The buzz before the movie’s debut focused on the non-American Indian Rooney Mara playing Tiger Lily. In J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, the character of Tiger Lily is the chief’s daughter and “princess” of a tribe resembling that of a Native American group, and in the new Pan movie, she’s a prominent member of a diverse tribal group that seems to include African and Caribbean characters. I tend to agree with the concerns that the character wasn’t played by an actor of color because it’s a missed opportunity, and the controversy detracts from the fact that in the new movie, TL is a warrior, skilled in sword play while balancing herself on narrow wooden beams high above the ground and trained by another female character. I’m also ambivalent about the romantic tension between her and James Hook, the man who will eventually become Peter’s nemesis.
Setting aside the controversies, I’d rather focus on what I liked about the movie—the visual power of many of the scenes and the creativity found in the narrative of this Peter Pan origin story. The scene of the ship soaring through space after kidnapping the orphans, including Peter, is stunning, especially when Peter flies through the starry skies tethered only by a rope to the flying pirate ship. When the ship ascends to the island, the images within giant bubbles provide a beautiful visual. And one of the most impressive moments came when a giant crocodile arced over the floating trio of Tiger Lily, Hook and Peter.
In the original work, Peter was found as a baby by fairies who then took him to Never Neverland. Like Peter and the Starcatchers and the Syfy Channel’s Neverland, the movie begins with the assumption that Peter grows up in an orphanage. The orphan boy then searches for the woman who left him as a baby in a basket at the door of the orphanage. The pirate Blackbeard acquires children to labor in his mines through collusion with the nun who heads the orphanage.
The story of Peter Pan has provided fertile ground for reimaging the story in different forms. Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson did it with the Starcatchers series; Jodi Lee Anderson reimagined the characters in her novel Tiger Lily; and two books in a series by Heather Killough-Walden explore the more grown up characters for a young adult audience. Full disclosure: I’ve done the same myself with my modern take, The Island of Lost Children. There is much to recommend this current version, in spite of some of the criticism. If nothing else, it provides another opportunity for fans to fly through vivid scenes that many of us look forward to in our dreams.
Plenty of legroom on these trips without the hassles of carry-ons and baggage fees.