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Peter Pan & Wendy (2023) Review

This is a review for the 2023 movie “Peter Pan & Wendy”. Disney continue their trend of live-action remakes with this direct-to-Disney+ remake of Peter Pan. It’s garnered a lot of criticism from fans of the original, but how justified is this?

Understanding the Existence of Peter Pan & Wendy

Even if you haven’t seen Disney’s 1953 “Peter Pan”, you’ve likely seen some adaptation of the story. You, therefore, don’t need me to tell you what this movie is about. Peter Pan whisks Wendy and her brothers away to Neverland. They clash with Captain Hook. Ultimately, Wendy and the lost boys discover the importance of growing up and they leave Neverland behind. “Peter Pan & Wendy” makes a few adjustments to the classic story, but it stays very faithful.

Disney have been remaking their animated films in live action for a long time. 101 Dalmatians received a live action remake in 1996. However, they’ve recently been on a bit of a spree – likely accelerated by the huge financial success of 2019’s The Lion King. “The Lion King” was a particularly egregious example of a live-action remake, given it’s reliance on the animal cast. The argument could definitely be made that “Peter Pan” was in a far more dire need of one, however.

The problem with 1953’s “Peter Pan”

In 2020, Disney added some warnings to the start of some of their animated classics. These warnings made it clear that the movies contained problematic stereotypes, that were harmful and offensive. One of these movies was 1953’s “Peter Pan”. The main reason for this warning was the inclusion of the character Tiger Lily, who was written as a racist stereotype of Native Americans.

These warnings are great for adults, as it allows us to keep a history of how we’ve grown as a society. There are strong arguments against just hiding these racist cartoons away and pretending they never happened. However, it makes things awkward when it’s media for children. Can a child still watch the original Peter Pan movie? Does the warning have any meaning to them? The answer to that will differ between parents, but what’s clear is that the water is murky.

That’s where these remakes make sense. We can keep the old versions behind as warnings of who we used to be, while having updated versions that can be enjoyed as entertainment.

The problem with that argument is that there aren’t only two Peter Pan movies in existence. This story has been remade and retold in a hundred different ways. Some of them are problematic, others less so. If you want your kids to watch Peter Pan, you already had other options to show them. Other options which were far stronger movies.

Peter Pan & Wendy (2023) Review

Like with other Disney remakes, the biggest issue with this movie lies in the visuals. Everything is competently done and things look nice – but they lack magic. Neverland seems dark and boring, rather than this wonderous place that we’re expected to believe kids never want to leave. It’s a hill on the coast, kids; hop on a train. The outfits are also lacking in character, which is a shame. Jude Law looks great in this, but does he really capture the essence of Captain Hook? The outfit should be ridiculous!

That said, Hook is undoubtedly the highlight of the movie. Jude Law looks like he’s having a blast and it’s the scenes with him in it that are both the funniest and the most emotionally inviting. The movie gives him a bit more to go with than the original, which I thought was a good shout. When this movie is trying to be its own thing, it’s at its strongest.

I did feel, however, that movie absolutely assassinated the character of Tinkerbell. Her jealousy and ego was a huge part of the original movie, and a huge part of her character. In this movie, she’s essentially nothing more than a pet who obediently flies around and sprinkles fairy-dust. It’s acknowledged that Peter doesn’t listen to her, but there’s no real follow-up to this. Not a great look to cast a black actress in the role and then greatly reduce the role’s significance.

What makes “Peter Pan & Wendy” unique?

David Lowery attempts to make his own unique spin on the tale by adding back-story to Hook and Pan’s relationship. I won’t spoil this, but the two used to be friends but fell out over a disagreement. This may be a hot take, but I really enjoyed this addition. Peter Pan has always been an interesting and flawed character, so any addition that draws more attention to that serves the story well.

It would’ve been nice to see more investment into this, however, to really help the story stand-out. It seems ridiculous that I’m simultaneously complaining that the movie is both the same and different to its predecessors. My problem is that it’s taken the story from the original, but none of the soul.

This movie does significantly improve on the character of Tiger Lily, however, who does no longer feel like a racist stereotype. If that was the movie’s mission statement, it can be seen as a success.

Who should watch this movie?

That’s a difficult question to answer. I can’t imagine a child preferring this movie over the original, or any other adaptation – for that matter. It lacks colour and soul. However, it isn’t exactly trying to tell an adult’s version of the story, either, as it’s more or less a beat-by-beat retelling of the original.

Unless you’re a die-hard Peter Pan fan, I’d find it very difficult to recommend this movie to you. Even then, your time is probably better spent re-watching Hooked (again).

This was a review for the 2023 movie “Peter Pan & Wendy”. Did this movie have you hooked or were you ticked off? Let us know in the comments below.

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