A prequel to J.M. Barrie’s beloved Peter Pan, Joe Wright’s Pan (2015) takes the audience back to the war-torn 1940s before young Peter (Levi Miller) became the boy everyone knows him to be. Locked up in an orphanage where his mother left him as a baby, Peter (Levi Miller) survives on scraps, poorly treated by the monstrous nuns. But when pirates come in the dead of night, Peter is whisked away to Neverland, a far away magical land where Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) rules the roost.
When Peter hears of a prophesy that he believes he may have something to do with he teams up with swashbuckling hero Captain Hook (Garret Hedlund) and princess Tigerlily (Rooney Mara) in a bid to discover his destiny. An unnecessary and altogether chaotic endeavour, Pan displays none of the childlike wonder and awe that was instilled into Barrie’s creation, instead the script carving Peter out to be some chosen one with special abilities, à la characters from Marvel comics. It’s an origin story that makes absolutely no sense to the story that’s supposed to come after it, with many liberties, particularly with characterisations.
The script, penned by Jason Fuchs, is full of various ideas and narrative threads built on top of others, none of which make any sense. If there’s anything about the film that does work, then it comes right at the beginning with the story is played as a sort of Oliver, in which Peter is seen as he rightfully should be – as a child with a sense of mischief getting up to no good and using his wits – and cheekiness – to solve problems. It’s when the action reaches Neverland that all logic is lost. Unfortunately, Wright doesn’t have a good enough hold of the reigns either. Instead of tightening up when the script spirals out, Wright instead follows suit, inserting mad visuals and enormous crocodiles to create momentary wonder rather than anything of real merit or longstanding. Pan is oddly cast, too. Jackman, while fun to watch in places, feels like he’s in an entirely different world let alone film and Hedlund makes for an incredibly dull leading man, bringing none of the drollness Harrison Ford brought to, say, Indiana Jones. It all makes for a finished product that’s nothing short of a mess – a pantomime without the laughs or sense of fun which made Barrie’s source text.
Jamie Neish | @EmptyScreens