12-year-old Peter (Levi Miller) has always thought he was special despite what the nuns at the orphanage tell him. But he doesn’t realise how special he is until he is whisked away in the night and spirited away to Neverland where he is forced to work for Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) who dreams of ruling the mysterious land.
After a daring escape alongside Hook (Garret Headlund) and Sam Smiegel (Adeel Akhtar), and a chance meeting with Tigerlily (Rooney Mara), Peter learns that he is indeed special and soon sees why Blackbeard wants him dead.
Pan was always going to be a film that came under a lot of scrutiny and was going to cop a fair whack of criticism. There are some Disney purists out there that believe once Disney has touched a story there is no need for anyone else to explore the story, and while I disagree with that I do agree with the fact that their have been some pretty dreadful movies over the years that have touched on both the Peter Pan and Captain Hook storylines. What I didn’t expect for Pan though was for it to become a film so alternative that some parents are arguing whether or not it is suitable for children to watch or not.
Now I’ll be honest helicopter parents who are too afraid to let their children play in dirt annoy me. They are normally the same kind of parents that will look for the slightest detail in a film that makes it ‘unwatchable’ for kids and then take to social media on a rant, or tell you why you liking the film is wrong! I’ll also admit that I grew up in the generation where films like Never Ending Story and all it’s magic, plus a healthy dose of monsters with chainsaws (I’m looking at you Gremlins) was considered okay for children to watch at the cinema. Having said that I do agree that Pan is not for very small children, but hey if you have older kids and teens then go nuts because the alternative feel to Pan is actually something a little bit refreshing.
Yes there are some problem scenes for small children, Blackbeard has no problem firing guns at children and natives alike while at the same time Tigerlily doesn’t mind getting a little stabby with some sharp objects but there is also a hell of a lot to like about this film as well. For starts director Joe Wright (known for Pride & Prejudice and Hanna to name a few) and screenwriter Jason Fuchs’ choice to include the songs of bands like Nirvana and The Ramones during some of their scenes came as a complete surprise while the aggression of characters like Blackbird seemed to make this feel seem a lot more ‘real’ then what your typical style of ‘slapstick violence’ would have.
Having declared that there were things about Pan that I loved I also have to admit that the film had its weak points. While the film moves along well it seems to lose a lot of its suspense once Peter, Sam and Hook are out in the wilds of Neverland and despite a relatively good flying Pirate ship chase and battle not even this scene seems to have captured the air of suspense that it deserves. It almost felt at times that Wright is the kind of director that can milk suspense out of a dramatic scene, like when Blackbeard first confronts Peter in the captain’s cabin, but is a little bit out of his depth when it comes to huge action sequences.
The same can also be said for the screenplay’s set up of characters. Peter and Blackbeard get wonderful set-ups which in turn allows Hugh Jackman to shine, but then there is the character of Hook, who any Peter Pan fan will tell you becomes a major character in the lead character’s life. Here Hook is a bit of a mystery, and strangely seems to be a nod as a tribute to Indiana Jones.
This also causes an inconsistency in the acting as well. Levi Miller announces himself as a little star with a brilliant performance in his debut lead role but even he is out acted by Hugh Jackman who relishes in the role of the ‘bad guy’ Blackbird. Jackman here puts in a performance here that we have wanted to see Johnny Depp deliver over the past few years. Jackman is completely transformed and unrecognisable and he genuinely becomes one of Hollywood’s meaner screen nasties. Sadly, the film’s poor reception means most cinema lovers will miss out on the performance.
Also stepping up here is Rooney Mara. Sure she doesn’t have anything near as dramatic to work with as she did when she did Girl With A Dragon Tattoo but she does has her moments as Tigerlily. The criticism she has copped for being a white actress playing a ‘native’ role is also ludicrous. If you look around the ‘tribe’ in Pan they seem to be made up of people of all skin colors, including an Australian Aboriginal playing the tribe’s leader, so seriously the complaints are just a few keyboard warriors with very little to do. Be warned if you’re a fan of Amanda Seyfried or Cara Delevingne just beware that their roles are very small indeed.
Pan certainly does not deserve the backlash that it has received as a film. Sure some of the action sequences do not reach the great heights that they should, but for the most part this is a well acted and alternatively fresh film aimed for teens.