Neverland was another series that I never really planned to watch until my sister visited and brought it to my attention. While I’m not the biggest SyFy channel fan, as their frequent airings of terrible movies usually puts me off of watching the channel, I still have a bit of a soft spot for their miniseries’. While not always perfect they’re usually kept within a limit and come with their own charms, this is of course thinking back to such things as Tin Man for instance. So I did actually hold a bit of hope for this as the premise of the show interested me.
The whole idea behind it is that it’s a prelude to the classic story of Peter Pan, giving his origins of sorts. While it does certainly expand on the characters it takes a bit of a less fantasy approach and attempts to merge in a bit of science, which is an interesting idea but we’ll get to that as we go on. Still from a purely idea standpoint I enjoy the premise quite a bit and it interested me enough to sit down and give it a watch through.
Getting in to part one of the two part miniseries I instantly started liking what I was seeing with the early 1900’s setting and seeing Peter and his friends as pickpockets on the streets of London. These scenes are a lot of fun to watch, seeing each boy in tune with the other as well as Peter directions through his recorder were a nice way to introduce them and their lives and establish skills within the group. It was a playful little scene that I quite enjoyed. Over the course of the beginning part of this half we learn of a magical orb and its mysterious powers that cause people and things to vanish when it’s struck. This is of course their way into Neverland and while it’s not quite as magical as flying there on fairy dust it is a decent way to legitimize how these people ended up in Neverland which is again what this series was trying to go for.
The rest of this I’m just going to go over quickly until we hit part two. The introduction into Jimmy and Peter’s backstory and relationship is shown slightly here and it’s pretty well done. After that the introduction into Neverland honestly felt a bit lackluster to me, the sets for everything were fine but the introduction just needed a bit more feeling behind it. To be honest during the introduction or Neverland portion of the show I was kind of board, the series wasn’t really showing me the magic that the original story had set up and a good portion of it just felt like exposition to explain why the inhabitants were there.
We’re eventually introduced to the hooded man which was an obvious reveal, or at least I thought so, and this is where the series started really getting into a state of “how do we explain everything in sciencey magical terms”. I should probably explain my views on all of this right now. In the midst of the story I found the whole idea of Neverland being this far off planet were time stood still interesting from a science fiction point of view but I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. In fact that’s exactly how I felt all throughout this series, something is missing. Looking back I think I can finally pin point what that is, the magic isn’t there. Now, let me explain. The series does use a sense of magic within it but it tries so hard to justify and ground the idea of magic that it loses sight of what makes Neverland wonderful, the sense of random adventure. To feel like you’re a kid again in a place where anything could happen, that’s Neverland to me. The series just tried to be too modern, too justified, too serious, and in doing so it lost a lot of the qualities that made the original great.
Now anyone who’s read my post on “Once Upon A Time” and “Grimm” will know that I’m not a big fan of the use of magic as a plot device, so me sticking up for it comes off as a bit weird. Personally yes, I don’t like magic as a plot device but even I can really get behind a series that uses the idea of magic well. Basically, let magic be magic but don’t let it get to a point were it more or less becomes a way to talk yourself out of a hole in the story. “Well it happened because MAGIC!” Keep it limited but at the same time don’t take away what makes it fantastic. All to often anymore we see stories and shows that try to justify, to legitimize magic and a lot of times they try to do that by making it more modern or turning it into more or less unbelievable science. When that happens it almost has the opposite effect, it loses the special quality that magic has and upsets the grounding in reality that science fiction has. Really all of this encompasses my problems with this show as a whole, it tries too hard to turn something that represents the glory of childhood and imagination and tries to force some sort of realistic solution to it.
Now past that, when we get into part two there’s almost too much magic for what they’ve set up. It felt like they tried to forget about the alchemy side of the story by making it more lighthearted an magical which would be fine if it wasn’t such a tonal shift. Now that’s how it felt to me so opinions may vary but to me it just felt like backwards writing. This was topped off with my sudden realization of how serious Peter was, now I’ll get more into his character later but I felt like a lot of the childish wonder to his character was missing. So when they showed the somewhat harsh decision from the fairies to remove all aspects of him outside of the good heart and childishness I liked it. I mean yeah that’s a terrifying premise to think about for a character but it kind of explained his character with in the original story and why they didn’t set him up quite like that in this one, not to mention it gave a reason for him never to return home or grow up, which was covered later but it just didn’t have the same feeling then. Like with the story over all Peter just lacked that whimsical feeling.
Ok, finally I get into the characters. A lot of them are just going to get grouped together unless they left some sort of lasting impression on me. So to start we have all of Peter’s friends who kind of don’t do anything. They have their little moments here and there but they were mostly just there in the background. Nothing was specifically wrong with any of them and they were acted pretty well but they just left no impressions on me.
After them we have the pirates which were basically the same case as the kids they didn’t do much outside of fight scenes and the only ones really given any time were Smee and Starkey who had about as much development as the orphans. Again nothing wrong with them but they were mostly comedic characters that didn’t affect much.
We have the Indian tribe next and yeah they’re just like the previous two groups, they don’t stand out. Now I’ll say that I enjoyed watching the scenes with the Holy Man and the Chief more than I did with any of the pirates and orphans but they still didn’t get enough time to impact too terribly much. Still like I said I like them, especially the Holy Man who had a bit of charm to him that I connected with. Now, within this group we see Aaya, or Tiger Lily as she’s known in the original story. I don’t like her, she had more screen time than the others I went over but she was not better for it. Easily the worst actress in the show, she felt very unconvincing with the role and just left me completely unattached to the character. In a show that really did have some good actors in it she was such a weak link that outright confused me as to her placing within the show. This is one of those times where the acting of a character really hurts my overall opinion of the character.
So, moving past that we have Bonny the pirate captain who was an interesting little inclusion. While I liked her character she is just not as memorable as the following two despite how focused and hyped her character got. I feel like she has the shades of a good character or at least a better one but for some reason the more focus they put on her flirtatiousness the more it took me out of it and made me feel like it would’ve been time better spent on her other qualities. She had a lot of potential to be a threatening character but she just didn’t turn out that way.
Oh boy now we have James “Jimmy” Hook, I love this character and his relationship with Peter. If there is one thing I take out of this it’s the great give and take with these characters and the fantastic back story they had intertwined with each other. It gave the two a larger and more complicated past that actually helped build on the characters rather than overly justify them. As for Hook himself he was really well acted in my opinion and the sort of on again off again redeeming qualities he had made him really interesting. All of it culminated in a character that almost tricked you into liking him but inevitably left you feeling betrayed at the revelation of his past. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Speaking of characters I thoroughly enjoyed Peter was great, just a fantastic pick for lead actor. With the exceptions the problems I stated earlier I really liked Peter and liked the sort of growing up he did and liked the eventual break down of it by the hands of the fairies. That being said I once again didn’t like that he eventually returned to being his old self especially when the carefree playful Peter we got glimpses of was so great. Yeah he was a jerk when he lost his memories but Peter Pan is a jerk, he’s kid he’s not supposed to be civilized and mature he’s supposed to be bright eyed and imaginative, playful and unashamed and that’s what I got from his few moments after his mind was wiped. I still really enjoyed the character he was but I really just didn’t want to see the mind wipe and the inclusion of the playful spirit undone.
In the end Neverland is kind of give or take. I did have my problems with it and it didn’t always hold on to my attention as much as it should but I think it was an ok watch overall and something to look in to if fantasy meets science with Peter Pan is your kind of thing. Personally if this series just changed a few things or was just longer to better accommodate everything then I think it could’ve turned out better especially considering some of the acting power they had behind it. Overall it was pretty decent and I’d give it a slight recommendation.