For most my life, I’d seen versions of Peter Pan and thought to myself, “I should love this story,” but there was always something missing for me. Adaptations like Hook and Finding Neverland were more appealing to me. I liked the idea of a boy who didn’t want to grow up, but I was fascinated by those who knew that couldn’t be their future. It’s why I liked Wendy Darling and things like Steven Spielberg’s Hook, which plays against the Neverland mentality.
That was all until I watched Peter Pan & Wendy. The movie, which dropped on Disney+ on April 28, 2023, takes us into the typical journey of Peter Pan (Alexander Molony) and Wendy (Ever Anderson), but this time, Wendy is the main character (for the most part). And throughout the movie, she is constantly reminding the Lost Boys and, by extension, Peter, that it is okay to miss home and their family, and so, by the end, when she’s accepted that she’s growing up, it hits a lot harder.
Or at least that was my experience in watching the film when I was significantly older than I was the last time I ventured into the world of Neverland. Maybe that’s just a benefit of growing up—you react to the story of Peter Pan and Wendy differently—but this movie really does remind us that growing up is an adventure and a gift we all get to explore.
And it makes me love Wendy Darling even more than I had before, because she comes to this realization through her own conversations with Captain Hook (Jude Law).
A complicated villain
Captain Hook has always been one of the most iconic villains of the Disney catalog. He’s big, angry, and has a rivalry with Tick-Tock Croc that is one fans will always remember. But he is also a mystery in a lot of ways. We don’t know much about his connection to Peter in the animated film. They’re just always trying to fight each other. In the novel by J. M. Barrie, Hook is eaten by Tick Tock Croc, and that is the way it often plays out, but Peter Pan & Wendy changes how Peter and Hook’s relationship works.
And it’s really all thanks to Wendy, because she actually listens to Hook and talks with him and Peter and helps them both see reason. The two were friends, and their fighting about growing up shouldn’t have been enough to ruin that, but it did. And in talking with Hook, Wendy realized that her own fears about growing up would stop her from enjoying life, and seeing how that fear divided both Peter and Hook gave Wendy the clarity she needed to make the decision to go back home.
After all this, I think to grow up may just be the biggest adventure of all
Peter Pan doesn’t want to grow up. He never has and seemingly never will. He’s always on adventures with his trusted sidekick Tinker Bell (Yara Shahidi), but he is a boy who doesn’t want to see what an adult life comes with. And in Peter Pan & Wendy, we see just how far he’s willing to go to keep his “friends” from growing up with him. He banishes Captain Hook as a child, despite the two being best friends, because Hook misses his mother.
We see how he reacts to the Lost Boys saying they miss home, and it is Wendy who comes to the realization that growing up isn’t a bad thing. At the start of the film, her mother is telling her she’s too grown up to be playing around with her brothers as she is, and while I do not agree with the sentiment that you’re too old to play and have fun, I do understand how Wendy comes to terms with getting older. She sees it as an adventure.
It’s easy to fear aging. We know it means our time here is dwindling and that we’re left with just work and bills and nothing fun, and maybe it is because I’m still a kid at heart and my job is writing about movies and television shows, but I always try to find the wonder in things just like Wendy is, essentially, promising to do with her adulthood.
And this movie really does just make me see the messaging of Peter Pan in a new light.
(featured image: Eric Zachanowich/Disney+)
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]