“To know how it truly ends, we must know how it began.”
Or so the movie says. It seems that Hollywood is taking that phrase seriously as it’s been spewing out a lot of revisionist, re-imagined crap lately. Anyway, straight off let me just say that Pan (2015) missed the mark in every way. I admit I was initially intrigued to see the film owing to the following reasons; first, it is directed by Joe Wright, the guy who sprouted forth Pride and Prejudice (2005) and Atonement (2007). Two of my tops. Second, it stars Hugh *freaking* Jackman as Blackbeard and Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily. Again, two of my tops. And third, the script was listed on Hollywood’s 2013 Black List.
The key element driving the film is that of a young orphaned boy’s discovery of his true identity. This version was set in WWII London, for seemingly no other reason but to feature fighter planes shooting at a flying ship. Peter (newcomer Levi Miller) was sold by the evil orphanage nuns and was taken to Neverland where he was made to dig for pixum or crystallized Pixie dust which works as a Fountain of Youth for the flashy pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Peter (and others) was welcomed to the mines by an eruption of a few bars of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. WTF! True enough, near the half of the film, you will be almost tempted to scream, “Here we are now, entertain us!”
When Peter accidentally discovered he can fly, Blackbeard proceeded to inform him that he’s the Chosen One, the fruition of an ancient prophecy. Also working in the mines was a James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) who, upon learning Peter can fly, helped him escape the mines. They were captured by Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), princess of the Neverland natives. Initially wary, she reveals more of Peter’s parentage, engages in a weird flirtation with Hook and hauls them away to some sort of ancient fairy land. Yes, there are fairies, well, until Blackbeard tried to incinerate them with a blowtorch. Again, WTF!
Wright offers numerous action sequences that seems more like one extended, CGI-filled chase scene that fails to excite and feels like a theme park ride with absolutely no thrill. One laudable thing was that this accommodated cameos from Peter Pan regulars – the crocodile, the mermaids (all played by Cara Delevingne) and Tinkerbell.
Miller was brilliant as Peter, another excellent child actor discovery of Wright after Saoirse Ronan. He is just the right mix of mischievous and pleasant. Hedlund, who plays Hook as Indiana Jones, is adequate but the theatrical vocal delivery just felt out-of-place at times. His Hook showed no foretelling of what the man will become one day. Then there’s the problem of Mara’s Tiger Lily, originally written as a Native American but was portrayed by a Caucasian actress. She did not show her usual brilliance, that fight scene with Blackbeard was cringe-worthy, but this might be owing to the one-dimensional way the character was written. As for Jackman, I read before that he was supposed to be cast as The Pirates of the Caribbean’s Jack Sparrow, and in his portrayal of Blackbeard, we get the gist of what that would have been like, albeit watered down and a lot menacing. He is flamboyant almost to the point of tackiness but Jackman was good, he was able to showcase his legitimate theater side and his paradoxical Blackbeard, humorous one minute and cruel the next, unsurprisingly outshines everyone.
James Mathieson’s and Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography is admirable and Jacqueline Durran’s costumes are jazzy yet eye-catching. There is a lot to be desired in Jason Fuchs’ script, it feels like a hodge-podge of ideas and not all of them stick. Stripping away Peter Pan’s magic without replacing it with anything substantial coupled with a sub-par special effects made the film a huge letdown. Safe to say, this Peter Pan panned.