PETER PAN

Region 2 (UK) Edition

Director:  P.J. Hogan

Starring:  Jason Isaacs, Jeremy Sumpter, Lynn Redgrave, Richard Briers

THE FILM

Hogan's $100m adaptation of J.M.Barrie's apparently timeless classic is surprisingly close to the source material, and arguably more faithful to it than any previous screen version. Disney's foppish Captain Hook might have sent frissons of fear through generations of kids since 1953, but Jason Isaac's Hook is the first one who'd fillet you without a qualm. For all it's chocolate-box trappings, this is a darker Peter Pan than we're used to, one that's not afraid to tap into the story's deeper undercurrents, and one that's all the better for it.

The film benefits enormously from state-of-the-art special effects techniques, which bring unheralded sophistication to the story's fantasy elements, but the film is constricted by its studio-bound sets.

If any single thing pole-axes the film it's Jeremy Sumpter as Peter Pan. His un-tempered American accent seems completely at odds with the character of Pan, and with the general tone of the film. It's a shame that this one aspect rankles, because otherwise his performance - sly, mischievous and playful - is hard to fault. The other actors suit admirably: Rachel Hurd-Wood gives a remarkably mature performance as Wendy, which is the story's most demanding role, and there's fine support from Swimming Pool nymphet Ludivine Sagnier as the most spirited Tinkerbell the screen has ever seen. Jason Isaacs has the plum role of Captain Hook, and is commendably restrained.

THE DVD

Universal's Region 2 DVD presents the film in 2.4:1 ratio, with anamorphic enhancement. The film can be broadly divided into two sections. The first is the 'real' world of the Darling family, where the interiors have a warm, fire-lit, homely feeling, and the exteriors have a cold, steely-blue hue. The fantasy environs of Neverland, though, are ablaze with rich colours. Once Wendy and her brothers reach the island it seems like there's barely a shot in the film that isn't bathed in coloured light. The DVD replicates this very nicely. Apparent detail levels are high, without excessive artificial edge-enhancement, and there are practically no instances of dirt or other unpleasant artefacts. There are no player-generated captions in the film. The average bitrate is 6.69Mb/s, rarely dipping below 5Mb/s.

The film has English subtitles, as do the bonus materials.

The layer change (at 76'12" into the film) isn't ideally handled, but isn't terribly disruptive.

The disc offers a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448kbps) and DTS audio (at 754kbps). Rather confusingly these are accessed through the Languages menu. Audio channels can't be switched on the fly. The DTS track is rousing, with plenty of audio directed to the surrounds (most notably the haunting ticking of the crocodile), and some nice low-frequency rumble. Dialogue is clear and well integrated into the mix. The Dolby Digital track seems marginally less powerful, but is just as lively.

There's no mention of censorship cuts at the BBFC's website, but there's a shot of a head-butt, at 48'17", that looks rather suspicious. It's possible that the sound of the impact may have been toned down.

BONUS FEATURES

The disc starts with the usual copyright notices, and then a "Summer 2004" trailer for Universal's forthcoming Thunderbirds movie. (For the record, this is the trailer without Lady Penelope and Parker). This is easily skipped, leading to easy-to-navigate menus, with animated interstitials.

The disc's bonus features are broken down into five groups, themed by location: Pirates' Ship, The Black Castle, The Darling House, The Neverland Forest and The Home Under The Ground.

All the bonus materials are presented in full-frame format.

THE PIRATES' SHIP

The Pirates' Ship is divided into four sections: Board The Pirate Ship, Through The Eyes of Captain Hook, The Pirates vs. The Lost Boys and The Lost Pirate Song.

Board the Pirate Ship (1m) is a montage of clips of the various pirate ship models and sets under construction.

Through The Eyes of Captain Hook (6m) presents a very entertaining video diary by Jason Isaacs:  "don't try that at home kids... or at least wait until your parents are out!" This is arguably the highlight of the bonus materials.

The Pirates vs. The Lost Boys (2m) features interview sound-bites with some of the cast members, about the pirates. According to Bruce Spence, who plays Cookson, the pirates see the Lost Boys as "an absolute pain in the arse"!

The Lost Pirate Song (1m) is footage from the recording session of a Yo-Ho-Ho-type song that was dropped before filming.

THE BLACK CASTLE

The Black Castle is divided into three sections: Enter The Castle, Learning To Fly and The Mermaids' Tale.

Enter The Castle (1m) shots of the castle set under construction, and behind the scenes footage of scenes that were shot there.

Learning To Fly (6m) is a detailed look at the complex harness work used in the film to show Pan and his friends flying.

The Mermaids' Tale (2m) is behind the scenes material of the mermaids in make-up, and on-set.

THE DARLING HOUSE

The Darling House is divided into four sections: Alternate Ending, Deleted Scenes: Mr Darling on the Dog House, Me & My Shadow and In the Dog House With Nana.

Alternate Ending (4m) shows Peter visiting a grown-up Wendy (played by Saffron Burrows, who narrates the film). Peter is upset that Wendy has grown up, but is introduced to Wendy's daughter, Jane. This is presented in non-anamorphic 2.35:1 format, without music, and with some effects shots in various stages of completion.

Deleted Scenes: Mr Darling on the Dog House (4m). This is a series of related scenes that show Mr and Mrs Darling anxiously awaiting the return of the children. Mr Darling is literally sleeping in the dog house, and, to increase his humiliation, he has arranged for the dog house to be taken to work each day, with him in it. When you see these scenes you will be very thankful that they were removed from the film!

Me & My Shadow (1m) shows the cast filming the interaction between Peter and his shadow. It doesn't go into any detail, and

In The Dog House With Nana (3m) shows how the three dogs used in the film (playing the Darling's dog, Nana) were trained.

THE NEVERLAND FOREST

The Neverland Forest is divided into four sections: Explore The Forest, Tinker Bell: Behind The Fairy Dust, I Do Believe in Fairies and Princess Tiger Lily.

Explore the Forest (1m) is a montage of shots of the forest set under construction, and behind the scenes footage of scenes that were shot there.

Tinker Bell: Behind The Fairy Dust (5m) includes interviews with "comic genius" Ludivine Sagnier (who plays Tinkerbell). The original interntion was to use a CGI creation for Tinkerbell, but the "wild and sexy" Sagnier won everybody's hearts. Ahhh. If you pay attention, you can see what looks like a shot of the CGI Tinkerbell in the background to the Kevin Barnhill interview segment. It's a shame that we don't get to see more.

I Do Believe in Fairies (1m) shows behind-the-scenes footage of the fairy dance, and the "I do believe in fairies" sequence.

Princess Tiger Lily (1m) focuses on Native American actress Carsen Gray.

THE HOME UNDER THE GROUND

The Home Under The Ground is divided into five sections: Dig Under The Home, The Legacy of Pan, Hosted By Sarah Ferguson, The Duchess's Outtakes, Lost Boys on the Set! and DVD Credits.

Dig Under The Home (1m) is behind the scenes footage shot on the Lost Boys' lair set.

The Legacy of Pan, Hosted by Sarah Ferguson (11m) is a version of the behind-the-scenes TV special. The Duchess of York interviews various people, including Barrie's Goddaughter and  director P.J. Hogan, and investigates the film's special effects. It says a lot about the quality of the bonus materials that this lightweight fluff is the most substantial supplement on the DVD.

The Duchess's Outtakes (3m) - Instead of a goofs reel from the film itself, we have a selection of outtakes from the Legacy of Pan documentary, and from various promotional spots the Duchess evidently recorded for the film.

Lost Boys on the Set! (2m) features sound-bites from the actors playing the Lost Boys, and behind the scenes footage.

SUMMARY

The presentation of the film itself can't be faulted. The picture is vibrant, with more colours than an explosion in a Dulux factory. The audio is boisterous and well-mixed, with plenty of show-off surround activity and bass support.

Taken together, the disc's bonus materials don't add up to very much, either in terms of quantity or quality. There's plenty of behind the scenes footage, but it's all pretty superficial. The brevity of each feature quickly becomes tiresome. You'll often spend as much time spent going backwards and forwards through the menus as watching the various features. They'll probably keep children amused for a while, but there's little for any grown-ups who might be interested in the nuts and bolts of the production. A decent commentary track or two would at least have helped to form a more rigorous examination of the film's production.

Details about the Region 1 version are currently thin on the ground, but they suggest that the American version will not have a DTS track. There's nothing being listed at the moment that indicates that the Region 1 disc will feature anything that's not on the Region 2 version.

The review disc was coded for Regions 2 and 4, suggesting that they will be identical.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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