PAN (USA | UK | Australia/PG/111mins)
Directed by Joe Wright. Starring Hugh Jackman, Levi Miller, Rooney Mara, Garret Hedlund, Amanda Seyfreid, Cara Delevigne, Kathy Burke, Adeel Akhtar.
THE PLOT: In this origins story, Peter (Levi Miller) is kidnapped from our world during World War II, and taken to Neverland where he must mine pixie dust for the fearsome pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). It’s not long before Peter gets himself into trouble and it is revealed that he is destined to become a hero; a mantle he doesn’t understand and almost certainly doesn’t want.
THE VERDICT: Before we go any further, it has to be said that I am a massive fan of JM Barrie’s original story Peter Pan, and am even a fan of Steven Spielberg’s sequel ‘Hook’. Both of these stories have a sense of fun and danger and, although the ante is definitely upped with Pan, the feeling of wonder, danger and adventure are sorely lacking.
Hugh Jackman plays Blackbeard as a pantomime circus villain, which he does well, but it doesn’t always fit the tone of the film. It’s hard to tell whether Jackman is too caricatured or the film too lacklustre at times. Garrett Hedlund channels Indiana Jones in his version of Hook, which alternates between being a good and a bad thing. Rooney Mara is consistent as Tiger Lily, and obviously has a lot of fun playing this bad ass and charming princess. Levi Miller really tries his hardest as the title character, but it is difficult to tell whether the youngster can’t act or is badly directed, so strange is the tone he creates. The rest of the cast includes Amanda Seyfried as Peter’s mother, Kathy Burke as a pantomime nun, Cara Delevigne as various mermaid and Adeel Akhtar as a charming and on point Smee.
The story, written by Jason Fuchs, doesn’t always capture the otherworldly feel of Neverland and, combined with the structure, leaves the film feeling episodic. There is tons of exposition, which feels awkward and clunky, and although all the elements are there, the film never quite comes together. As well as this, setting the film in World War II for the sake of a set piece seriously messes with JM Barrie’s story, narration comes and goes, and the pacing us uneven.
Director Joe Wright seems to have tried to make ‘Pan’ a fun romp for kids, with tons of slapstick and over the top silliness. The trouble is that chickens laying eggs in zero gravity and the circus pirates don’t seem to fit into the rest of the world created in the film. Add to this some frankly weird singing of Nirvana and Ramones songs, obvious references to ‘Moulin Rouge’ and set pieces that seem to come out of nowhere, and ‘Pan’ is a mess. Thankfully the final act finally gets the tone right and is a lot of fun, and Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography is lovely as usual, even if the spinning, bouncing point of view shots are overused.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Review by Brogen Hayes
2.0A Mess
  • filmbuff2011

    There have been several film versions of Peter Pan, the most recent being in 2003. Yet filmmakers keep getting lured back to Neverland to mine it for more material. This time around, it’s a little different. Joe Wright’s new film Pan is an original prequel to J.M. Barrie’s beloved story. Left at the doorstep of an orphanage as a baby, Peter (Levi Miller) is a dreamer who wants to find out more about his birth mother Mary (Amanda Seyfried). One night, he’s snatched from the orphanage by a group of pirates in a flying ship. He’s whisked away to Neverland by the dastardly Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), who wants him to work the mines to find a precious, rejuvenating fairy jewel. There he meets and befriends James Hook (Garrett Hedlund). Blackbeard soon becomes suspicious of Peter, as he’s not like other boys. There’s a prophecy that Blackbeard will meet his maker at the hands of a boy who can fly. With the help of Hook, Peter must embrace his destiny and band together with the natives, led by Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara). Only then can he set Neverland free from the tyranny of Blackbeard… Jason Fuch’s script made the Hollywood Blacklist – an annual list of the best unproduced scripts. It’s a carefully thought-out script, as it has to pay homage to Barrie and fit in with what’s to come. But it’s also dramatically brave enough to go in its own direction, explaining how Peter can fly and credibly showing that Peter and Hook started out as friends. Wright is the ideal director here. Given that his parents ran a puppet theatre, this is a return to the fantasy worlds of his childhood. He even does so with a striking computer-animated sequence in which the story of Peter’s mother is related in a wood-like characters. It’s a visually arresting film too, with a clever use of colour, sets and costumes. He stages some rousing action sequences – it’s not everyday you see a dogfight between Spitfires and a flying pirate ship. There’s a lot of heart in the story too, but it lacks the emotional counter-balance provided by Wendy in the original story. Miller makes a feisty, flighty Peter. There was an upcry over the casting of a white actor as Tiger Lily, but Mara holds her own in the role. Less successful is Hedlund’s Hook, who speaks in broad American (imitating John Huston perhaps?) and seems out of place in the rest of the story. An almost unrecognisable Jackman channels pure pantomime into Blackbeard, making him a boo-hissable villain rather than one of real threat. Wright doesn’t connect all the dots to Peter Pan though – perhaps leaving room for a sequel to this prequel? Or maybe a new version of Peter Pan? Pan may be flawed, but it’s still hugely likeable family entertainment. ***

  • emerb

    Over the years, Peter Pan has been a family friendly source for many animated and live-action films. In addition to the 1953 Disney cartoon, there have been various other iterations including Steven Spielberg’s “Hook” (featuring Robin Williams) and “Finding Neverland” (which saw Johnny Depp as JM Barrie). Joe Wright’s family-adventure spin on JM Barrie’s stories imagines how and why Peter Pan became the boy he did. We get an origin story for the beloved, eternally juvenile Peter – how and why he became a Pan. Some characters are the same, but the story is new. It deals primarily with Peter’s introduction to Neverland and his attempts to locate his mother with a special focus on who his parents were and why they abandoned him at an orphanage in 1930’s London.

    In this prequel to the Peter Pan legend, we first meet the infant Peter (Levi Miller) being left by his obviously distraught mother on the steps of an orphanage in London. Then we jump forward 12 years to London during the Blitz when the Nazi’s are bombarding the city. Peter is now 12 years old and remains a virtual prisoner in the home, constantly being targeted by the evil head nun (Kathy Bates) who runs the orphanage. The despicable ways of the nuns run even deeper than Peter suspects — as well as hoarding rations, they’ve been selling kids off to pirates who magically swoop down from the night sky and whisk them away in their flying boats. In the midst of Peter’s miserable existence, one incredible night he is one of the children snatched from the orphanage dormitory and spirited off to a fantastical world of pirates, warriors and fairies called Neverland – the fantasy world above the clouds. Peter’s own kidnapping supplies the film’s most thrilling action, as the raiders’ airborne ship dodges RAF fighters and rockets up among the stars. Upon Peter’s arrival, more hardship is in store under the reign of fearsome, flamboyant pirate Blackbeard (an almost unrecognisable Hugh Jackman), who is engaged in a war with fairies and natives. His obsession is the search for eternal youth — something he chases by forcing his young orphan “Lost Boys” to dig unendingly in a monstrous mine, in a quest to capture a rare mineral called Pixium (the solidified form of pixie dust). When he learns that Peter is “the boy who can fly” and therefore might fulfill a prophecy, he becomes intensely interested in the newcomer. Peter decides his best option is to join Blackbeard’s opponents. Teamed with the warrior Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) and a stalwart ally 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

    The cast is strong. Newcomer Levi Miller is a gifted actor who gives Peter a full range of emotions while making him appealing and rather charming. This is his big-screen debut in the title role and he proves himself to be well up to the task, taking us on the magical adventure of young Peter, who evolves into Peter Pan after he unexpectedly learns he has the ability to fly. Amazingly, he can hold his own in scenes with not only Jackman, but Rooney Mara and Garrett Hedlund (as Peter’s friend Hook, before he becomes his nemesis Captain Hook). Hugh Jackman’s gives a devilish, mischievous performance as the unhinged BlackBeard. It is both theatrical and cartoonish but fits the prevailing mood. Mara also acquits herself well as the fiercely determined Tiger Lily.

    “Pan” is a solid family-friendly fairytale blockbuster which is loud, colourful, busy and full of ideas. Thanks to wonderful special effects, some inventive uses for the 3-D, non-stop action and bright production design, this proves to be an intriguing new take on J.M. Barrie’s classic “Peter Pan” tale. “Pan” looks great, it’s a pure visual treat which should delight kids, although the darkness of some of the material may make it unsuitable for younger audiences. Neverland bursts with vitality, the colours are vibrant and Joe Wright keeps things moving along at a nice brisk pace. While this film may not be on a par with the flair Wright has demonstrated for action in “Hanna”or period drama with “Atonement”, nonetheless it is a refreshingly imaginative film that will be enjoyed both by pre-teen children and the parents who will more than likely be joining them.

  • Randy

    Yet another but refreshingly different take on Peter Pan which unfortunately suffers under the overreliance on CGI. There are moments which are wonderful, especially scenes at the orphanage, with inspired production design and a very dislikable character. High Jackman is relishing his role and Rooney Mara is lovely but doesn’t have much to do. Ultimately, I’d recommend this film to the younger generation and the whole family for the adventure and the values it highlights. While it doesn’t always work, it makes for an exciting and valuable time s[ent at the movies. 3/5