2011 Running time: 85 Certificate: pg Not yet rated
Neverland Part 1 1S

Synopsis

In the opening of a two-part adventure that foreshadows JM Barrie's classic fantasy Peter Pan, orphan Peter (Charlie Rowe) is one of a gang of street thieves assembled by arch crook and ace fencer Jimmy Hook (Rhys Ifans). But the theft of a magical orb sees them all whisked from Victorian London to an uncharted world of forbidding mountains, crocodile-infested seas and forest citadels: Neverland. As Peter tries to reunite his crew with the help of a lost Native American tribe, he learns that his mentor Jimmy has fallen under the spell of the power-mad pirate queen Elizabeth Bonny (Anna Friel).

Director

  • Nick Willing

Cast

  • Charlie Rowe

  • Rhys Ifans

  • Anna Friel

  • Bob Hoskins

  • Charles Dance

Review

The idea of Peter Pan and his nemesis Hook ever being friends may fill devotees of the JM Barrie classic with horror. But it makes an interesting and audacious, er, hook on which to hang this 'origins' story.

Although reminiscent of big- and small-screen hits from The Lord Of The Rings and Harry Potter to Merlin and Doctor Who, it actually begins in the style of Oliver Twist with young Peter (newcomer Rowe) and his gang of fellow orphans picking the pockets of 1906 Londoners at the behest of their den father, Jimmy Hook (Ifans).

While running a legitimate business as a fencing instructor, Jimmy relies on the lads to bolster his income with anything that glitters. But after deciding to rob an antique shop by himself, he finds that eager-to-please Peter and the boys have got there ahead of him.

In the commotion that follows, Peter is mysteriously left behind while everyone else is zapped away to a land far, far away. Very far away. So far away, in fact, that time stands still for anyone who winds up there.

Which is why Hook and the gang find themselves at the mercy of greedy Irish pirate Liz Bonny (Friel) and her crew who have been there since the 17th century.

So, by magical hook and mystical crook, it's Peter to the rescue.

Once in Neverland, he finds dependable but understandably wary allies in the American Kaw tribe and a flock of tree sprites led by a certain Tinker Bell.

Kaw chief (Raoul Trujillo) provides guidance. His daughter Tigerlily (Q'orianka Kilcher, who played Pocahontas in Terrence Malick's The New World) provides love interest.

After tracking down his old friends, however, Peter discovers that Jimmy has had his head turned by Bonny. Together, they intend to take control of Neverland by finding the realm's most valuable resource - an all-powerful dust that can, among its many properties, make a person fly.

Thus loyalties are divided, tragedies unfold, and, with the cliffhanging finale, a bitter enmity surely begins.

With Friel at her feistiest, the enigmatic presence of Charles Dance and Bob Hoskins playing portly pirate Smee for the second time (after Spielberg's Hook), there's an intriguing mix of newcomers and old pros.

But it's Ifans' understated performance that grabs the attention, ensuring Hook's decline into true badness is gradual rather than playing him as a pantomime villain who merely gets camper by the minute.

Indeed, all derring-do, action and special effects aside, the most compelling reason to follow the journey into Part Two is to see how Ifans develops Hook from rather sorrowful mentor to single-handed madman.

Oh, and to hear what Keira Knightley has to say as Tinker Bell, since she remains resolutely tight-lipped during the first act.