter...  And when he finally does in the manner we all know and love, it's done by accident.  During a heated duel, Peter's long dagger gets in the way of a swipe by Hook and it's lopped off.  Wait a minute... not on purpose?  Nope.  Peter doesn't even fling it to the crocodile on purpose.  In fact, Peter doesn't do anything with it... it drops off into an abyss and A croc just happens by.  Then Peter demands the pocket watch that he recently discovered belonged to his father (whom he never knew and Hook had killed) and Hook throws at Peter's head, it bounces off, and the croc happens to eat it, too.  And then it inexplicably begins to tick loudly when it had never ticked once audibly before.  What's even worse is that we don't ever get to see Hook with a hook.  Nope.  Though they got the correct hand chopped off, we also don't get to see the stump. What a crock!  Not that I'm cheering for gore, but what a lousy break.  We're also left to go on what we know of the original tale that the croc wants more of James.  No chasing after him...

Oh... when Peter returns to the Neverland at the end (having used the orbs to come and go) the boys notice his shadow is missing.  As if it HAD to be included, so why not tack it on to the end inexplicably?  Or perhaps they intended the show to continue?

I did like the Indians. This tale knows enough to make them savages only in the eyes of others. These Indians are respectful of the Tree Fairies and act as caretakers and protectors of the Neverland.

It also used too many "pop culture misunderstanding" for my taste.  For insance, that only Peter can understand Tinker Bell.  Or that the Neverland is frozen in time and that no one at all ages there.  Both of these are fractionally true, and ultimately not.  Trust me.

And how is it that this connects to Wendy?  Not that it had been supposed to, as it is a prequel, but if Peter needs the instantaneous orbs to take her doesn't that blow the whole fun part of Barrie's story?

I could go on, I suppose, but it's just not worth it.

It's a valiant effort to reinvent the beloved story.  But the long and short of it is: WHY? Whatever it added to the tale didn't enhance the magic. It sort of undermined all of it.


Erik said...

Totally agree - and with the NY Times! And another thing: if it's meant to be a prequel, why does the film open in London in ... 1906? So basic, so irritating.

Peter Von Brown said...

Good to know you agree, Erik. Lovely to have discerning Pan fans out there! Thanks for commenting.

That's an excllent "Why?" you came up with... surprising I didn't list it given that I've got a sort-of prequel myself coming up. I've worked out the "Pan Universe Timeline" and such. I've said it before, I'll say it again: I'm under the impression that Pan comes for Wendy much earlier than 1904/1906. Everyone seems to default to that date given it's the contemporary time of Barrie writing the play... and he came to the Neverland LONG before! So you're absolutely right. I remember rolling my eyes upon seeing 1906 appear on the screen.

I thought of other WHYs myself.

Why are there no mermaids?

Why do 'they' think only Peter [i.e. not the Lost Boys too] can fly?

There are plenty more, I'm sure. :) Feel free to add any... ;)

Keep believing!

Chazah [South Africa] said...

I loved this series of Neverland, even tho a bit dark & depressing in many places and not much to do with the beginnings of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, more like another look at Fagan & Oliver Twist and the rest of the street kids finding a portal to enter a fantasy land ~ not many happy characters either except for Smee [played by Bob Hoskins]. I also wondered where the mermaids were and the crocs were also far too big with too many legs. Loved the voice of tinkerbell tho ~ its perfect!...but was so very disappointed with the way she looked! So don’t expect a pretty cute little fairy like the one we are used to bcuz there isn’t one!… she is an ugly fairy/tree spirit!! I agree she looks like Annie Lennox, also she looks like someone frm Star Trek and had been spray tanned with luminous silver paint. Tinkerbell in Peter Pan was always so beautiful in her fairy way. She had courage, a sense of humour, and was very mischievous, and loved Peter. She was no way 'beautiful' as Tiger Lily said abt her, and the actress who played the part of Tiger Lily is not very good as an actress at all. I have seen her in a few roles [as Mary in a movie/series abt Jesus, as Pocahontas in another...and nw as Tiger Lily] and she acts exactly the same way in all three of these parts...very boring character who obviously cannot act at all. The rest of the characters were great including Bob Hoskins as Smee...wndrfl character! The guys who played the Lost Boys were very good actors too... enjoyed watching each one of them.