MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
Unfortunately, thanks to The Asylum, the term “Syfy Original Movie” has lost any sort of quality. That’s not a dig at The Asylum, mind you, but rather an acknowledgement that this little studio that could has done so much work on that network that it has created a bit of a stigma for them.
“Neverland,” a three-hour miniseries that original aired on Syfy, suffers from this label because it’s far, far better than anything you’d see The Asylum crank out (and that’s coming from a guy who loves watching these cheesy modern versions of B movies). So don’t let the whole “Syfy Original Movie” statement fool you. “Neverland” is definitely worth a look.
Written and directed by Nick Willing, who reimagined popular books as “Tin Man” and “Alice” on Syfy before, “Neverland” tells the story behind the famous world of Peter Pan. The movie begins in London where Peter (Charlie Rowe) is a street urchin with a gang of petty criminals. They accidentally get magically transported to Neverland (another planet from Earth altogether) where they discover they never age and face a band of pirates. Their criminal benefactor James Hook (Rhys Ifans) comes along for the ride and ends up getting in good with the pirates and their beautiful captain (Anna Friel).
Unlike some prequels, which run out of steam or feel shoe-horned into the original source material, “Neverland” has a freshness that runs through its entire three hours. Sure, it has some slow moments, but it’s a lot of fun and shows a new angle on the entire Peter Pan legend without disrupting the original story.
The special effects are actually quite good, often utilizing virtual sets, which is an overdone technique on television now. However, “Neverland” manages to pack more authenticity and quality in its virtual sets than the entirety of the series “V” and “Once Upon a Time.”
The Peter Pan story is a classic, but it’s had some rocky adaptations in the past. This is far beyond the classic Disney cartoon, and it’s a much better attack on the out-of-context subject matter than Spielberg’s dud “Hook.” If you at all enjoy what the Peter Pan legend has to offer – including swashbuckling pirates, magic and giant freaking crocodiles – give this version a chance.
The Blu-ray includes a commentary track with director Nick Willing as well as spotlighted cast interviews. The featurette “Green Screen to Scene” looks at the virtual sets used in the film, and “Journey Into Neverland” features a still gallery of movie art. Finally, the “Neverland: Access All Areas” looks at the production of the film. The Blu-ray also comes with three collectable postcards from the film.