Neither particularly magical or especially memorable, “Pan” makes for momentarily entertaining and instantly forgettable trip to Neverland.
With “Hook” covering an adult Peter Pan, the faithful 2003 adaptation and the 1953 animated classic, there’s not a lot of fertile ground for stories of Peter Pan save a prequel and “Pan” doesn’t make a strong argument to validate its existence.
Problem is most of these characters don’t have compelling origins that warrant a full length film before they get “in costume.” Add Peter Pan to that list.
Stuck at an orphanage since he was a baby, Peter (Levi Miller) has grown accustomed to the hard-knock life, but yearns to be reunited with his mother.
Those hopes are dashed when he’s whisked away by pirates (in one of the film’s best scenes) that steal away several of the fellow orphans and take them to the magical world of Neverland.
Director Joe Wright (“Hanna“) captures the wonder and excitement of Neverland that looks like a children’s pop-up book come to life with bright, vibrant colors and dazzling skies. It’s not enough to justify seeing the film in 3D, but Neverland is a magical CGI enhanced realm.
There, the orphans are greeted by Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) and his lost boys digging for fairy dust in the film’s most outlandish and fascinating sequence. Blackbeard leads a rousing chorus of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
It’s bizarre and the combination of the Neverland Boy’s Choir and Nirvana absolutely shouldn’t work, but it’s a magnificent moment and a bombastic introduction to the film’s most dynamic presence.
Jackman provides “Pan’s” biggest spark and so effortlessly outshines Peter, that I’d rather see a Blackbeard spin-off than a “Pan” sequel. That’s not so much a knock on Miller, who does what he can with the underdeveloped role, but Peter the character has never really been more than the boy who never grew up. Screenwriter Jason Fuchs fails to develop Peter beyond the cliche orphan hoping to reunite with his mom. Occasionally, there’s a glimmer of the joyful, reckless Peter Pan, but there’s no spirit of excitement with Peter to make us invest in his adventure.
The film’s tagline is “In the beginning, he was just a boy” and we’re never given any real explanation as to what exactly makes Peter so special.
Thankfully, there’s some intrigue with Peter’s fellow escaped prisoner, Hook (Garrett Hedlund, “Tron: Legacy“). Hook, so named for his penchant of carrying around a hook to do his excavating, is played here as more of the Han Solo-esque scoundrel initially helping Peter for his own gain, but comes to value his friendship. I appreciate the filmmakers’ confidence that their Pan universe is so engaging they could explore the breakdown of Pan and Hook’s friendship in future installments, but that faith was misguided.
Rooney Mara plays Tiger Lilly, in essence the plucky Princess Leia of our heroic triumvirate, who can handle her own in a fair fight. There’s more than a few nods to the familiar Pan mythos from Smee (Adeel Akhtar), the Jolly Roger, Tinkerbell and even the giant alligator. Their inclusion feels more out of obligation instead of richly contributing to the story and Fuchs doesn’t sufficiently explain their relevancy to this tale.
Visually, the costumes and environments pop with some vividly colorful designs. If only the characters that inhabited the world were as carefully constructed.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Photo credit: Laurie Sparham/Warner Bros.