Every legend has a beginning.
Pan, the grand retelling of the beloved story about the boy who refuses to grow up, may have a stellar cast and millions of dollars invested in post-production effects but that is not enough to save this dismal film.
Just as the film’s tagline suggests, “Every legend has a beginning,” Pan tells of Peter’s origin story. Left at a dreadful orphanage as an infant, he travels to Neverland on a pirate ship where he encounters mermaids, Indians, pirates, fairies and eventually becomes the leader of the Lost Boys as we know him.
Unfortunately for those executives behind approving this film for a $150 million budget, there is very little in Pan worthy of the label ‘good’. The acting is atrociously one-dimensional, the narrative is dry and nearing on plagiarism, the CGI is distractingly over-used, and worst of all there is no heart or soul in the story. It has come to our conclusion that perhaps making a live adaptation of a Disney animated film is no easy feat and hope future studios take note.
Let’s start with the good since it will take the least amount of time. The fantastical production and set designers truly created a vividly imaginative world that is perfectly aligned with the atmosphere and heart of the Neverland created by J.M. Barrie. That alone helps to transport the audience, namely the children in the audience, to that marvelous place second star to the right and straight on til morning. The costumes also create a level of wonder one hopes to get from a film of this caliber. The use of color and texture on the characters Blackbeard and Tiger Lily are inspiring while the mute natural tones of Peter and James Hook are appropriately subdued.
There is one awesome moment in the film that deserves special recognition and must be included in the review. About half way through the film, Tiger Lily begins to tell Peter the story of his mother and the fairy prince. Her voice slowly fades into this wondrous animated story made of clay and mud that transforms before your very eyes showing you the story Tiger Lily recites. It reminds us of that moment in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when we learn of the deathly hallows in an animated sequence by Ben Hibon. At least someone involved in the making of Pan captured the charm that captivated our hearts as children and, if nothing else, at least the mind behind the animation in Pan was able to create something original and awesome.
Now onto the bad, and hold onto your britches because you might be here for awhile. First the performances, for who to blame remains a mystery to us. Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard relies on screaming from the diaphragm as his hair and makeup completely overwhelm the character. Garrett Hedlund does his best impression of an adventurer a la Indiana Jones the entire time, but his gargly and gutteral vibrato is forced and unemotional. Rooney Mara is aloof and stone faced which doesn’t bode well with the character dynamic created in the film. The only good performance is by Levi Miller as Peter Pan, he encapsulates the willfulness of a child but the steadfast honesty of Peter.
In the end, Pan feels like a poor rip-off of Oliver or Harry Potter or a copy of the recent Oz the Great and Powerful trying to capitalize on market demand. Nothing proves this further than the inclusion of moderns songs like Nirvana in the film. In trying to market to children and adults alike, the story comes across as overly muddled and simultaneously simplistic with a childish tone rather than magical innocence.
What it comes down to it is the director Joe Wright was not able to inspire those involved in the film to create a charmingly endearing narrative because he was unable to connect to the soul of the material. Pan fails at leaving its indelible mark the way Hook remains agelessly in our hearts.
Pan – Movie Review