Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: Wendy

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Copyright: Searchlight Pictures

Having no connection to the nostalgia bait found within Peter Pan, a sort of spin-off, live-action feature film with loose ties to the Disney franchise was of little interest. Still, duty calls, and while the light pangs of Peter Pan and Neverland may be charming and endearing to children across the globe, Wendy wishes to inspire darker themes that underline the bleak reality that would soon come from an island inhabited by kids and pirates alike. Unnecessary is the least of director Benh Zeitlin’s troubles as he takes rose-tinted Disney fans on a live-action trip into the dark recesses that lurk underneath the breath-taking and engaging land of Never.  

Hook this is not. There is no space for flamboyant or charming caricatures of classic characters. Instead, Wendy wishes to showcase impressive cinematography and not much else. Zeitlin has a keen eye for detail, something which will serve him well in future projects, but there was no point here that the story or pacing of the film took precedence over a scene that would make for a good desktop wallpaper. As far as engagement goes, though, there is little to be inspired or interested in. A reimagining of Peter Pan was inevitable, and the best Wendy can do is make it look good.  

There isn’t much depth within, an upsetting notion considering the variables available to Zeitlin and his cast. A coming-of-age story using Neverland as the backdrop to its charmless whimsy. Acceptable, considering that is indeed what Peter Pan is, but at least that had broad strokes of nice animation and a relatively simple message. Where Wendy faulters, Peter Pan excels, and vice versa. Wendy will offer some marvellous cinematography, even the grumbling resentment I hold for the nothingness found in Wendy, it is hard to deny how great a translation the classic tale makes to a live-action environment. Presumably leagues ahead of other 21st century adaptations, I wouldn’t know, I’m not brave enough to slog through those.  

Somehow taking the magic and whimsy of the source material and cramming it into an unenlightened independent feeling drama piece, Wendy is a tragic piece of film that is as generic as it is boring. Zeitlin takes the plucky imagination that children may have and squashes it down into something that has no spark or life within it. Somewhere within is the idea that we should not fear adventure, nor should our parents attempt to protect us from experiences they found frightening. It is an endearing and engaging message to behold, but not a theme that shines through with conviction or compassion for the characters, or, crucially, the audience. A sad shame, the glimmers of what could have been gleam throughout Wendy all too often.