Next Sunday will mark the debut of Syfy’s latest fairy tale mini-series, Neverland, which will air in two parts on Sunday, December 4th, and Monday, December 5th, at 9/8c. Unlike the previous mini-series (Tin Man and Alice), it is not a twisted retelling of the story, but actually an origin prequel which explains how Peter became the “boy who never grew up”, how James Hook became a pirate captain who battles Peter, and how they and the Lost Boys found themselves in a place called Neverland where no one grows old. It stars Rhys Ifans as James Hook, Charlie Rowe as Peter Pan, and Anna Friel as pirate captain Elizabeth Bonny, along with Bob Hoskins (reprising his Hook role as Smee), Charles Dance (Dr. Fludd), Q’orianka Kilcher (the Native American princess Aaya), and Keira Knightley (the voice of Tinker Bell).
Note: mild spoilers may appear below.
This particular story is not based on any particular rendition of the Peter Pan tale – and it’s probably important to point out that although Bob Hoskins once again plays Smee, Hook’s right-hand man, as he did the the Robin Williams/Dustin Hoffman vehicle Hook, this was not a comedic role, or a comedy at all. This is a serious movie with adult overtones, especially regarding the relationship between Hook and Bonny.
James “Jimmy” Hook was a member of turn-of-the-century London’s “high society”, but something happens to him and he falls from the graces of that society, and instead finds himself leading a band of orphans in matters of theft while he attempts to get his status back.
Peter idolizes Jimmy, who was friends with Peter’s mother and father and treats him like a son. When Jimmy takes on a big heist for a businessman that might help him in his quest but then decides it’s too dangerous for the boys, Peter decides to plan out the heist himself. Jimmy confronts him and the boys in the middle of the operation, and then looks for a particular object – a mysterious orb which seems to gain energy when struck and appears to show another world. While Peter is in another room, Jimmy falls with the orb and he and the boys – and a portion of the building – disappear. Peter takes and hides the orb, but discovers what it truly is – a portal to another world wanted by Dr. Fludd. When they chase him back to the orb, he strikes it and transports himself to Neverland – a strange land of multiple climates, strange trees, 10 legged crocodiles, pirates, and Native Americans.
Extended trailer: “Where am I?”
The mini-series is divided into two parts. The first part obviously sets things up with the various characters and the introduction of Neverland, and throws in a bit of a science fiction element to explain the existence of Neverland and why time appears to stand still. The second half concentrates on the development of Jimmy and Peter, and their respective personal changes to become the characters we are familiar with, and are the real meat of the story.
The big focus on the change in characters is in what Neverland offers to each – eternal life, and what that means. To Peter, it means never growing up. But to Jimmy, it appears to feed an obsession that started with his disillusionment of society.
When I met the cast last month, I asked Rhys Ifans whether there was any particular inspiration for the role, or was he trying a fresh take on the character.
“We all know the Hook that we were presented with in the novel, and that Hook is essentially bad to the bone,” he replied. “And I wanted to kind of explore a journey, you know. How would a man become that bad? What would it take for a man to shed pretty much all of his moral fiber when — and what happens to the mind when it’s offered eternal life? Does it corrupt, or does it illuminate? In Hook’s case, it corrupts, but it also liberates him from a very, kind of, stifled and repressed Edwardian England. Bonny liberates him completely and sexually, which wouldn’t have been the case in England. Men were scared of women, and women were scared of men. So it’s a kind of double-edged sword, and it’s an interesting question, you know. What’s the price of liberty? So that was all very, kind of, interesting to play.”
Extended trailer: “This Is Our World”
Also, the father-son dynamic between Jimmy and Peter is greatly affected by the two temptations and how each reacts to them, as well as how each sees the other change.
Overall, this is a good character-driven story with a deep, intriguing look at temptation and madness.