Joe Wright may not be a director that anyone can find a way to love everything he does, but he has proven himself to be a director who is going to create something interesting out of the material he takes on. His first three films (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, and The Soloist) are enough to spread people far and wide, but whatever you may think of them, they are films approached with an interesting directorial view. He followed these with Hanna, and Anna Karenina, which are both brilliant, but different enough that they do not scream out as being directed by the same person.
Pan, a prequel to the classic story, and something wildly original, doesn’t seem to fit into Wright’s CV, except in the sense that nothing else does either.
Insofar as one might look at the film as the work of the director, there is a lot to love about it. Unfortunately, this is similar to saying that looking at Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull only scene-by-scene and shot-by-shot might leave one gaining even more respect for Steven Spielberg.
Ultimately, Pan is another in the long list of Hollywood curiosities, and exists mainly because Jason Fuchs (being a long-time actor, and writer of very little) knows people at this point, and Peter Pan is free to abuse.
The story opens with Peter (Levi Miller) tromping through the wastes that are a Catholic orphanage in war-torn England. Kids are disappearing, nuns are hoarding food, and rapscallion Peter is on the case. That isn’t exactly what happens, but it’s what it says in the script. The opening effort of the film hopes you’ve seen Oliver!, because that’s the sort of short cut it needs if you’re going to get anywhere with the characters and setting.
Peter soon finds himself whisked away by a flying ship, and he’s taken to Neverland. The new shipment of arrivals are welcomed to Blackbeard’s (Hugh Jackman) domain with a chanting version of Nirvana, ala Brian Helgeland’s A Knight’s Tale, and Peter learns that he’ll be digging in a mine along with thousands of others. Peter meets Hook (Garrett Hedlund), who soon saves Peter, and after a few jumps and twists, the race is on to save Neverland, and its pixies, from Blackbeard.
Though much of the chase is gorgeous, and bound to have the youngest audience members swimming through uncharted worlds of imaginative candy floss, the story rarely makes a lick of sense, and seems cobbled together at random, and often by way of what props we happen to have handy. Worse, none of it seems to have been constructed with any thought toward how it will connect to the original story, except insofar as it ends with a giant gap that can be filled in however we like, and we’re talking about the same characters… so, see, it connects.
Looked at as individual scenes, the actors are generally giving fun performances, with Jackman standing out as the best version of trying to create a character out of almost nothing, and the zany escapades are going to be a treat for those able to appreciate them. None of it fits together though, and it pulls through so many misfires and abandoned sub-plots that there isn’t any story to get through at all. It feels for all the world like one of those endless runner App games that are so popular right now, with virtually every plot point simply being the window dressing you’re zipping past at the moment.
You only know who Peter is because you already know, and everyone else is really just the person we’re running from, or to, at the moment.
It’s probably the discord that makes the film feel so hollow. Not just the discord between one part of the film and the next – the anachronistic soundtrack doesn’t continue, nor does the exposure to the wild creatures, the “magic” of the flying ships, or anything else – but, the discord between the lack of depth of the film’s non-story and the original.
You’ll have a bit of fun with this one, maybe, but there’s nothing you’ll remember even an hour after seeing it, and it almost feels as though that is somehow by design.
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CastLevi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara
Image CreditWarner Bros.
SynopsisFrom director Joe Wright (“Atonement,” “Pride & Prejudice”) comes “Pan,” a live-action feature presenting a wholly original adventure about the beginnings of the beloved characters created by J.M. Barrie. Peter (Levi Miller) is a mischievous 12-year-old boy with an irrepressible rebellious streak, but in the bleak London orphanage where he has lived his whole life those qualities do not exactly fly. Then one incredible night, Peter is whisked away from the orphanage and spirited off to a fantastical world of pirates, warriors and fairies called Neverland. There, he finds amazing adventures and fights life-or-death battles while trying to uncover the secret of his mother, who left him at the orphanage so long ago, and his rightful place in this magical land. Teamed with the warrior Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) and a new friend named James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), Peter must defeat the ruthless pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) to save Neverland and discover his true destiny—to become the hero who will forever be known as Peter Pan.