There have been so many adaptations of Peter Pan’s tale of fairies, flying, and his archenemy Captain Hook. And with all the classic fairy tales being brought to life in live-action movies, I suppose it was only time before J.M. Barrie’s beloved tale of the boy who never grows up graced the big screen in yet another incarnation. The question here is really, why? Why bring another version of the same story about that same boy? Well, director Joe Wright’s answer isn’t to bring us the same story, but rather have Pan serve as a prequel to the the original. A film that is neither a masterpiece or as much of a trainwreck as some have claimed, Pan will surely entertain its targeted younger audience, even though the film ultimately lacks anything useful to add to Peter Pan’s lore.
The film has taken young Peter Pan (newcomer Levi Miller) and turned him into the male version of little orphan Annie. He was left on the doorstep of an orphanage as an infant with only a necklace and a note. Twelve years later, he’s still there and running amok, convinced that the other boys are being taken in the middle of the night. Set in the midst of World War II London, Peter quickly finds that his theory is correct after getting on the bad side of a gluttonous and greedy nun (Kathy Burke). Kidnapped in the middle of the night by pirates on a flying ship, Peter lands in Neverland and is forced to serve the most terrible pirate–Captain Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman)–by joining hundreds of thousands of others in the mines to dig for fairy dust.
While there, he meets James Hook (Garrett Hedlund doing his best Indiana Jones impression) and befriends him. When Blackbeard realizes that Peter can fly, the real story behind the current status of Neverland is revealed. After having driven out the fairies, which is questionable as to why he did so since he still doesn’t have access to all the pixie dust, which is used to give him eternal life. After escaping, Hook and Peter team up with Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) and the rest of the natives of Neverland to protect their home from Blackbeard’s takeover.
Joe Wright, used to directing more dramatic films like Atonement and Anna Karenina, tries for a bit more lighthearted fare, but the film isn’t as bright as its colorful production elements and setting. Granted, the film is full of high-octane adventure that many kids will love, but it lacks a more emotional core that is there with Peter’s quest to find his mother, but never quite touches you. Hugh Jackman always turns in a great performance and you can absolutely tell that he had a ball playing Blackbeard in all his over-the-top zest for being a bad guy. Rooney Mara is miscast as Tiger Lily, and while the rest of the native people of Neverland are of a diverse nature, the film is still not nearly as diverse a place as you want it to be in an adaptation for the 21st century.
Levi Miller generally hits all the right notes with Peter and has an energetic nature that draws you to his character. Garrett Hedlund is a much more attractive Hook than we’ve been used to seeing, and although I don’t think him a bad actor, what are supposed to be humorous lines and moments fall very flat and grow tiresome over the course of the film. Everyone knows Hook to eventually come to hate Peter, you see their (reluctant) friendship progress, but you don’t ever care for it. So the mystery essentially remains as to what happened between the two, and that would have made for perhaps a more interesting plot.
Pan isn’t a trainwreck, but has several things that its plot could have done without. The visuals are beautiful and there’s high adventure to be found around every corner that will delight children, but I found the film to need more and better character interaction than what is given. The friendship between Hook and Peter comes off forced sometimes and other than Miller’s portrayal of Peter, most of the other characters don’t really do a whole lot for the movie. It will still be entertaining and more enjoyable than you initially would have believed it to be, but Wright tends to ditch some of the more magical parts and elaborations on character (like why is Peter so gung-ho on not growing up) to give us a prequel that will be entertaining for the kids, but will leave adults wanting more.
Release Date: October 9, 2015 | Director: Joe Wright | Screenwriter: Jason Fuchs | Cast: Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Levi Miller, Adeel Akhtar, Nonso Anozie, Amanda Seyfried, Kathy Burke, Cara Delevingne | Genre: Fantasy, Adventure | MPAA Rating: PG for fantasy action violence, language, and some thematic material