“Are you brave, Peter?” asks Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). “I try to be,” replies Peter (Levi Miller) who has just survived his first few days in Neverland in the fantasy adventure film, Pan.
Set during the early days of World War II, Peter’s introduced as a young boy who was left at the door of an orphanage as a baby. Now a spirited and mischievous young lad always getting into trouble, Peter challenges the nuns who run the orphanage. He notices that many of the boys seem to disappear during the night when everyone’s asleep and is told by the nuns and Mother Superior that they were adopted and have new homes, an explanation Peter doesn’t believe. One night, Peter decides to try to stay up and see what’s really going on. After a few hours of waiting and nothing happening, Peter gets sleepy and decides to go to bed. Just then, Peter and a few other boys are swept up by bungee-jumping pirates and taken up to a flying pirate ship. Scared of heights, Peter decides not to make a jump for it and stays on board as the ship soars through the sky, sailing beyond even the clouds into space.
The next morning Peter finds himself in Neverland, a dark and magical place ruled by Blackbeard the pirate who’s been kidnapping young orphan boys and bringing them to Neverland so he can put them to work to dig for fairy dust. Peter is forced into the tunnels to dig and fairly quickly comes across a nugget of fairy dust which is then taken away by one of Blackbeard’s henchmen and claimed as his own discovery. Peter, being an obstinate young man, tries to get it back from the creep and is hauled before Blackbeard to be punished. Blackbeard makes an example of Peter, forcing him to walk the plank over a deep, dark pit to this death. But when Peter is forced off the plank, he falls a little more than halfway before he starts to hover and float in midair – an incredible feat seen by everyone in Neverland.
Blackbeard takes Peter back to his cabin and tells him of a prophecy that speaks of a young boy who was taken from Neverland and when he reaches the right age will return to lead an uprising against Blackbeard. The prophecy is about a boy who can fly, a boy known as The Pan. Fearing Peter might be the boy, Blackbeard puts him in the underground prison where Peter is freed by a young adventurer named James Hook (Garrett Hedlund, doing a weird imitation of Harrison Ford) who believes Peter is his ticket to leaving Neverland and getting back home. But Peter’s not just a way for Hook to escape; Hook actually likes the kid but doesn’t want to admit it. Beginning to believe that he might be the boy and that if he is it could mean his mother is somewhere in Neverland, Peter teams up with Hook to try to find the natives, led by Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), in order to find out the truth about his mother, Neverland, and if he is really The Pan.
Directed by Joe Wright, Pan is a cluttered, chaotic, inept mess of a fantasy adventure film with ridiculous, outlandish performances, unimpressive sets, and action scenes that are anything but thrilling.
Hugh Jackman is perhaps the only actor in the film delivering a performance that, although it’s a bit over-the-top, actually fits in a new telling of the Peter Pan legend. He even finds a few scenes to infuse a little bit of humor as well as fear (Blackbeard’s greatest fear is old age and death creeping up on him), and he even shows off his singing voice. It’s just too bad Jackman’s take on the iconic pirate is not enough to save the film from being the disaster that it is.
Garrett Hedlund gives a horribly cartoonish performance as young James Hook, an adventurer who was captured by the pirates and befriends Peter in order to find a way out of Neverland. Hedlund bounces from Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones films to Harrison Ford in Star Wars, and it’s jolting to watch his bizarre take on Hook.
The casting of Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily sparked controversy over the change to the original beloved character’s ethnicity, and Mara’s performance involves not much more than staring wide-eyed into the camera with her big, soft, lovely eyes. Mara’s Tiger Lily doesn’t really do much else except flirt with Hook in a few scenes that don’t connect with the audience and are actually cringe-worthy. It’s a waste of a very talented young actress who has already shown in earlier films she’s capable of so much more.
Newcomer Levi Miller is decent as Peter, the young hell-raiser who defies the nuns at the orphanage and always disobeys the rules as any true Peter Pan would. The character’s written in a way that makes this version of Peter a quivering, fearful, unimpressive young man who bears nothing at all like Peter’s shadow let alone Peter himself once he gets to Neverland.
The overused, overwhelming use of CGI effects are unimpressive and unoriginal. In fact, everything about the film from its look to its set designs to the action scenes seem taken from better films. For instance, the mining and digging area with the boys in Neverland is straight out of Mad Max: Fury Road. The colorful native headquarters looks almost exactly like the lost boys hideout in the film, Hook. The bombing and look of London is right out of the film The Chronicles of Narnia. There’s nothing new or original on screen in Pan, and the classic fairy tale’s been done far better before by other filmmakers.
In short, there’s nothing magical, creative, or fun about Pan. The film doesn’t soar off the screen but instead sinks under the weight of too many effects and bad dialogue.
MPAA Rating: PG for fantasy action violence, language and some thematic material
Running Time: 111 minutes
Release Date: October 9, 2015