Directed by: David Lowery
Distributed by: Disney+
Written by Alexander Reams
“Rule 39: No CLOCKS!!!”
David Lowery returns to the mouse house and offers his live action take on another animated classic. The story of “Peter Pan” has long been a favorite of Lowery and with Disney in need of a win, his artistic sensibilities mesh well with the corporate black hole that is Disney (see “Pete’s Dragon” (2016)) and as one would expect, his latest “get my next A24 film financed” project proves that David Lowery could be the savior of these Disney live-action remakes. Lowery’s adaptation is the antithesis to most of Disney’s recent fare, instead of a phoned-in, rushed, and overall lackluster production quality, it feels alive, the opening sequences in London feel more creatively inspired than the entirety of 2019’s “The Lion King.”
Lowery’s take on the source material works because of its commitment to the ideas that are inherent to “Peter Pan,” change. The idea of Neverland being the place where nothing changes is always presented in, at least, a favorable light. The drawbacks that come have not been fully weighed in an adaptation yet, and Lowery, with co-writer Toby Halbrooks, focus on this as the emotional toll of Neverland. Even the land where nothing is supposed to change is susceptible to change. The idea of it is never an enemy of the audience, only to Peter Pan, even Captain Hook accepts the idea of change which turned him into a villain, in Peter’s eyes. The idea of a sympathetic Hook could seem callous to any Peter Pan purist, however, it makes thematic sense, the one who denies change sounds like the archetype for a villain. This approach to the iconic story allows Lowery the freedom to make a film that never feels like a cash-grab, rather a sincere and love-filled approach to a story with a playfulness that has been in deficit with recent Disney films.
Playfulness is woven within each set that Lowery and production designer Jade Healy present as is a sense of reality to the ethereal idea of Neverland. With Lowery’s usual composer, Daniel Hart the film is buoyed by a nature-based score, with instruments used to emulate animal and indigenous sounds underneath the action with memorable cues that stay long after the credits roll. The physical set allows Lowery to have an active camera instead of the lifeless quick-cut nature of the other recent live-action Disney releases. Lowery’s care and respect that he, and the entire creative team, brought to “Peter Pan and Wendy” show that the combination of independent filmmakers with studio budgets can work, and work well, but it requires the one thing studios can’t resist: meddling. This feels like Lowery received the budget from Disney and he disappeared and made this movie, and in doing so gave Disney one of their best adaptations in years, it’s just a damn shame it’s streaming on Disney+ instead of a theatrical exhibition.
“Peter Pan & Wendy” Trailer