Ever wondered how Peter Pan and Captain Hook became mortal enemies? Well, prepare to continue wondering as Joe Wright’s Pan completely misses the point and dumps a steaming pile of unoriginal crap onto our laps.
After spending his early childhood in a dingy London orphanage, Peter (Aussie actor Levi Miller) is whisked off to the mysterious island of Neverland by a band of nasty pirates. Set to work in a colossal mine with the sole aim of unearthing fairy dust for the fearsome pirate captain, Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), Peter meets James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), a roguish adventurer and Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), a striking warrior princess who tell him of a prophecy set in motion by his late mother Mary (Amanda Seyfried) to bring peace to the magical kingdom.
It might feel a little unfair to hate on this movie because, at the end of the day, I’m clearly not the target audience. Nor does the film have bad intentions; screenwriter Jason Fuchs and director Joe Wright obviously have a love for JM Barrie‘s original novel, and the subsequent Disney animated adaptation that many people my age will have grown up with. But, that being said, 2015’s Pan does both of these predecessors a great disservice, and hardly deserves to be even mentioned in the same sentence.
You see, underneath the glossy exterior, this film is the very definition of derivative. It borrows and steals story elements, characters and visual motifs from other, more successful franchises in an attempt to win our affection; the clichéd “chosen one” narrative is torn straight from Harry Potter, whilst Hedlund’s Hook and Mara’s Tiger Lily are essentially Han Solo and Princess Leia in all but name. Even James Cameron‘s Avatar is drawn from during one scene set in a fluorescent forest, all whilst our hero befriends a hostile tribe of natives, and learns to fly a dangerous winged beast in order to save the day amongst a colourful sky filled with unexplained floating objects.
The colourful characters and locations certainly look flash, but suffer from the same CGI overload that scuppered recent features like Tomorrowland or Oz: The Great and Powerful; you rarely get the sense that the talented cast are striding across an actual, tangible set instead of the vast green screen backdrop that has become commonplace in Hollywood.
Narratively, Pan sinks faster than a lead balloon; the film promises us a look at how Peter and Hook transitioned from friends into enemies, and then dispenses with that in order to focus on Peter’s inexplicable quest for information about his mother – presumably he couldn’t give two shits about the other 50% of his parentage. Hedlund isn’t bad as the future one-handed Captain, but his character is in fact more of a hero at the end of the film than at the start; so, when does his hatred of Peter come into play? Put simply, never. If you were hoping for a compelling prelude to one of cinema’s greatest rivalries, you’d best put those on ice for the time being; Pan keeps things squeaky clean from start to finish.
However, the cardinal sin is Jackman’s awful performance as Blackbeard; it’s like he just binge watched all four Pirates of the Caribbean movies, snorted some coke and pretended he was the demented half-brother of Jack Sparrow for the entire time. Overacted and nowhere near as comical as you’d hope, Jackman misses the mark entirely on this one.
When all is said and done, Pan will leave you feeling utterly disappointed and robbed. Flashes of ingenuity are all too infrequent in this otherwise uninspired family film that talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk. Kids will love the colourful characters, adults will finally have chance to catch up on much needed sleep.
Screw this, I’m going to watch Hook instead.
Pan screens at Perth’s Rooftop Movies Sunday 15th November
Images courtesy of Roadshow Films