Thursday, October 4, 2012

[Movie Review] Neverland Part One

Directed and Written by Nick Willing
Rhys Ifans as James Hook
Anna Friel as Pirate Captain Elizabeth
Charles Dance as Dr. Fludd
Q'orianka Kilcher as Aaya
Charlie Rowe as Peter Pan
Bob Hoskins as Smee
Keira Knightley  as the voice of Tinker Bell

Raised on the streets of turn-of-the century London, orphaned Pete and his pals survived but their fearless wits as cunning young pickpockets. Now, they are rounded up by their mentor, Jimmy Hook to snatch a priceless, some believe,magical treasure which transports them to another world. Neverland is a realm of white jungles and legendary mysteries of eternal youth, where unknown friends and enemies snatched from time welcome the new travelers with both excitement and trepidation. These groups include a band of 18th century pirates led by the power-mad Elizabeth Bonny, and the Native American Kaw tribe led by a Holy Man, which has protected the secret of the tree spirits from Bonny and her gang for ages, and that has meant war. But as the fight to save this strange and beautiful world becomes vital, Hook, Peter, and the ragamuffin lost boys consider that growing old somewhere in time could be less important than growing up, right here in their new home called Neverland.

My Thoughts
This two-parter presentation held an interesting origins tale of a well-beloved fairy tale, Peter Pan. The movie jumped right in by showing us a mysterious hooded man, a tree spirit and two glowing meteorites that questions abound so fast to the point I couldn't help but let the action roll out. The opening  music held that bit of wonder  and  lent even the power these rushing meteorites have.

One thing that puzzled me was how the orb landed in the Spanish Main? The answer I could think of was 400 years back (a tinsy spoiler) Fludd must have an assistant then but unfortunately through the years lost the alpha orb (for the lack of the better description) that it found it's way to the Indian tribe  then the alpha orb traveled to the Spanish route where it found itself almost in the hands of Elizabeth and her pirate crew. The orb would have been a part of her booty had she not fired a shot on it that transported her and her crew elsewhere.

Now, London 1909 a reminisce of Oliver Twist  was coming on and I was chuckling. I enjoyed that nod but given the time period the story was revolving, it was probably the street conditions in London back then. Immediately, the set up was shown, there up on a roof, a boy, Peter, no doubt brimming with mischievousness was  looking down at his 'operation.'  Armed with his penny whistle, he guided his crew and gave instructions to the tunes to carry out their  operation and eventual escape from the police. I find it was imaginative to use songs as a code. None would be the wiser, indeed. The penny whistle becomes important in the part two too so I thought it was a good example why it was a integral part of Peter.

We later find out that Peter and his crew were under the 'guidance' of Jimmy and their next job was the Harbottles operation. However, Hook decided to withdraw after hearing Curly's misgivings. I was quite fascinated how this scene played out. It was one of the highlights of a way getting to know Jimmy. I was half-expecting the evil glint-in-the-eye cliche shot but Ifans delivered his Hook away from those common evil men pitfalls. I'm also glad the director Willing didn't go that route too when he tied a close shot on the exchanges between Charlie, Hook and the boys. Ifans' Hook was one who considered all the angles in his schemes, expertly maneuvers a conversation by obliquely telling them what he wants them to do  but for him it depends on who he's dealing with (he'll use other means),  calculating yes, not yet bordering to maniacal (yet) though you can see clearly he was manipulative. Poor Peter, he fell for it. He wanted badly to be standing shoulder to shoulder with Jimmy that, doing the Harbottles' snatch and grab was the opportunity he had to be successful. He knew Jimmy would take him as his partner if they went for it.

Curly and Peter with differing opinions
If there had been a missing scene, I think Jimmy would have laughed his heart out when he found out his boys have snucked out to do the job.
Jimmy: You need a lot of growing up first. (to Peter)
What else do we remember from Peter Pan story? :D The dagger right? Well, I really liked how it was worked into the story on where the dagger came to Peter and what it's big scene will be in the Part Two. *Wink*

So when Jimmy caught up with Peter's group at Harbottle, Jimmy began his little test (it looked like it) into play, by sowing distrust between Peter and Curly. This placed Peter into a quagmire and when Jimmy with the rest of boys plus parts of Harbottle's disappear, Peter had to find them and get them back. After getting some important information from Fludd (he was the who hired Jimmy to take the orb out from Harbottles), Peter was transported to Neverland.

Neverland's White Woods and six-legged alligators were some of the interesting specimens plus of course, finding Indians and pirates. What else Peter found? A lot more and even pain.

Perhaps it was a gamble on Hook's part to even take over the pirates for his own future machinations at a cost of losing Fox (one of the boys).  At the beginning of the movie, I was even sure Hook came to Neverland before Peter but with the movie's presentation, this version of a 'what if' was more intriguing. :D
Jimmy: My friends call me Jimmy. I'm James Hook. 

Funny that after watching the re-airs on TV, I forget things. :D Peter's last name wasn't mentioned or revealed. Could Pan be his surname or it was a name he later adopts in Neverland?

The first installment also brought  up Dr. Fludd and his background, an alchemist to Queen Elizabeth the First, a 400-year old chap who managed to get go back to and fro from Neverland to London after being able to make a twin orb. The city he built over the years out from trees was a great rendering in CGI. I like that SFX have taken great care to meld the images and lighting as seamless as possible that it didn't distract the scenes. We also found out who named the most famous fairy (tree spirit) Tinker Bell and why she was given that name.

Peter and his boys who were befriended by the Indians, met Aaya, the chieftain's daughter, portrayed by Kilcher. I was a feeling a bit strained watching her scenes with everyone maybe I wasn't going for Aaya's depiction although Kilcher gave enough fire to her portrayal. Rowe's was a great choice as Peter. He gave him the playfulness without going over the place with dash of seriousness to ground the character. Friel's portrayal of Elizabeth, the pirate captain was good. She was a woman who had 200 years to understand what happened. Friel gave Elizabeth more than gun-totting girl with charms but also this deadly intent to  rule the cursed place. Though it was surprise that she didn't lose a few marbles or lost few of her men throughout those years considering some might have gone up barking mad by then, pirate life = adventure life or so they say keeping all things in stride.

Despite a lot of material included in the first installment, I think all of the important elements were wrangled tightly and weaved beautifully in the movie.

Four stars for the first and second installments

Part Two  :D


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