The story of an orphan who is spirited away to the magical Neverland. There, he finds both fun and dangers, and ultimately discovers his destiny — to become the hero who will be forever known as Peter Pan.
Pan is the latest big budget film to delve into a classic childrens story to conjure up a new angle to explore and possibly kick off a film series. This film works as a quasi-prequel to the classic tale, and depicts Peter Pan’s first visit to Neverland including encounters with the villain Blackbeard and the beginning of a friendship with James Hook.
Director Joe Wright has taken a lavish approach to Pan, with colourful, well-crafted sets and elaborate set pieces that propel the adventure in an entertaining fashion. The film opens on a dour World War 2 England, quickly establishing Peter as a relentless little adventurer even before the real adventure begins.
Pan has a few interesting creative choices, thematically it’s packed with some darker ideas of war and even slavery, but further to that the central characters are never afforded the opportunity to have any fun. For something related to a classic story about a boy who never grows up, this seems like an important part of Peter Pan that’s been over looked here. We’re also treated to Pirate chanting rendition of songs such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, and “Blitzkreig Bop” which both feel somewhat out of place.
The overall plot is generally serviceable with nothing elaborate or sophisticated going on, though it draws together some fun sequences. Some of the dialogue is overly clunky and forced, this isn’t helped by the fact that some of the character relationships feel so artificial without any real basis or substance for their development. The Tiger Lily character tends to suffer the most in this sense, without much progression in her character. The Hook and Pan relationship is handled with more care and it’s enjoyable to see these two characters on their journey together given how we know things will ultimately wind up.
Additionally the film is over stuffed with classic Peter Pan references, as if to constantly remind us of the wider context in which this film sits. From throwaway dialogue references to multiple creature cameos Pan never wants us to forget the relevance of its story and that this is building up to something.
Visually Pan is a fun extravaganza and while generally I’m not a fan of 3D, it is utilised very effectively in this film. The effects are highly entertaining and engaging, and coupled with some interesting action sequence design, it’s enough to make up for some of the weaknesses elsewhere.
Hugh Jackman is clearly having a good time, he really embraces the villainous role and holds little back in his performance, Garett Hedlund was also a highlight for me. Despite being somewhat hamstrung by a jarring accent and a characterisation that was more cowboy than pirate, he’s great in the role and surprisingly felt a little reminiscent of Indiana Jones at times. Rooney Mara was fine but clearly didn’t have much to do, and Levi Miller really puts his heart into this performance and while a little over energetic, gives an earnest performance as Pan and is enjoyable to watch.
Pan easily has its share of problems (probably more than its share), mostly in the scripting story elements of the film. It also has some engaging action, colourful set pieces and strong visual storytelling elements. It’s an enjoyable watch, but on a fairly superficial basis.
I’m giving it 6 out of 10 stars, you can catch Pan on screens around Australia from 24 September 2015.