.cat-links { display: none !important; }

Peter Pan & Wendy

By Bradley Lane

Peter Pan is one of Disney’s most foundational films. Few characters resonate with the brand quite like Peter Pan and his classic 1953 film of the same name. Disney has been on a tear with remaking its canon of classic animated films, bringing them into a live action/CGI laden medium, to mixed results. While mostly commercially successful, they have almost all failed critically thanks in large part to losing their stylistic charm in translation and failing to meaningfully iterate on their source material. In most of these cases Disney just spends millions of dollars to make a measurably worse version of a film already in their back catalog. I am happy to report however, this is not the case with David Lowry’s 2023 version of Peter Pan, the formally interesting and thematically rich Peter Pan & Wendy.

Most readers will be more than familiar with the broad strokes of a remake of Peter Pan. Wendy and the Darling children find themselves in Neverland after having a crisis of maturity in the real world, led there by the magical, never-aging, Peter Pan. However, what’s new here is Lowry’s balance of Wendy’s journey of growth and maturity with a more in-depth exploration of the relationship between Captain Hook and Peter Pan that leads the film into emotionally unexplored and very interesting territory.

David Lowry might seem an odd choice to helm a Disney remake as most arthouse film fans will recognize his name from small-budget emotional and complex human dramas like The Old Man & the Gun, A Ghost Story, and most recently The Green Knight. However, the reason I mentioned most and not all live-action Disney remakes were worse versions of their original source material is David Lowry’s own 2017 adaptation of Pete’s Dragon that cleverly uses its source material to tell a compelling tale of grief, vulnerability and found family. Here Lowry does the exact same thing, hiding a story that is mostly about the dangers of looking backward in the shell of the well-worn tale of the process of growing into emotional maturity.

While maybe losing some of Peter Pan’s charm in its translation to live action, Lowry does his best to make use of clever camera work and visually interesting settings to soften the blow of its visual drab color grading. Lowry’s greatest strength here though, is his understanding of the ethos of the story he is retelling. He uses the character drama at the story’s center to ruminate on the act of remaking animated films, keeping yourself chained to the past. It’s a cleverly subversive way to question Disney’s current trajectory and maybe the key piece of evidence as to why this was dumped on Disney Plus instead of released in theaters where it was initially planned to be released.

Lowry’s Peter Pan & Wendy is heart-warming and tragic in equal measure and a cautionary tale about being lost exploring the past in a world that is rife with opportunity for growth, both artistically and personally. Peter Pan & Wendy is exclusively streaming on Disney Plus. – 3.5/5 stars

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *