Director: Joe Wright. Cast: Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Garret Hedland, Rooney Mara, Amanda Seyfried. Genre: Fantasy adventure. Running time: 111 minutes. Certificate: PG
Everybody knows the tale of Peter Pan – the legend of the boy who never grows up has stood the test of time ever since it was first told in J.M Barrie’s 1911 novel Peter and Wendy. After a number of adaptations, both live action and animated, the well-known story is reimagined once again – this time as a prequel in the form of Pan.
Pan starts with Peter’s mother dropping him off as a baby on the doorstep of a boy’s orphanage. 10 years later, we meet the mischievous but good-hearted Peter (Levi Miller) who lives under the care of cruel nuns.
Peter notices that some of the boys have gone missing from the orphanage and assumes they’ve been evacuated. In actual fact, they’ve been kidnapped by pirates who swoop down from the ceiling and snatch the unsuspecting youngsters. It’s not long before Peter’s taken and thrown on to a flying pirate ship where he’s whisked away to a very strange, out of this world place.
Of course it turns out to be Neverland and when Peter arrives he’s made to join the thousands of other unlucky souls who are forced to be slaves. Their capturer is “the pirates all pirates fear” – the dastardly Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) who enslaves orphans across the world to make them mine for fairy dust.
There’s a Harry Potter/Voldemort dynamic between Peter and Blackbeard as a prophecy states that the young boy will thwart the villainous pirate.
Shortly after this revelation comes to light, which occurs in one of the film’s few exciting moments, Peter’s newfound friend, the conveniently named James Hook (Garret Hedlund) along with the dithering Smee (Adeel Akhtar), help Peter escape the mines and the three embark on an unknown journey into the wilderness of Neverland. Here they come across princess Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), part of a legion of native tribespeople and who tells Peter who he really is. Now knowing his true identity, the young boy must escape Blackbeard’s evil clutches and fulfil his destiny.
Joe Wright’s (who also directed 2007’s Atonement) intentions were to take the audience on a fun-filled fantasy adventure designed to delight and dazzle. Unfortunately despite the immense amount of imagination on offer, Pan is a ride which fails to take the audience on an enjoyable and memorable ride.
There are great visuals on show in some totally thrilling scenes – there’s a frantic battle between the flying pirate ship and a group of military planes which is quite impressive. On the voyage to Neverland, the pirate ship passes some awe-inspiring sights which feel like a fun acid trip – which of course I’ve never been on! The climax in a vast crystallised cavern is the certainly the film’s highlight as it’s an adrenaline-fuelled sequence enhanced by the stunning scenery it takes place in.
The performances contribute to the pros of Pan as the cast all play their parts well. Australian newcomer Levi Miller is solid as the spirited, strong-willed Peter and handles his comedic and emotional requirements well.
Garret Hedlund (Tron Legacy) is good as the wisecracking two-handed Hook who in a in a twist in tradition is Peter’s friend rather than foe. If Hedlund’s Hook wasn’t modelled after Harrison Ford than I’ll be damned as he has a strong Han Solo vibe and is dressed exactly like Indiana Jones.
Rooney Mara’s Tiger Lily is quite the kick-ass chick, although casting her as the only Caucasian member of an otherwise multicultural tribe seemed odd. Apart from that, she was a fine addition.
If anyone steals the show, it’s Hugh Jackman as the dreaded Blackbeard. His pantomime-like larger than life performance probably isn’t among his very best work, but he certainly provides an entertaining villain.
While the cast all try their best, they’re let down by one of the film’s main cons – its weak script. Writer Jason Fuchs (who’s signed on to pen 2017’s Wonder Woman) delivers a disappointing script which contains clichéd dialogue and predictable plot points. At times it has the attention span of a 2 year old as it briefly introduces some intriguing concepts – the hungry crocodiles, the giant terrifying birds and supermodel Cara Delevingne’s trio of mermaids then suddenly forgets about them as if they didn’t happened.
Many of the film’s fantastical and magical concepts are never really explained so while some things look good you never understand why they appear.
There’s a huge splattering of CGI which is frustratingly inconsistent – sometimes it’s amazing and sometimes it’s obviously fake which immediately takes you out of the film.
Ultimately, Pan creates a wacky world like this year’s Mad Max: Fury Road and has a 3D spectacle like Everest and The Walk but fails to provide a worthwhile cinematic experience like those films. Assumedly this origin story aimed to set up a new Peter Pan franchise but it’s lacklustre execution may put a halt to the studio’s plans. There’s fun to be had with Pan, just not much. For a worthy Peter Pan experience, you’re probably best off going to see a pantomime version. Pan scores a:
Check out the trailer: