Pan Review

The Plot

One night a 12-year-old orphan Peter is spirited away from blitz ravaged 1940s London to the magical world of Neverland. While searching for his lost mother he befriends a young James T. Hook and faces off against the dread Pirate Blackbeard. Finding fun and dangers, he ultimately discovers his destiny to become the hero who will be forever known as Peter Pan.

The Good

As a prequel to the overly familiar J.M. Barrie tales of Neverland Pan at least has the distinction of exploring some fresh ground. Despite numerous screen versions and reimagining’s of Peter Pan this film promises to be an original adventure, reintroducing a whole host of beloved timeless characters.

Director Joe Wright has an accomplished CV full of costume rich period dramas, so it was always a safe bet that the world of Neverland would be intricately well dressed. Combined with a generous special effects budget, Neverland is full of flying pirate ships and beautiful fantasy locations. It’s as colourful, camp and grandiose a vision of J.M. Barrie’s creations as has ever been realised on screen before.

Landing Hugh Jackman as the villainous Captain Blackbeard is a major coup for the film. Jackman is likeable menacing and delightfully dastardly as the shamelessly showboating pirate villain determined to live forever at any price. He’s a neatly ready-made substitute for the not yet nasty Hook.

The Bad

While Pan has a flamboyant colourful style that will distract and mostly entertain young audiences, older audiences may find some of the creative choices a little more puzzling or troubling. Having the pirates of Neverland happily singing Nirvana grunge anthem Smells Like Teen Spirit is the most obvious example. It’s a jarring and inexplicable mix of pop cultures that is certain to strongly divide opinions. It’s either wonderfully whimsical or laughably silly.

The film had already attracted vocal criticism for casting Rooney Mara as Neverland’s native princess Tiger Lilly. Though Mara’s pale face may be in sharp contrast to the typically Native American depiction of the character, she remains an excellent actress and does well in the role in spite of this issue. Director Joe Wright has been quick to defend the decision anyway by insisting his Neverland and its inhabitants are more globalised and fantastical than heavy handed tribal stereotypes.

Playing Barrie’s most iconic creations Levi Miller as the young Peter and Garrett Hedlund as James T. Hook meet with mixed success at best.

British audiences will find newcomer Miller’s overly cockney orphan particularly cringe worthy in places. Likewise Garrett Hedlund deliver his own confounding choice of accent for Hook, sounding something like a cross between a 1940s used car salesman and Heath Ledger’s Joker. It’s such a distracting vocal performance that it manages to largely negate the charm of Garrett’s handsome good looks and a script generously trying to making him an action hero.

The film optimistically saves the origin story of ’Captain Hook’ for potential sequels, unfortunately leaving audiences feeling short changed by a prequel that still feels only half told. Though the creative team behind Pan have ambitious plans to stretch things out into a lucrative trilogy, it feels unnecessary and perhaps ill advised. It may prove a mistake to save the most interesting parts of this newly invented backstory for a second or third film that may never even become a reality.

The Ugly Truth

Pan is a colourful fantasy adventure that will likely keep its target audience of younger children mostly entertained. Grownups by turn will at least be able to enjoy watching Hugh Jackman shamelessly ham things up. If the film does prove to be a box office success, in truth the potential sequels may finally offer audiences a more interesting chapter in the back story of Hook and Pan.

Review by Russell Nelson

Leave A Comment