Pan: Film Review
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara,
Director: Joe Wright
Joe "Atonement / Anna Karenina" Wright's Pan is rarely as good as its opening sequence.
It's one which puts the stuff of childhood playtimes and active little boys' imaginations into the world of reality / fantasy with pirate ships soaring through the skies as they are attacked by British planes in a bizarre dogfight.
But once the film heads to Neverland, it's almost as if some of the vivid imagination is ironically lost, even if the visual flair isn't.
The film's a prequel and as such deals with the abandonment of Peter (Levi Miller, all cockney kid fresh out of Mary Poppins school of character writing) and his dream of escaping the orphanage run with grisly gusto by Kathy Burke's evil nun. Convinced the boys are being taken in the night, Peter waits up one evening only to find his suspicions given form. Swept up in the theft and onto Blackbeard's pirate ships, Peter finds himself in a new world and facing ever more peril.
Mainly in the shape of a prophecy and a pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman in pantomimey form) who believes that Peter will try to overthrow him...However, with the native princess Tigerlily (Mara) and the rogueish Hook (Hedlund), Peter finds he has friends that he never expected in this battle.
Pan is a mix of so many other influences of film that it occasionally struggles to garner an identity of its own.
Hedlund's Hook is a melange of characters and by definition, not one of his own. Even though you know ultimately how it will turn out for him. By turns Indiana Jones style explorer / 30s B-movie pastiche and Han Solo / Leia romantic interaction with Mara's doe-eyed Tigerlily, Hedlund overplays his part and ends up being one of the memorable people in the cast for all the wrong reasons.
Likewise, Miller's plucky luv-a-duck youngster grates, giving this Pan the type of character you want to slap as much as you grimace when he comes out with lines like "Holy pudding!", as if lifted from the Dick van Dyke school of writing.
There's some depth to Jackman's Blackbeard and his first appearance with all the lost boys singing Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit adding to the oddness on show. But parts of his character are left without answer either, with one shot introducing a rejuvenator to keep him young and then ditching it with no explanation in favour of his Nazi-esque determination to wipe out the pixie race.
If anything, Wright's prequel will be justly remembered for its Irwin Allen-esque visuals as it creates the tribal territories land, filling them with the kind of wonder of a Sunday afternoon TV jaunt that fired the imagination. In fact, it's the FX which help this film soar in the minds of kids, and the 3D brings much depth, as well as the obligatory duck from cannon-balls being fired toward you.
Mixing in Star Wars, Superman-esque flying in a fairy covered fortress of solitude, and some utterly bonkers ideas, this prequel will more likely fire with the kids than the adults. It becomes a sensory and silly overload that will keep many of them enthralled and will see them leaving with the biggest cinematic sugary hit ever. A little more work on the characters and this Pan prequel really could have flown as high as Peter believes he could.