Sunday, December 2, 2012

Peter Pan imagery in "Moonrise Kingdom"

     If you've read Peter Pan (or are at all familiar with the story) it's hard to watch Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom without thinking about all the Pan imagery going on. The film is not trying to be an adaptation of J.M. Barrie's work- its quite magical and artful all on its own- and it doesn't have any explicit references to Pan. But there are many moments that play homage to the story. Whether fully intentional or completely coincidental, the stories echo each other in lots of ways and I find all of them interesting.
By Nadir Quinto
    Take what is probably the most obvious and most basic connection between the two: the plot. Both works open with a young girl (the oldest of multiple brothers) and follow her as she leaves her house in pursuit of adventure with a young orphaned boy. Suzy and Sam of Moonrise Kingdom develop an intimate relationship, and though it's always one of a romantic, rather than maternal love, it fuels the plot and actions of the story.
Moonrise Kingom
   Next is the setting. There may be little in common between a 1960's boy scout camp (the film name for the program is the Khaki Scouts) and the magical world of Neverland, but let's take a look at some of the similarities:

  •  Both are outside. More specifically, the boy scout/ lost boy camp is in the wilderness. In the midst of trees, lakes, and forests the boys must rely upon their own skills and nature's resources to survive and thrive. 
  • Both are male dominated societies and both get shook up after a young lady comes into the picture. 
  • Both settings have an indian/ native american flavor. The Khaki scout camp in Kingdom is located near an old Native American trail, one that young Sam takes a particular interest in and ends up following with Suzy once they start their adventure.
  • There are no Pirates in Kingdom and the adults are a far reach from the adult antagonists in Peter Pan. But simply as adults, they still represent (at least to Sam and Susie) the child-like feeling of being misunderstood, or not understood at all. 
Overall, the setting of both works stands in contrast to their opening, which centers indoors with a family-oriented, domesticated lifestyle.

Next is a list of some similar imagery between the two works.

Flight and Height Imagery

 The adventure of Peter Pan begins when Peter, Wendy, Michael and John fly out the Darling window, turn right at the second star, and fly their way to Neverland. There is no flying in Kingdom, but there is a lot of flight and height imagery.

  • The first time Sam meets Suzy she is dressed as a raven for the church's production of Noah's Flood. His first words to her are, "What kind of bird are you?"
  • The treehouse the Khaki boys build is absurdly high and inexplicably supported by a thin and sparse tree. The camp director asks the obvious question, "Why is it so high? Someone falls from there that's a guaranteed death."
  • At the film's climax, Suszy and Sam climb the full height of the church's tower, intending to jump off to flee the adults that are pursuing them. (Here the end of the film echoes the beginning scene right above: the children climb up to a great height- and do fall- but thanks to the adult that was looking out for them, do not get a "guaranteed death" but hang instead from his rope until they make a safe landing.)
  • Finally, at the film's end Sam leaves Suzy's house in true Peter fashion- through her window.

Random Points of Comparison:

  • Adventure is an explicit aspiration in both works, and is raised particularly when the protagonists are close to the sea. (On a rock in the sea, a tremor ran through Peter " like a shudder passing over the sea but on the sea one shudder follows another till there are hundreds of them; and Peter felt just the one. Next moment he was standing erect on the rock again, with that smile on his face and a drum beating within him. It was saying, 'To die would be a an awfully big adventure'").
  • Children in animal costumes appear.
  • Stories are read aloud by Suzy. First only to Sam, then later to whole "lost boy"group while they listen intently. 
  • There are secret ins and outs of the houses and camps.
  • The khaki boys shoot an arrow at Suzy and miss. This echoes the moment when the lost boys who, mistaking Wendy as a bird (remember Suzy as a Raven?) shoot her down and injure her. 

Throughout the film, Suzy and Sam are emotionally earnest and raw in a way that Peter Pan and Wendy never are. They act much older than they are and don't really have any desires to stay children forever. But, that after all, is the film's job. It is a film about the naiveté, precociousness, and wildness of young adults - and no matter what our current age is, Moonrise Kingdom awakens the Pans in all of us. 


  1. Reading this made me so happy ;)

    I love the comparison!

  2. Don't forget the island is called "New Penzance", as in "Pirates of"


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