In a twist to the original tale, Peter (Levi Miller) is in an orphanage during the London Blitz. The bombs hardly seem the biggest issue though as the head nun on duty is positively atrocious. Not only that, orphans keep disappearing during the night and despite rumors of being adopted off to Canada, something fishy is obviously going on here.
Pretty soon Peter finds out what has been happening to all those lost boys – they are being sold off to otherworldly pirates who need them to mine Pixum (pixie dust). All at the behest of the sinister Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Once in Neverland, Peter finds out all sorts of things about himself. Things like he can miraculously fly, connections to his mother Mary (Amanda Seyfried), and that maybe he’s the pixies’ messiah. Yes, really.
The film starts out with an aesthetic that calls to mind the overused visions of Zach Snyder and Frank Miller. That’s quickly forgotten though as we are instead treated to colorful eye poppage in a Neverland that features steampunkish flying pirate ships, skeleton dodos, and a rousing rendition Nirvana’s Smells like Teen Spirit. Yes, really.
The whole world here created by director Joe Wright is so strange in its eccentricities and anachronistic elements that it is immediately captivating and entertaining. It works best if you don’t think too hard about it though. The rest of the cast makes about as much sense as Jackman, Seyfried, and Nirvana. An enthusiastically overacting Garret Hedlund chews so much scenery you’d think he was the croc instead of a weird cowboy version of Hook that is like some strange combination of Harrison Ford‘s more popular characters. I swear there are direct references to both Indiana Jones and Han Solo in there. Adeel Akhtar is delightful as Mr. Smee if strangely effeminate and a bit of an unlikable rat at times. And Rooney Mara is Tiger Lily. Yes, really.
Okay, the whole Tiger Lily controversy isn’t nearly as bad as it’s been made out to be since the whole tribe is racially diverse (other than including any actual Native Americans from what I can tell). It more or less makes sense in context, but it’s still a bit odd of a choice.
Story-wise, it’s fairly interesting and rather imaginative for the first half or so. Foreshadowing is thrown about in a manner which is somewhat clever, like when James Hook is dragging his hand through crocodile infested waters. I’m not at all sure Peter Pan needed an origin story prequel, but this manages to be an interesting one with some great visuals and slick action. And then much of whatever goodwill this odd beast of a film has built up is dashed on the rocks by an ending that falls so flat it’s practically concave. Rushed, predictable, and illogical, it just doesn’t work. And then it seemingly sets up a sequel.
The 3D, it is worth mentioning, is worth mentioning. While some will complain of it’s frenetic gimmicky nature, I appreciated the liberal use of all three dimensions. If I see a swashbuckling adventure in 3D, I want to see cannonballs whiz by my head, and that – and more – is what you’ll get here.
I’ll admit, I’m a bit schizophrenic when it comes to Pan – Yes, I was entertained, but that doesn’t make it a good movie. If you already miss the blockbusters of the summer and want something weird and blustery to fill that void, go right ahead – just know what you’re getting into first.
Mrs. Hamster says:
“It’s an interesting take on the story, but I’m not sure I buy it. I think I would have liked it better if it didn’t call itself a Peter Pan story (as in, people need to make more original movies and not fall back on old stories when they have a decent plot).”
My rating: Two out of five hats
Pan flies into theaters nationwide, October 9