Directed by Joe Wright. Produced by Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, and Paul Webster. Written by Jason Fuchs. Release date: October 9, 2015.
Prior to Pan, I’d never once before wondered how the character of Peter Pan found himself in Neverland. After seeing Pan, I find myself not caring. He was far more of an interesting character when he was a mysterious enigma. Seeing him as The Special just isn’t compelling. Throwing him in a typical hero’s journey plot that does nothing to try to differentiate itself from similar stories makes him boring. Anyone who thought we needed a peter pan origin story seriously needs to take a look in the mirror, if they can see it behind their piles of money, and reconsider why they’ve gotten into filmmaking.
Pan is set during World War II, and sees a young orphan named Peter (Levi Miller) taken from his orphanage by the evil pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) and ferried off to Neverland, a different world with magical creatures, flying ships, and fairies. One might think a 12-year-old would be in awe of all these things, but one might think incorrectly, as Peter reacts to it all as if it’s same old, same old. If all the CGI in the world can’t stun our protagonist, how much of an effect is it going to have on the audience?
Peter is put in a mining camp but escapes with the help of James Hook (Garrett Hedlund). Both become fugitives, Peter learns that he can fly and, therefore, is part of a prophecy – he at one point literally calls himself the “chosen one” – so he sets out, with the help of some of the local natives, to stop Blackbeard for good. The natives are represented by Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), because Pan feels the need to include an obligatory romance between her and Hook that is so poorly developed that it’s a mystery why it was hammered in at all.
From there, you could write out the rest of the plot, as it contains precisely no surprises, except perhaps that it doesn’t actually explain to us how Hook and Peter will eventually become enemies, likely so that, if the film succeeds, we can get a sequel to tell us that story. It also fails to give us a whole lot of depth to Peter, Hook, Tiger Lily, Smee (Adeel Akhtar), or even Blackbeard. It’s a Mad Libs version of this story in which most of the characters are from the Peter Pan universe, but mostly just in name and general characteristics.
Pan is unnecessary and fails to accomplish most of the things that it needed to as a prequel to the Peter Pan story we all know.
Pan has been directed by Joe Wright, whose forte is making Oscar-bait. His strength as a director is typically in getting good performances out of his actors and in making us feel like we’re back in time with his period pieces. It might come as a shock, then, that the acting in Pan is atrocious, and that we only rarely feel like we’re in Neverland. Directing children isn’t easy, but Levi Miller makes a terrible lead, often looking like he’s struggling to recite his lines. We’re supposed to root for him, but we’re given very little reason to. Hugh Jackman is hilariously over-the-top as Blackbeard, providing energy but little else. Garrett Hedlund plays an Indiana Jones wannabe whose mannerisms and accent are both distracting – as if he was trying to pay homage to Nicolas Cage. Rooney Mara’s whitewash casting as Tiger Lilly was controversial to say the least, but at least her action heroine is worth watching. Someone give her the lead in an action movie, please.
Wright seems overwhelmed by this material. There’s too much going on, none of which is fleshed out at all. The story both rushes through its events but also drags a considerable amount of the time. The visuals are at times pretty, but also get wasted. Pan has the most “throwing things at the audience” 3D in recent memory, which may speak to him being uncomfortable with 3D as a concept. Oh, and get this: “Smells like Teen Spirit” and “Blitzkrieg Bop” are both sung in this film, which I’d like to repeat is set in the 1940s. Now, last I checked, Nirvana and The Ramones weren’t around during World War II. That’s some Baz Luhrmann anachronism right there, and being compared to Baz Luhrmann is not something anyone should want.
Pan is unnecessary and fails to accomplish most of the things that it needed to as a prequel to the Peter Pan story we all know (and love?). It delivers to us bad acting, one of the most cliché stories you’ll see all year, special effects that fade into the background whenever they’re not being thrown in our face in bad-version 3D, shallow characters, and a complete lack of wonder. Some good movies have come out of unnecessary premises, but Pan isn’t one of them.
Bottom Line: Pan shouldn’t exist, although since it does exist, it should have been significantly better – or at least more interesting – than it turned out.
Recommendation: Pan‘s bad enough that I can’t see many people getting enjoyment from it. Skip it.[rating=1.5]