Yes, I listened to James Howard Newton's incredible score for this film as I wrote this, and yes, nostalgic tears were shed. Moving on.
I recently rewatched the 2003 "Peter Pan" live-action film starring Jeremy Sumpter, Rachel Hurd-Wood and Jason Isaacs - or, really, it just came on my TV while I was scrolling through Tumblr and I couldn't look away for the one hour and forty-seven minute running time. So sue me.
While I was watching, smiling uncontrollably and laughing aloud in some parts, I was reminded why I love this film so much, why it's a beloved part of many people's childhoods, and why it will forever remain superior to any existing or eventual versions of the classic story by J.M Barrie.
The same things that enchanted me when I was ten years old get me starry-eyed at twenty-one, and I noticed some new stuff.
1. Wendy's storyline is fleshed out and relatable.Giphy
Wendy experiences the beginnings of a sexual awakening in this film, as she's on the cusp of puberty and the pressures of being a respectable young woman are starting to weigh on her. There are several subtle and not-so subtle nods to this, but really it makes it fun to watch as an adult and remember what that felt like. She struggles with it quite realistically, and is pretty mature for her age, something I felt I could relate to as a kid. She's a great heroine.
2. Peter and Wendy's chemistry is perfect.Giphy
For a story about pre-teen kids, the lingering looks shared between Peter and Wendy are quite romantic. It's age-appropriate for the characters, but it makes it still engaging to watch as an adult. And more tragic and heart wrenching when the inevitable parting comes. And c'mon, we were all in love with Jeremy Sumpter's mischievous portrayal of Peter.
3. There is no better Captain Hook.Giphy
Jason Isaacs is phenomenal in both of his roles in this film, Mr. Darling and Hook, but watching this over again reminded me how charismatic and, well, good-looking he is. He's really the other side of the coin to Peter in this film, his opposite in nearly every way. And there is some longing in Wendy it seems, throughout the film, to find in Hook what she eventually hopes to see in Peter - a doomed hope, since Peter will never give up being Peter Pan.
4. Princess Tiger Lily was really played by a Native American.
Jon Wright can defend casting a white woman as princess Tiger Lily for "Pan" all he wants, but P.J. Hogan and his five casting directors didn't seem to have any issues making sure the single Native American character was actually played by one.
Carsen Gray, pictured above, is part of the Haida tribe from British Columbia, Canada. In the film, she's actually speaking Mahican, which is the language of the Eastern tribe of the same name.
5. There are adult themes explored or hinted at, not present in Disney's versions.
Love! I actually was a little surprised, having not seen the film in many years, that adult emotional themes are a crucial part of this film's plot. Especially on Peter's part, as traditionally, there's so much resistance to him having any feelings for Wendy because he's supposed to be still a young boy. Which he is, Jeremy Sumpter was 13 at the time - but Wendy and Peter even have a conversation where she's pushing him to admit he feels something (for her). And he rejects it, knowing that complicated emotions are for adults.
But that's what so interesting about the portrayal of Peter, he is not unable to feel, not unable to grow up, he's just resisting it. But even in Neverland, he feels the pull to adulthood.
6. It gets kind of dark in some parts.Giphy
But we love that, right? Bring on the violence and the angst. At one point, Peter threatens to kill a Lost Boy for shooting Wendy with an arrow. He literally pulls his knife from his waist before Wendy stops him. And towards the end, Peter nearly dies, and then Wendy whispers a teary-eyed line, and kisses him. It feels like goodbye for a moment - and then there's a spectacular and bright scene that follows, because, you know, it's a kid's film.
7. The special effects and visuals are amazing.
Magical. Thrilling. Emotional. This film's got it all. The cast did extensive wire training to make the flying realistic, and the visual effects throughout the whole film still hold up sixteen years later.
8. The soundtrack is incredible.
The soundtrack is insanely good. Enough said. If you have a soft spot for instrumental scores, or you just enjoy cool compositions, it's available on Spotify and probably Apple Music. My favorite track is "Flying" and I get major chills when I watch the scene it plays in for the film. James Newton Howard actually composed each track for the scenes themselves.