I just finished watching the miniseries Neverland that came on the Syfy channel here in the USA. The miniseries provided an interesting explanation for the nature of Neverland involving an 400 year old alchemist from Queen Elizabeth I’s era (how do you write possessives with roman numerals?) and some galactic space-time continuum jargon. I enjoyed the friends-to-enemies back story of Peter and Hook, and the explanation of how both pirates and Indians wound up in Neverland.
What I felt was most lacking were the main characters’ motivations. In fact, I’m not even sure what Peter wanted, besides to oppose Hook. Meanwhile, Hook wanted superpowers (in the form of a special mineral dust; I’m glad they didn’t call anything “pixie” or “fairy”), but seemingly for no deeper reason than any typical villain wants superpowers—because they’re superpowers. I would’ve tried to give them deeper issues. For example, perhaps Peter is seeking parental guidance and approval. Perhaps he knows what kind of loving relationship he’s missing out on by being an orphan, and this is torture for him. It would be pretty cliché (orphans in books are always struggling with this issue), but Peter might get away with it, since it would help explain the whole “Wendy is our mother” element of the traditional Peter Pan tale. An issue for Hook: perhaps he sees in Peter everything he could’ve been were he a bit more clever and popular. Perhaps he’s just plain jealous of Peter and the relationships he’s able to forge in Neverland. He hates Peter because he craves everything he has. Wanting the superpowers is his way of getting even, or at least that’s his hope. “Once the power is mine, I’ll have nothing to envy.” These are just examples; the point is, I think the characters would’ve been more sympathetic with these deeper issues plaguing their minds.
The special effects were fantastic for a TV film, though the flying looked rather awful. But I can’t blame them too much for that; I think humans always look pretty horrible flying. The flying looked much better in Disney’s animated version, I reckon because animators could have so much more control over the characters’ feeling of weight, and how the center of gravity swings back and forth during a flying move so that it looks like the body is moving of its own accord and not attached to some invisible string.
Lastly, the ending made no sense at all, but this is another thing I can’t blame them too much for. Neverland is trying to set the stage for the tradition Peter Pan story, and the beginning of the traditional Peter Pan story makes no sense. But J. M. Barrie could get away with that in his day, because back then people didn’t have very high standards. (OK, different standards at least.)
Over all, it was some good food for my writerly imagination.
This review says:
When this Peter Pan origins tale isn’t gutting small children with giant swords, it’s pumping Native Americans full of bullets and pushing Pirates off cliffs. Oh and there’s sex in it too, and fairy genocide — so yeah, "gritty" is one way to describe it. Or you could say: a bunch of adults ham-fistededly stuff somewhat salacious origin tropes into a poor, unsuspecting fairy tale.
Apparently someone grew up watching too much Disney and not actually reading many fantasy stories. Neverland was hardly what I’d call “gritty” at all.