Ever wondered how Peter Pan and Captain Hook became mortal enemies? Well, prepare to continue wondering as Joe Wright's Pan completely misses the point and dumps a steaming pile of unoriginal crap onto our laps.
After spending his early childhood in a dingy London orphanage,
I feel kind of bad for hating on this movie because, at the end of the day, I'm not the target audience. Nor does it have bad intentions; screenwriter Jason Fuchs and director Joe Wright obviously have a love for JM Barrie's original novel, and the subsequent Disney animated adaptation that many people my age will have grown up with. The problem is, Pan does both of these predecessors a great disservice and barely deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence. It might be colourful and playful, but this film is the very definition of derivative.
You see, it shamelessly borrows story elements, characters and visual motifs from other, more successful franchises in an attempt to win our hearts; the cliched 'chosen one' narrative is torn straight from Harry Potter, whilst Garrett Hedlund's Hook and Rooney Mara's Tiger Lily are essentially Han Solo and Princess Leia in all but name. Even James Cameron's Avatar is drawn from during one scene set in a fluorescent forest. Our hero even befriends a hostile tribe of natives and learns to fly a dangerous winged beast in order to save the day.
In terms of design, the film is scattershot and unoriginal to say the least; Neverland is a strange hybrid that leans heavily on Avatar, from the aforementioned forest to the unexplained floating objects (massive water droplets in place of mountains). I didn't see the film in 3D so I can't weigh in on that element of the film; it certainly looks flash in 2D, but suffers from the same CGI overload that scuppered recent features like Tomorrowland and Oz: The Great and Powerful.
The story just doesn't feel important; the film promises a look at how Peter and Hook transitioned from friends into enemies, and then dispenses with that in order to focus on Peter's inexplicable quest for information about his mother (presumably he couldn't give two shits about the other 50% of his parentage). Garrett Hedlund is okay as the future Captain, but his character is in fact more of a hero at the end of the film than at the start; so, when does his hatred of Peter come into play? Put simply, never. The film never goes there. The two are good buddies, the end. Sorry to have wasted your time, thanks for the $10 sucker. If you were hoping for a compelling prelude to one of cinema's greatest rivalries, you'd best put those on ice for the time being; Pan keeps things squeaky clean from start to finish.
Rooney Mara and her flawless elfin looks would feel a little miscast as Tiger Lily if her ethically-diverse fellow tribes people didn't give the film some wiggle room there. That being said, I think the film tried to convince us that her father was Indigenous Australian. Now, I'm not a geneticist but I'd wager that falls more than a little on the side of unlikely, don't you?
Levi Miller (in his debut role) wasn't bad in the lead; I got the impression the film was shot in chronological order as his performance improved substantially as it went on. He was still very 'child actor' at times; more Daniel Radcliffe in the first Harry Potter, and less Haley Joel Osmont in The Sixth Sense.
Amanda Seyfried flits in and out as Peter's mother but the bulk of her backstory is told through an extended VFX sequence (one of the film's highlights to be honest). But, if you feel like Seyfried was robbed, you've yet to see Cara Delevingne's blink-and-you'll-miss-it part. Delevingne plays a trio of mute mermaids that swim into frame for no more than 20 seconds before departing just as rapidly. Boy, she needs a serious word with her agent.
And now (I've been saving this one for last), the cherry on top of this awfulness is Hugh Jackman. Now, don't get me wrong; I love Hugh. He's great. A real rippa bloke as us Aussies would say.
In Pan? His performance is bloody awful. Honestly, it's like he just binge watched all four Pirates of the Caribbean movies, snorted some coke and pretended that he was the demented half-brother of Jack Sparrow for the afternoon. Sure, he's having fun, but are we? I know I wasn't; I was too busy cringing hard enough to make my eyes water.
Plus (it gets worse), he gets not one, but two scenes where he strides around the deck of his flagship giving motivational speeches to the sound of his slaves chanting songs by Nirvana and the Ramones. Seriously! Who thought that was a good idea? Since when did they have early 90's grunge in Neverland? It's awful! It's not like kids are going to get it, and adults are just going to look like this the whole time.
Screw this, I'm going to go watch Hook.
The Verdict: 4/10
Pan starts with an aerial dogfight between a Spitfire and a ship above wartime London and gently trundles downhill from there. Flashes of ingenuity are all too infrequent in this otherwise uninspired family film that talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk. Kids will love the colourful characters, adults will finally have chance to catch up on much needed sleep.
Pan is in cinemas across Australia now