Thanks to Roadshow Films we had the chance to see PAN before its national release. This is our review of the movie, but as usual, no matter what we say, we still recommend you to go and see it at your local cinema – because there is no better critic than yourself!
After several big screen-incarnations of Peter Pan, director Joe Wright and Warner Bros. are trying to bring the classic tale back to life with a prequel. This new version does not borrow as much inspiration from the whimsical story of Peter Pan as it does from more recent fairy tales like those of Star Wars, Harry Potter and Pirates of The Caribbean. As a result, this Prequel Pan feels like a cynical and opportunistic rehash of other and better franchises, without much heart, soul or authenticity.
The story starts off at an orphanage in London during wartime, where we first encounter Peter (young Aussie actor Levi Miller) as a little boy facing the torment of a sadistic and greedy head-nun. It turns out she is selling all the orphan boys to an evil pirate captain named Blackbeard (an almost unrecognizable Hugh Jackman), who uses the kids as miners to get him fairydust. When we first see Blackbeard he parades around in a set that looks just like Immortan Joe’s lair from Mad Max: Fury Road, while hundreds of child slaves are singing Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” a good fifty years before the song was written. No we are not making this up, and to make things even weirder they later start singing “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones as well.
In the mines young Peter meets a cool cowboy named Hook, played by Garrett Hedlund who is doing his best Harrison Ford impersonation, as Hook is not an evil pirate here but a mixture of Han Solo and Indiana Jones. When Peter and Hook escape together they end up in the forests of Neverland, where they get captured by the natives in a scene almost directly copied from Return of the Jedi. This is where they meet Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), who seems to take a liking to the heroic Hook. When both the natives and Blackbeard discover Peter is the chosen one, a good hour of loud and chaotic chase scenes ensues, pretty much like any of the three Pirates of the Caribbean-sequels.
The loud and noisy tone of the movie makes for a big contrast with anything director Joe Wright has done before; his previous films include bitterly serious stuff such as Atonement and Anna Karenina; with that in mind you expect the director went in with a very different film in mind. It appears as if somewhere along the way the studio took over and the main idea became building a franchise. Whatever story and fleshed out characters there were at the start of the production must have been quickly cast aside for a lot of CGI chase scenes with shouting and falling characters. It’s also hard to imagine that Jackman, one of the few actors around with the luxury of being able to choose their roles, would have signed on to this film if the initial screenplay looked anything like the end result. The charismatic star actor is obviously having a blast delivering a delightful over the top performance, but even Hugh Jackman can’t save this movie.
Pan borrows as many elements as it can from other franchises, throws all of it at the wall at the same time, and desperately hopes something will stick sufficiently to warrant a sequel. It is to be seen if audiences will fall for this or not.