Neverland [Blu-Ray] Nick Willing

Neverland [Blu-Ray] Nick Willing
This UK-produced two-part mini-series takes on the origin of the enduring fable of the boy who refuses to grow up. Borrowing a little Oliver Twist, Peter (Charlie Rowe) and the Lost Boys are part of a gang of orphan thieves in 19th century London, led by charismatic crook and substitute father figure Jimmy (Rhys Ifans). Eager to prove himself worthy of standing as Jimmy's partner, Peter goes behind his mentor's back on a heist to snatch an immensely valuable and reportedly magically object. The plan goes a little awry and Jimmy and the boys, save Peter, who is busy discovering his trademark dagger, are transported to another world. A lad with a grave sense of loyalty, Peter swiftly tracks down the magic object's twin, following his surrogate family to what they'll soon come to know as Neverland. Swarms of creepy looking telepathic fairies, giant six-legged crocodiles, a stereotypically depicted friendly native tribe and a ship of 18th century pirates, led by the plunder-hungry Captain Elizabeth Bonny (Anna Friel, looking very much like Jack Sparrow's weather-beaten sister), populate this strange and entirely green screen-dependant world. Based on historical Irish pirate queen Granuaile (according to director/writer Nick Willing's robust commentary), Captain Bonny provides a formidable foil for the boys while coaxing the transformation of the tortured Jimmy, who sees the appeal of her desire to bath in pixie dust and rule the world. There are some surprising twists and interesting attempts to use science to explain fantastical phenomena like the location of Neverland, providing sensible reasons for nagging questions like why a boy can hold his own against a grown man in a sword fight (Jimmy is a fencing instructor) and gives thematic purpose to Peter's adamant perpetual adolescence. This willingness to dig into the background details of a richly conceived world is one of the show's chief appeals; it's too bad the special effects team responsible for visualizing the environment didn't have the budget or quality of art direction to match the mostly strong acting and often engaging ideas. The series ends abruptly, with unfinished business beyond the start of the Peter Pan story we all know, so hopefully there are plans for at least one more instalment. Among the special features, you might find the extensive praise for young Charlie Rowe by his elder co-stars to be of interest or you may be more distracted by Rhys Ifan's nervous hands, twitching like tarantulas dancing atop a hot plate. If you're of the generation who hold Steven Spielberg's Hook dear, the reappearance of Bob Hoskins, as Smee, and his jokes (he's not really joking) of "no need for character research, that was the deal, six days and done!" will surely delight. "Green Screen to Scene" discusses some of the challenges of using such extensive green screen, but never admits that some of the effects look terrible. A full-on BBC-style behind-the-scenes documentary, complete with unnecessary narration, goes by the title "Neverland: Access All Areas." And, finally, "Journey Into Neverland: Art Gallery" is actually a sampling of storyboard pages. (eOne)