By Laurie Coker
The new, prequel of sorts, to the tale of Peter Pan and Neverland, Pan, while visually stunning is fraught with blandness in storyline and in a one notable and annoying performance. Starring Hugh Jackman, Levi Miller, Rooney Mara and Garrett Hedlund, Pan may appeal to young children, by virtue of its colorful imagery, but not to adults or older kids, which is ironic given its PG rating. Writer Jason Fuchs, based on the characters of J.M. Barrie, leaves his ending wide open to a sequel, another irony, given that director Joe Wright’s telling is little more than splashes of color and special effects.
Taking into consideration the films rating, I spoke at length with my granddaughter and her mom about whether or not to take the four-year-old to see Pan. Her favorite character thus far, perhaps only and temporarily replaced by Kid Flash, is Peter Pan – anything Peter Pan, the book, older movies and even Pete and the Neverland Pirates. We decided that I represent “parental guidance” and the trailer showed nothing scary or inappropriate, so off she and I went – grabbing our 3D classes on our way in. Turns out I needn’t worry at all, because my little Leia might have been the only person to have truly enjoyed the movie and she, of course, loved Peter (Miller) most of all.
Miller, perhaps, is the best thing about Pan – he, and I suppose, Jackman and Mara, since their performances are as enormous as the film is colorful. Unlike co-star Garrett Hedlund, their characters and their portrayals amused and entertained me. Adorable Miller is an excellent Peter – delightful, a natural talent, who acts like I believe Peter would act. Hedlund, however, as James Hook, later Captain Hook, annoys unabashedly – with an out of place cowboy-esque accent and peculiar mannerisms, and this is coming from a person who actually liked Dustin Hoffman’s weird Hook. Helgund, a mid-westerner, has made his mark in a few films, but Pan will not garner any praise as far as I am concerned.
In Pan, Peter’s backstory fails to flesh out anything of note, except that Peter and Hook begin as friends and the villain of the this tale is Blackbeard a ruthless man who steals – has captured and kidnapped minions who mine – fairy dust to maintain his youth. Jackman owns Blackbeard full on – brazen, ostentatious, and outlandishly engaging. Mara, on the other hand, except for her initial costume (her headdress in particular), fits and plays her character Tiger Lilly far more subtly and straight-forward, but nonetheless, she entertains.
With flying ships, swashbuckling pirates, teeny, twinkling fairies and brilliant set pieces, Pan in 3D, keeps the brain busy, while poor pacing and a pitiable plotline lull it to the edge of sleep. Most of the film’s characters are beyond cartoon caricatures of people, except for Peter – great for a four-year-old, but not so great for her parental guide. I didn’t nod off, but ate far too much popcorn trying to stay awake. Wright obviously overinflates Pan with a barrage of special effect to make up for Fuchs’ inadequate and unremarkable script. I am placing a D in my grade book – and I am not looking forward to the follow-up film that is sure to come.