tek's rating: ½

Neverland, on Syfy
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Caution: spoilers.

So, this is Syfy's major miniseries event for December 2011, though I didn't have the network at the time, so I'm watching it on DVD in March 2012. It was written and directed by Nick Willing, who directed Syfy's 2007 miniseries Tin Man (a reimagining of "The Wizard of Oz") and wrote and directed the 2009 miniseries Alice (a reimagining of "Alice in Wonderland"). "Neverland," of course, is a reimagining of "Peter Pan," but also it's meant to serve as a prequel to the familiar story. It has a pretty decent cast, including Anna Friel, Q'orianka Kilcher, Rhys Ifans, and Bob Hoskins (playing Smee here, which is interesting because he also played Smee in Hook, though presumably this miniseries isn't directly related to that movie). There's also Keira Knightley as the voice of Tinkerbell. I'm not really familiar with the other actors, but they all do a good job.

Anyway, it starts in space, but it doesn't stay there long. Exactly. I'm gonna spoil this for you right away: It turns out that Neverland is actually another planet, not a place on Earth (though that fact is of minimal importance to the plot, IMO). But more on that later. The scene quickly zooms in on a group of fairies (or as we'll later learn they're called in this miniseries, "tree spirits"), which don't exactly look the way I'd expect fairies to look. I mean, they're basically tiny humanoids with wings, but they're all silvery, and apparently CGI (though they almost looked like people in full body paint). Anyway, one of the tree spirits, Tinkerbell, witnesses a man in a robe on a cliff, holding an orb, and there are like a couple of comets hurtling toward him from the sky, and Tinkerbell flies toward him, and there's an explosion, and it's all really quick and confusing. The scene then switches to the Spanish Main, 1726, as a pirate ship under the command of Captain Elizabeth Bonny (Friel) attacks a British navy ship, and steals their cargo. Which turns out not to be the sort of treasure the pirates were expecting, but a mysterious magical orb... which Bonny shoots, in fear, and the whole ship then disappears in a blinding flash. But the orb remains.

The next scene is London, in 1906. There are a group of boys who work as a crew of pickpockets. They're led by a boy named Peter, who coordinates their plans by playing various tunes on a pipe, while watching from the rooftops. But actually they all work for a man named James "Jimmy" Hook (Ifans), who had taken them in, rescuing them from assorted unpleasant lives. Peter hopes someday to become his partner. Meanwhile, Jimmy also teaches a fencing class (and seems to have also taught Peter the skill). And he apparently once held a respectable position in London society, which he somehow lost, and wants to get back. He believes he may have his chance, if he can pull off a heist someone has hired him for. He mentions it to Peter and the other boys, but then changes his mind; he thinks he should handle it by himself. However, Peter wants to prove himself to Jimmy, so he gets the boys to help him pull the heist without Jimmy's knowledge. Jimmy finds out, however, and goes to the jeweler/antique shop they're robbing. Of course, they didn't even know what they were supposed to be stealing, which turns out to be the orb. It ends up causing Jimmy and all the boys except Peter to disappear, and Peter thinks they're dead, for which he blames himself.

However, he'll soon meet Dr. Fludd, the man who had hired Jimmy to obtain the orb, and learns from him that it's actually a portal to another world. So Peter goes back to the hideout, and uses the orb to transport himself to that world (which he'll later learn is called Neverland), to try to find Jimmy and the crew and bring them back home. This is not going to be easy, with the orb remaining in our world. It's further complicated by the fact that Jimmy and the boys were abducted by Bonny and her pirates, who had been in Neverland for 180 years... without aging. Peter finds one of his friends, Fox, who hadn't been with the others when they were captured. The two of them meet a tribe of Indians (as Native Americans were called back then). The tribe are called the Kaw, and they've been in Neverland for quite a while, themselves. A couple of them speak English, including a shaman, and also the Chief's daughter, Tiger Lily (or in their language, Aaya; played by Kilcher). The Kaw treat Peter and Fox as guests, but the boys leave to rescue the others from the pirates. Meanwhile, Jimmy (who's now going by his last name, Hook) strikes a deal with Bonny, to work together to obtain a magical mineral dust, mined by the tree spirits. If they could get enough of it, and learn how to use it, it would give them the power to fly. So they want to get to the colony of the tree spirits, but it's blocked on one side by apparently unpassable mountains, and on the other side by the Kaw, who protect the tree spirits. Meanwhile, Bonny's first mate, Starkey, is not happy about the two of them getting closer (fearing Hook will replace him as Bonny's lover, as well as usurping his position in the crew).

Peter manages to rescue most of his friends, but Hook stays with the pirates. After returning to the Kaw, Peter and Aaya set off together to look for a hooded man, who Peter and the Kaw shaman had both seen in their dreams: the very man Tinkerbell had seen at the start of the movie. They eventually come to a great mass of trees grown into the shape of a city. There they find Dr. Fludd (who turns out to be an alchemist), and learn some very interesting things from him, including the cosmic nature of Neverland. (There's an explanation for why people don't age there; I won't get into it, but I suspect it only sort of makes sense. I mean, it makes sense that "time stands still," but I really think that should mean more than just not aging, it should mean... nothing happens at all, no life, no consciousness, nothing. But maybe I'm wrong. Either way, it's best to just accept Fludd's scientific explanation and not think to hard about it.) They also meet Tinkerbell (who Fludd had named after the sound of her beating wings). Fludd had created the orb, in our world, which transported him to Neverland long ago, where he grew this city (for reasons I won't get into), as well as creating a second orb, which could be used to return to Earth. Unfortunately, Bonny and Hook and the pirates were following Peter and Aaya, find the city, take the orb (as well as Aaya), and Peter is apparently killed.

I feel like I've said too much already, but I also feel like I've said no more than I had to, to explain the plot. I've left out some details, and of course it's more fun to watch than to read about, anyway. I should say that in the second part, the tree spirits save Peter's life, and use the mineral dust to imbue him with the power of flight (among other powers, which are barely mentioned). That's about as much in the way of specifics as I want to divulge about part two, but it's barely the beginning. Lots more happens in part two. It's a pretty good story, with battles between the pirates and the Indians, vaguely interesting backstory for how and why Jimmy had originally taken an interest in raising Peter, and... I dunno, various good stuff. Anyway, I like that Peter made some mistakes, for which he'd pay a price, but possibly learned from them. And um, it's interesting that, in various ways, the miniseries plays into the whole foreknowledge we have that he'll never grow up. Oh, I also wanted to mention that a few of Peter's friends- Twins, Nibs, and Slightly- are of very little importance to the story, while Fox was important to the first part. Tootles (or "Toots") is a bit more important than some of the boys, but not very. Ultimately, the most important of them is Curly, who gets upset with Peter for the trouble his mistakes cause, but who eventually has a bit of a side plot of his own, which provides some character development. But aside from Peter, Hook, and Bonny, the most important character seems to be Aaya. Oh, and Tinkerbell has a much more significant role in the second part of the miniseries than the first part. The plot really is a bit of a roller coaster for many of the characters. But that keeps it interesting, I guess. And it could be fairly amusing, at times. And while I haven't read the original story, I've always been a fan of various incarnations. So of course I was predisposed to like this miniseries. And there were lots of things that set up various plot elements of the familiar story, so that was fun. (And of course it all means that even if I don't tell you the outcome of the miniseries, you should be able to guess certain things, since as I've mentioned, it is a prequel, so there are elements of the story which are of necessity predetermined.)

Anyway, that's all I can think to say, except that I loved the final line of the series (spoken by Curly)....


miniseries index
Syfy December Miniseries Events
Peter Pan
movies: Peter Pan (1953) * Hook * Return to Never Land * Peter Pan (2003) * Finding Neverland * Tinker Bell * Pan
TV: Neverland (2011) * Once Upon a Time * Peter Pan Live! * The New Adventures of Peter Pan