Dec 15, 2011

[TV] Neverland (2011)

I'm not quite sure what the Syfy channel is trying to accomplish with its recent string of reimagined fairy tale inspired movies / mini-series. I think they had still managed something decent when they came out with Tinman, as inspired by The Wizard of Oz. But then Alice (obviously based on Alice in Wonderland) was a bit of a disappointment for me and not even the geek credibility of Felicia Day could quite save Red: Werewolf Hunter, as inspired by the classic Little Red Riding Hood story.

So yeah, clearly they haven't been keeping geeks like me happy. They start out with some pretty decent premises behind the show, but then the full implementation tends go into weird directions. And Neverland is about adapting the Peter Pan myth - so that's a pretty serious piece of children's literature to tackle.

Despite the past issues, my biggest reason for watching this mini-series was the fact that they had managed to get Bob Hoskins to play the role of Smee, just like what he did in the 1991 movie Hook. He was amazingly good in that role (and Dustin Hoffman wasn't all that bad either) and I was totally game to see him reprise the role, even if within a different creative universe, in a manner of speaking.

Neverland is a 2011 adventure television mini-series that debuted on the Syfy channel last December 4-5, 2011. The show was written and directed by Nick Willing.

It's 1906 London and we meet a gang of juvenile thieves preying on any possible victims in the city. Among them is young Peter (Charlie Rowe), who is pretty handy with a flute. Sort of reminiscent of Oliver Twist, the boys all work for a ringleader behind their little crew, this being James "Jimmy" Hook (Rhys Ifans). And a big chance has come up in the form of a rather important job, one that Hook won't entrust to the boys to do on their own.

But keen on doing right by Jimmy, Peter convinces the crew to attempt the heist themselves. And when the two meet at the scene of the crime, they get a bit more than they were expecting. The object of focus is some sort of a magical orb that we were first introduced to in the show's somewhat prologue. The orb acts as a gateway to another world when struck. At first it had transported an entire pirate ship. This time it sends Jimmy and the boys - sans Peter - to that other world. And now Peter is determined to find his friends and bring them back home.

The show is positioned as a way to explain the "origins" of Peter Pan somehow. In the other mini-series that Syfy had released, they were strictly reimaginations that had little connection to the original stories. This series was somehow positioned in a manner that tried to make sure it was clear that they could somehow explain the original story. The only twist is the fact that Hook and Peter start out as colleagues working together but somehow things end up with them being enemies, as the story goes.

English: Bob Hoskins on the set of Ruby Blue
Image via Wikipedia
Sadly, only Bob Hoskins being in the show was the thing that I liked the most. And while both Charlie Rowe and Rhys Ifans both did pretty good jobs fulfilling their roles as well, it's hard to get past the fact that they weren't written too well and had a lot of odd quirks plot-wise. A lot of the sense of whimsy and wonder about Neverland just never really came across in the series and thus it felt like they really missed the mark there. Still, credit to their individual achievements as actors. They're all pretty talented and I'm keen to see how Charlie Rowe's career will progress in the years to come.

I'm not sure what the point of the pirate Captain Elizabeth Bonny (Anna Friel) was. At first it was kind of col to have a strong female role in the show and how it gave her a unique edge or something. And then she goes on discussing how this is some sort of a different part of the universe or a different galaxy, which totally does not make sense in terms of the kind of knowledge that your average pirate captain of the Caribbean is supposed to have. 

My partner and I were totally confused about why they only managed to get Keira Knightly's voice for Tinkerbell when the CGI model of the fairy still had her facial likeness. I mean seriously, they had the special effects budget for everything else including a strange power blast that Tinkerbell could use from time to time but they felt that they could not find a way to use Keira Knightly as a live actress in the show? Or were they just too scared to remind us of Julia Roberts in Hook or something like that?

The rest of the series is a bit of a tangled mess that meanders around from plot point to plot point until they finally try to tie everything together. And as the end draws closer and closer and the plot tries to reshape itself back into the form of the original J.M. Barrie story, you can see how far away they had managed to go and how difficult it was to get back on track. It's not quite a deus ex machina kind of ending, but it does get rather close.

Neverland feels like just another half-baked fantasy adaptations from Syfy and it just reminds me how they keep getting further and further away from their former greatness. In an effort to have more of a mass market appeal, it seems they have lost their voice and aren't quite sure what they want to accomplish beyond cheesy Saturday night B-movie horror flicks. For now this series still manages 2 excuses to have Bob Hoskins being all Smee-ish on-screen out of a possible 5.

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