I can’t recall how many versions of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan I have read, listened to, or watched. Peter Pan’s Flight is one of my favorite ride’s at Disney World, and it’s a story that asks one of life’s most treacherous questions:
What If You Never Grew Up?
I recently listened to the Audible Original dramatic production of Peter Pan, and feeling inspired, I watched Hook, Steven Spielberg’s interpretation of Peter Pan and theory of what a grown Peter may be like.
I wanted to talk about both as I think theatrical adaptations are an interesting format for displaying one’s interpretation of a book. As I always say, there are no bad books. We all just react to books differently. That’s why I love adaptations so much. They reflect how others connected with a book, and I can see if we had similar or different reactions or if I can learn something from another’s perspective.
Audible Original’s Peter Pan
Let’s start with the Audible dramatic production.
I enjoyed this dramatic production because it stuck closely to the original manuscript, and it highlighted a lot of key parts of the text that I enjoy. Now mind, I said the parts I enjoy. This dramatic production really brought out the themes that resonate with me: being true to oneself and loving who you are despite all else.
The talent was also delightful. I would never have chosen Rupert Everett for Captain Hook, but boy, did he wow me! I will never watch My Best Friend’s Wedding the same way again. Everett did a commanding job of bringing Hook to life without overly relying on the pirate stereotype. Captain Hook became a regular person with real faults and not a fantasized pirate captain.
Peter Pan and Wendy Darling were each portrayed exquisitely without too much theatrical overzealousness. I think Peter Pan and Wendy Darling are roles that can be interpreted with overexcitable childishness because of the inherent quality of the characters, but the actors in this production reined it in to really let those qualities shine without being ostentatious.
As the story stuck pretty close to the script, I want to spend more time on Hook.
Hook or Peter Pan as a Middle-Aged Dad
I loved Hook as a kid, and during this time of staying home to be safe, I stumbled upon it in my hours of streaming. I pulled it up wondering if it would stand the test of time. (Have you ever watched a movie you watched as a kid and realized you didn’t get this movie at all? It happens to me all the time!)
The movie began to roll, and here are the things that took my breath away.
Blocking and Cinematography
Spielberg knows how to make a good movie, but he also knows how to place the ultimate shot. When Peter lands in Neverland, he’s introduced to Captain Hook’s ship when he rips open the bedsheet he’s wrapped up in. This allows the viewer to essentially unwrap the story. Brilliant!
These key shots are carried on throughout the movie. When Peter discovers Hook’s note and dagger in the kids’ room door or when Pan sails through the cutout he made in the ship’s sail or when we are introduced to Captain James Hook.
Each shot is carefully constructed so as to best exhibit the character/action/setting we’re being introduced to.
Do I even need to mention this? Robin Williams? Maggie Smith? Dustin Hoffman? Bob Hoskins?
My mouth waters at the talent here, but never have these actors really been allowed to shine than in this movie.
While the movie looks great, it also tackles the themes of Peter Pan in an interesting way.
First and foremost, Peter grew up.
This is HUGE!
The very essence of Peter Pan is not growing up, and this movie turns it on its head. It says no! Peter Pan does grow up!
I think this is beautiful, because the story says you can grow up in physical form and still be a kid at heart.
Maggie Smith was 57 when she filmed this, and they made her look ancient. This was critical, because we had to see how she continued to grow up through the story and still had a joyful child’s heart. She even builds the tent with Maggie and Jack to read stories, the quintessential child’s activity.
Peter Banning Must Remember How to Fly
This is the best theme of the movie. Peter Banning will only be able to save the day and himself by remembering how to fly.
Who doesn’t dream of flying?
It’s a dream so purely innocent, it can only come from a child.
So of course, it’s the only way for Peter to conquer his foes and remember who he is.
The thing I found most interesting between both the Audible Original and Hook was the idea of forgetting. Neverland causes people to forget. In the Audible Original, Wendy, John and Michael forget, but in Hook it’s so much more.
In Hook, Captain Hook is able to sway the alliance of Jack by making him forget his father. When you were a kid did you ever close your eyes because you thought if you didn’t look at something it would go away? That’s the idea at play here in Neverland: it makes you forget so the terrible things of growing up are forgotten.
But Peter and Jack must remember or they’ll be lost forever.
The Point Is This
Don’t forget about being a kid but also don’t let being a grow up consume you. Peter Pan is about finding the space between, the place between sleep and awake. It’s not all the way to the second star to the right and straight on till morning, and it’s not losing yourself in your career. It’s the place in the middle where most people live, and it’s important to remember the magic in that.