Pan (2015)

Directed by Joe Wright

Contains spoilers.

The story of Peter Pan is the kind of story that can shape the imagination of a child. From pirates to fairies, his story is the essence of fantasy and the kind of fun and adventure that's hard to match. Joe Wright's new origin story for the beloved character takes the beauty to... interesting heights... but rips the story and characters to shreds.

Peter, played by child actor Levi Miller, has grown up in an orphanage. In the midst of World War 2, with Nazi bombings a common occurrence, Peter lives a sad and unfair life with his best friend, Nibs, as the pair seek out any way to make their life as orphans more enjoyable. But one night Peter is whisked away in a conspiracy by the nuns to sell the orphans for their own profit. Peter and the other orphans find themselves on a pirate ship... that flies. They're flown into the night sky, into space, and then off to a fantastical island where giant orbs of water float in the sky and all the pirate ships can float and fly. The children are introduced to Captain Blackbeard, an ornate pirate played by Hugh Jackman who leads the large company of pirates, and are made to mine for fairy dust. After getting in trouble with the pirates, Peter manages to escape with the help of James Hook, played by Garrett Hedlund, when his adventure really begins. Making their way into the forest, they find Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) and her tribe, glowing mermaids and huge crocodiles, and the truths about Peter's mother and Blackbeard's desire for fairy dust.

The story itself, a prequel which probably was meant to start a new franchise, is redundant, boring, and provides nothing for the story of Peter Pan. Including unsubtle attempts to shove messages and symbolism about child labor and the pursuit for longer life, Pan is your typical prophetic fare that recounts why Peter is so important: a boy that can fly, as the son of a fairy prince and a human woman, will lead the fairies and island natives to victory against Captain Blackbeard and his pirates. Jason Fuchs' screenplay tries to show us that Peter Pan and Captain Hook were friends before they were enemies but the plot falls flat with forced charm and mediocre development amid it's oddly fast pace and casting choices.

 

The movie is populated by white actors with Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily, despite obvious attempts to be culturally inclusive and/or politically correct by referring to Tiger Lily's people as simply a Tribe or Natives, as opposed to Indians. But that Tribe ends up just being a mish-mash of colors and random imagery and cultural symbols. I get what the intent was, to show an inclusive and harmonic group to fully juxtapose the more sinister pirates, but it just feels sloppy, like a child described these scenes with a handful of crayons. And Wright or the producers or the distributors are so opposed to showing any violence in the movie, and seeking a PG-rating, that when the tribe members are killed they simply burst into a big cloud of smoke.

The production itself is usually impressive, an obvious use of the $150 million budget. From an exhaustive wardrobe (Blackbeard seems to be in a new, extravagant getup in every scene) to high quality sets the production is A+ and extremely detailed. But then we get to the CG, and the quality lets up. Most big-budget movies with CG, these days, are at a stellar standard, with the digital world subtly worked into the physical one. But in Pan the CG is almost highlighted. Some of the computer environments, like the cave of the fairies and the flying ships, are well-detailed and immersive, but not realistic. And the more active graphics, like flying people and creatures, including the fabrics, look like something from 10 years ago, sticking out from the physical like an animated cutout superimposed on a physical backing.

The acting is forgettable. As Hook, Hedlund effects a deep voice, unnaturally deep, that makes him seem almost comical. He's like a child trying to seem older. Hugh Jackman is great... but this really a mediocre performance. There's a couple musical scenes (what...? why...?) where pirates sing loudly and Blackbeard joins in, and they seem to be shoved in for no other purpose than to utilize Jackman's singing voice. Mara is as white as a white person can be and, while she brings some semblance of emotion to Tiger Lily, her casting is an interesting choice, but not in a good way. She's far older than Peter Pan and Wright has apparently elected to turn her into Hook's love interest, a subplot that's uncomfortable. Miller's Peter is okay. There's nothing really productive to say. Peter becomes an unfortunate casualty of bad writing in his own movie despite any goodness in Miller's performance.

The soundtrack is derivative and unoriginal. The creativity is like a grab-bag of random. The story itself tries desperately to be dramatic and emotional but the fast pace and convoluted nature of it's plot twists and flashbacks turn it into an uninteresting mess. Wright has attempted to make Peter a sad and sympathetic hero but the drama just isn't there.

Anything that made Peter Pan such an inspiring and interesting character is utterly gone. His story is boring. His personality is boring. This origin is boring. Despite some beautiful scenes and intriguing ideas, the movie doesn't get the chance to breathe or expand on any of them. The soul of Peter Pan's story has been dashed against the rocks in lieu of a computerized bastardization.

 
 

TL;DR: Growing up, I loved Peter Pan. His story was amazing to me. Never growing up? The Lost Boys? Pirates? Indians? Fairies? Flying!? The imagination and the fantasy of Peter Pan is amazing. It's a first-class adventure. But this movie is not like that. It's a randomized, CG peep show of fantasy elements woven into a too-fast adventure story. It has it's moments, but not nearly enough of them throughout it's 111 minutes to make it a worthwhile origin to the wonder that is Peter Pan.

  • Acting – 10 / 20
  • Story – 2 / 20
  • Cinematography – 4 / 20
  • Soundtrack – 2 / 10
  • Entertainment Factor – 0 / 10
  • Fantasy/Adventure – 3 / 10
  • Other – 0 / 10
 

Grade F = 21 / 100