Here’s the thing.
Exploring romantic love was always part of J.M. Barrie’s original story, particularly with Wendy. No, he wasn’t saying that romantic love is the only thing that indicates growing up but it is a part of that process.
The thing is, there is no way in hell that ANYONE would get away with portraying that in the early 1900s. Telling the story of a 12 year old girl (thereabouts) discovering her romantic, and early sexual, attractions to boys.. even men… no, they couldn’t get away with that. That was a big “we are not talking about that!” issue.
So, when people criticize P.J. Hogan’s film for making that element more blatant and more significant to Wendy’s story because “it was never part of the story”… hate to break it to you but yeah, it is. Always has been.
And when it comes to adaptation, a filmmaker needs to create the story to appeal to certain audiences. In 2003, it’s not as shocking to see a 12 year old having an attraction to a thirteen year old boy and letting that attraction be a significant part of the overall story.
Her attraction to Hook…
definitely Freudian, that’s for damn sure. And it is intentionally disturbing. But pre-teen girls having crushes on older guys (Hook being a man with a dangerous bad boy appeal) isn’t that shocking. The shocking thing is that he’s a murderous psychopath and is also pretty much an incredibly warped version of her father. Again, that was intentional.
Basically what Hogan is trying to convey (and he conveys it well) is that there is good attraction and dangerous attraction… guess which is which…
But it’s still just exploring. Wendy doesn’t end up with Hook but she doesn’t end up with Peter. It’s a realistic story: it’s just her first adventure in the wonderful world (filled with painful realities) of romantic and/or sexual attraction.
The film doesn’t condemn Wendy for her attractions. It’s just part of growing up.