I suppose I might as well add my voice to those sharing their opinions on NBC’s live broadcast last week of Peter Pan. One of the reasons that I’ve held off or a few days is that I wanted to give myself a little time to think about it, and to see if I could figure out just exactly why, although I did enjoy it, I found it at the same time to be somewhat unsatisfying, and I think I finally have.
It wasn’t the performances. Allison Williams did well enough in the title role. She certainly sounded good and looked good, though at no point was I ever convinced that I was looking at an actual boy instead of a very pretty young lady with quite a cute haircut who at times, because of the design of her costume seemed to be feeling the need to do her best to further hide her cleavage by the way she held her hands, and Christopher Walken did his Christopher Walken thing, bringing his typical odd phrasing to both his lines and his songs, though I’ll admit I was kind of concerned at times that he wasn’t going to make it through certain scenes and noted that the producers gave him every opportunity to find a place to sit down that they could. (Oh, and by the way, was I the only one who felt that Walken’s makeup made him look more like Dr. Fu Manchu than Captain Hook?)
It wasn’t the fact that most of the lost “boys” appeared to be somewhere around thirty years old and some of them looked as though they could have benefited from shaving a little bit closer to show time.
It wasn’t the clearly visible wires which were used for the flying effects and which most of the cast seemed at times to be having struggles with which made the “flying” look mostly like just what it was – people being lifted from one place and set down in another without any real acting on their part to present any kind of illusion of grace or that they were moving on their own power. (Again, this wasn’t helped by the costume design in certain places where the wires were so awkwardly strung that it appeared that for instance it appeared that the two Darling brothers might have their pajamas ripped from their backs at any moment.)
It wasn’t the set design which, though it had certain moments of brilliance such as the way that the moment when the cast flew through the Darling childrens’ bedroom window and we saw the streets of London below, for the most part simply seemed designed to call attetion to itself and led to more awkward moments than special ones like that.
It wasn’t the technical gaffs such as the obvious camera shadows and the fact that due to the lighting in the scene just before Wendy manages to reattach his shadow to Peter we see Miss Williams casting very obvious shadows on the walls and floor.
It wasn’t the abundance of commercial breaks, some of which came at very awkward places in the story and interrupted the flow of things that were taking place in the show.
It wasn’t the obvious insertion of CGI effects such as the one for the fairy dust which led to a very obvious and far-from-seamless camera cut the first time it was used (when Peter throws it on Wendy in the Darling bedroom).
No, it wasn’t any of those things. Nor was it any of the other things which I could mention (other odd casting choices, changes made both to the book and the songs, some of the political correctness updating, and other quibbles, some very minor, some less so). Actually what I should say is that it wasn’t any of those things in particular. Instead it was the cumulative effect of all of them.
To put it simply, I never felt transported either into the storyline or to an actual place called Neverland.
Instead it seemed like the production was almost purely designed to call attention to itself rather than actually draw the viewer into the story and allow us to be carried away by it. One complaint that is often heard about movies and theater is that something, be it something in the film itself or the stage production or something outside what is being presented (say for instance someone’s cell phone going off or some other disturbance) is that of being “pulled out of the story”. In this case, there was never any cause to worry about that, because I was never really in it to start with.
Instead I noticed, both while watching it and afterwards, that most of the time I and the people I was watching it with were commenting on all of the above things, discussing the technical and other aspects of the show rather than being absorbed into it and watching it for the pure enjoyment of following the story.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a sign of the times where attention spans are supposedly much shorter (a “fact” I would readily dispute considering the length of some of the more popular movies recently). Maybe it’s the fact that very few people in television production today have any experience with how to put on a live show, and that lack f technical know-how showed through at every opportunity. Maybe it’s that this production was designed to be an event rather than actual entertainment. Maybe it was… well, as I said, I don’t really know. All I do know is that although I did enjoy watching it at the time, I doubt that I’ll ever feel the need to again, which I think is kind of a shame, and the fact that from what I’ve heard the ratings actually fell off quite a bit during the broadcast certainly won’t encourage the networks to try experiments like this nor advertisers to support them which again is a shame, because unlike it’s title character, Peter Pan Live just never really got a chance to fly.
- The evolution of ‘Peter Pan’ (mashable.com)
- In the Spotlight Series: PETER PAN’s Christopher Walken (broadwayworld.com)
- Christopher Walken Admits Playing Captain Hook is “Intimidating” (complex.com)