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You know and love the story of Peter Pan, but you’ve never before seen the world of lost boys like this. WENDY is a wildly imaginative new take on the classic tale, told from the perspective of the title character. It’s also the highly-anticipated new film from Benh Zeitlin, the director of BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD.
If you’ve seen his previous movie, you know that Zeitlin is the perfect director to breathe new life into this old favorite. Read on for a closer look at WENDY and how this acclaimed filmmaker reimagined a classic.
The Peter Pan story is probably familiar to anyone who is a regular movie watcher. The story of a young boy from the magical Neverland, where children never grow old, has been seen in films that reach back to the classical era of Hollywood.
Created by author and playwright J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan was the subject of a stage play and a novel, and he became immensely popular thanks to Disney's 1953 animated movie. In the decades since, audiences have been treated to numerous versions of the character and story, including Steven Spielberg’s HOOK, in which an older Peter Pan is played by the late Robin Williams, and the live-action 2015 movie PAN, in which the villainous Captain Hook is played by Hugh Jackman. While some elements change, the basics of the story are mostly always the same: Peter Pan visits the home of the Darling family and takes Wendy and her two younger brothers John and Michael to the faraway island of Neverland, populated by fairies, villainous pirates, and the Lost Boys – a group of orphaned kiddos who are loyal to Peter Pan.
WENDY approaches the story from a perspective that is different from any we’ve seen before. It is set in modern times and told from Wendy’s perspective. The film follows Wendy (Devin France) as she is kidnapped and whisked away to a seemingly magical island. There, a unique pollen has changed the concepts of time and aging on a fundamental level.
Wendy forms a close bond with the adventurous and impulsive young boy, Peter. The two become inseparable. Along with the other lost children, they embark on a dizzying, childlike adventure in a world where they can never grow old. But if all that sounds familiar, this is very much Wendy's story, with a perspective and tone to match.
Like most kids, Peter and Wendy are not really aware of the bigger world and all its problems. For them, life is about fun and joy, and the island they’ve discovered seems perfect: They never have to worry about growing old, being responsible, and dealing with unpleasant issues. Unfortunately, while Wendy and Peter and the other kids are enjoying a carefree life, the pollen that allows them to remain forever young is also slowly destroying the world they love. At a time when environmental issues have become more prominent and demanding of our attention, the story of WENDY feels very relevant.
[Image credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures]
In BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, Benh Zeitlin told a moving coming-of-age story about a little girl surviving a hurricane in Louisiana. It was made all the more special by telling the story through the point-of-view and imagination of that little girl, played by Quvenzhane Wallis, who became the youngest actress ever to receive an Oscar nomination.
Zeitlin’s ability to combine fantasy with drama in a way that still feels believable is exactly what makes him perfect for WENDY. Instead of making another colorful and cartoonish version of Peter Pan, Zeitlin creates a world with fantasy elements that look real enough to exist, allowing us to really understand and appreciate the perspectives of these kids. Like BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD before it, WENDY looks similar in tone and style to Spike Jonze’s adaptation of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, another story about a kid who tries to avoid responsibility and the harder aspects of life by disappearing into a land of make-believe, only to discover a different set of expectations and dangers.
All images courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.
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