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Peter Pan (2003 film)

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Peter Pan is a 2003 film released as a joint venture of Universal Studios, Columbia Pictures and Revolution Studios. P. J. Hogan directed a screenplay co-written with Michael Goldenberg which is based on the classic play and novel by J. M. Barrie. Jason Isaacs plays the roles of Captain Hook and George Darling, Olivia Williams plays Mrs. Darling, while Jeremy Sumpter plays Peter Pan, Rachel Hurd-Wood portrays Wendy Darling, and Ludivine Sagnier plays Tinker Bell. Noted actress Lynn Redgrave plays a supporting role as Aunt Millicent, a new character created for the film. Contrary to the traditional stage casting, it featured a boy in the title role, though this was not the first time for that, even on film.

Contents

Plot

The story is a fairly faithful adaptation of the play and novel by J. M. Barrie.

Set in London, late 1904, the Darling children, Wendy, John, and Michael entertain themselves with Wendy's stories and their play adventures as pirates, etc. Their parents are also readying for a party that they will be coming home rather late from. Their Aunt Millicent advises their parents George and Mary that it's time for Wendy to set aside such childishness and prepare for womanhood, which the pompous George agrees to immediately, especially after he takes his anger out on both Wendy and Nana, the latter having ruined his bank papers.

Peter Pan, who has been listening to Wendy's stories outside the window, accidentally loses his shadow to the Darlings' nurse Nana (a St Bernard), and when he returns with his fairy Tinker Bell to retrieve it, he meets Wendy face to face. She reattaches his shadow, and he invites her to come to Neverland with him, where she can tell stories to him and the Lost Boys.

Out of jealousy, Tinker Bell (Ludivine Sagnier) tricks the Lost Boys into shooting Wendy as she approaches the island, but Wendy survives and the boys ask her to be their mother and tell them stories. Meanwhile Captain Hook (Jason Isaacs) captures John and Michael and holds them as bait for Peter. Wendy and Peter free them, with help from the Indian princess Tiger Lily (Carsen Gray) and the timely arrival of the crocodile that ate Hook's hand.

That night, Peter and Wendy share a romantic "fairy dance", while Hook spies on them, distressed that Peter has "found himself a Wendy". Peter reminds Wendy that they are just pretending to be a couple, and Wendy confronts Peter about his feelings about love. Peter becomes upset with her, and tells her to go home if she's not happy. Wendy, in tears, escapes to her little house. Peter returns to the Darling house, and seeing that Wendy's mother is still waiting for the children to come home, he attempts to shut the window to prevent her return to them. But, after a struggle, Wendy's parents manage to reopen the window, refusing to let it be closed.

Hook later finds Wendy and has her carried to his ship, the Jolly Roger. There, he entices her with a job telling stories to the crew, then sends a spy to follow her to the Lost Boys' underground lair. The next day, after Peter hears of a new pirate, Wendy admits she was asked to serve as a crewman. Later, the pirates kidnap her and the boys, but since Hook is unable to reach Peter, he leaves poison for him to drink when he wakes up. Tink stops him, poisoning herself in the process; Peter reaches out to children sleeping around the world, the Darlings, and even the pirates to sustain her with their belief in fairies.

Peter and Tink save the children from walking the plank, and they all fight against the pirates. Hook gets sprinkled with Tink's fairy dust, and duels Peter in the air, weakening him with taunts about Wendy abandoning him and growing up. Peter falls, unable to fight with those thoughts and gives in to inevitable death. But with a "thimble" (kiss) from Wendy, Peter recovers and re-engages Hook, who loses his confidence and his altitude above the water, and is swallowed by the crocodile. Wendy decides that she belongs back home, and returns to London with her brothers and the Lost Boys. Peter chooses not to grow up.

In an alternate ending based on Barrie's epilogue, included on the DVD release with unfinished special effects and no music, Peter returns to the London house 20 years later, finding Wendy as a grown mother. He is deeply hurt when she tells him she has grown up, and walks over to Wendy's daughter who is asleep in bed. His sobbing awakes the little girl, and she introduces herself as Jane. Peter grins excitedly at Wendy, and with her mother's permission, Jane flies away with Peter to Neverland.

Cast

Production

After the script was written, Stephen Cox, Chief Press Officer for Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust and the Institute for Child Health, gave the hospital's approval, saying, "We have read the script by P. J. Hogan and Michael Goldenberg and are delighted to report that we feel that it is in keeping with the original work whilst communicating to an audience with modern sensibilities."

The visual effects in the film are a mixture of practical and digital. Although the original plan was for Tinker Bell and the other fairies appearing in the film to be entirely digitally generated, with an actress providing only model reference for her, Ludivine Sagnier impressed Hogan with her physical acting, providing a spontaneity and range that would be impossible to equal digitally. In distant shots, the character is usually digital. In medium flying shots, where it was difficult for the actress to look natural suspeded from wires, some or all of Tinker Bell's body might be digitally generated and composited with recordings of the actress's head or upper body. The film also features a large, computer-generated crocodile. Another character, an animatronic parrot, appears in some scenes on the pirate ship.

A complex harness was built to send the live-action actors rotating and gliding through the air for the flight sequences. They were then composited into the shots of London and Never Land, although they are sometimes replaced with computer-generated figures. Other aspects of bringing the fantastic story to life include the complex sword-fighting sequences, for which the actors were trained. Sumpter said that, "I had to train for five months before the shoot. I had to do harness training to learn how to fly and learn how to swordfight," and that, "I got stabbed a couple of times with a sword." Hogan says that the flying scenes were very difficult to accomplish, but that, "it was tougher on the kids than it was for me. They were up there on the harness 12' off the ground, having to make it look like flying is easy and fun."

Sumpter grew several inches over the course of the film's production, requiring staging tricks to retain Hook's height advantage over Peter in face-to-face scenes late in the process. Hollywood-based producer Lucy Fisher also said that, "The window he flies out of [which was just tall enough for him stand up in the opening] had to be enlarged twice."

The film is dedicated to Dodi Al-Fayed, who was executive producer of the 1991 film Hook. Al-Fayed planned to produce a live action version of Peter Pan, and shared his ideas with Princess Diana (who was President of Great Ormond Street Hospital), who said she "could not wait to see the production once it was underway." Al-Fayed's father, Mohammed Al-Fayed, co-produced this film after his son died in the car crash which also killed Princess Diana.

Finding Neverland, a film about J. M. Barrie and the creation of Peter Pan, was originally scheduled to be released in 2003, but the producers of this film – who held the screen rights to the story – refused permission for that film to use scenes from the play unless its release was delayed until the following year.

Filming, which lasted about twelve months and ended in June 2003, took place entirely inside sound stages on Australia's Gold Coast and New Zealand. According to Fisher, the decision to shoot in Australia was based on the low value of the Australian dollar at that time. Hogan had originally planned on filming in a variety of locations such as Tahiti, New Zealand, and London but abandoned this idea after scouting some of the locations. Filming on sound stages did, however, help "retain some of the theatricality of the original play", something which Hogan thought was important.

Merchandise

For the promotion of the film, the original novel of Peter Pan by J.M Barrie was released with the cover that was the same look as the teaser poster. A video game was also released only for the Gameboy Advance on December 10, 2003. In it players can fly, fight, and solve various puzzles and collect special objects for special prizes and bonus points. The game received mixed reviews overall with Gamezone giving it a 6.4/10, Cubed3 giving it a 5.2/10, and Nintendo Power giving it a 2.2/5. Cubed3 criticized the game for the bad dialogue and repetitive and rushed gameplay, but praising the graphics and sound.

Reception

The film was generally well received by critics. Based on 129 reviews collected by the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 76% of critics gave Peter Pan a positive review. It's IMDB score is 7.1/10. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half out of four stars.

The film earned a somewhat disappointing $48.4 million at the box office in the United States and another $73.5 million outside of the US. It faced stiff competition from another visually spectacular fantasy film based on a beloved classic: the highly-anticipated Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, released the week before. The family-friendly comedy Cheaper by the Dozen opened the same day.

Jeremy Sumpter won a Saturn Award for Best Performance by a younger actor, for which Rachel Hurd-Wood was also nominated. The film was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film. Sumpter also won a 2004 Young Artist Award; Harry Newell, Rachel Hurd-Wood, and Carson Gray were all nominated.

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