Pan Review (2015)
Say ‘Peter Pan’ to most people and you’ll conjure up memories of the Disney animated film. Sadly this is not that. Pan is instead a shameless cash grab – desperate to farm an origin story where one isn’t really needed. Let’s hold our memories close and take a close look at the mess that is ‘Pan’.
The story begins on a stormy London night. A woman leaves her baby boy; Peter (Levi Miller), outside Lambeth Home for Boys – an orphanage run by Mother Barnabas (Played by Kathy Burke). The first of many odd decisions occurs here as the film jumps to the Blitz (Peter Pan is traditionally set in the Edwardian period) where Peter is kidnapped abruptly by Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). From here Peter is condemned to working some mines with lots of other kidnapped children. But our Peter is nothing if not resilient – and strikes up a friendship with Tiger Lily (A young Hook). Before long our heroic duo escape and the plot of the film kicks off in earnest.
Visually the film is a mess. In my ‘Snow White’ review I went to great lengths to say how everything on screen came together to create a beautiful experience. This film is loaded with CGI effects that never embrace the fairytale nature of it all – feeling cumbersome and in places exceeding cheap. There are brief moments when it comes off and the film manages to somehow throw you into the world – but it never takes long for the CGI to laboriously drag you back. The scene at the beginning where the Royal Air Force fights the pirate ship in particular feels like a ham-fisted attempt to give the movie some momentum early on – which only ends up adding the confusion. It looks sloppy and really poorly put together – something that you wouldn’t expect from a blockbuster in 2015.
And it’s not just visuals that really hurt this film – it’s a lot of questionable tone choices. The first hour of the film takes place almost exclusively in the kind of dark, dirty places that wouldn’t look out of place in the recent ‘Mad Max’. Wright and Fuchs script overindulges in misery and seemingly does things for the sake of emphasising this. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the films score – with an astounding decision to include Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to the chorus of thousands of suffering children. It’s never explained, never noted by any of the characters and completely forgotten within 2 minutes. It’s terrible and throws you completely out of the movie. But oh does it get worse from there.
You’d hope with the likes of Hugh Jackman on board that the film would at least aspire to impress in it’s acting. But no, and he doesn’t even give the worst performance in this film. Hedlund’s Hook has all the confidence of a dead rat lumbering through his scenes and conveying none of the expected authority. At times it feels like he’s in a different film entirely and his overly campy portrayal of Hook threatens to derail the film at numerous points. Hugh Jackman is laughably over the top – so much so that you’ll almost suspect he’s in on the joke of how bad this film is. Meanwhile Levi Miller looks totally lost as the lead – throwing himself into every scene but coming off with the kind of stiffness that kills careers. His Pan is one that tries to ground himself in reality – but only ends up feeling corny and cliché. Against a backdrop of shocking CGI and characters with no depth – it’s easy to see why he struggled for inspiration.
In conclusion, this is a truly sad case of trying to turn a whimsical fairytale into something more grounded – with the end result a mismanaged film that doesn’t know who it wants to appeal to. The acting is bad, the CGI is shaky and the whole thing feels like a poor mans attempt to imitate much more successful films. Neverland has never looked so terrible.
Overview: Abysmal attempt to capture the magic of a much loved fairytale ends up feeling like a gritty parody. Avoid.