Unnecessary. That’s the inescapable word that plagues “Pan” throughout its hefty 111 minute running time. It saddles the impish, carefree character of J M Barrie’s timeless tale with a hackneyed chosen one narrative so crushingly unsubtle that the characters actually use the phrase ‘chosen one’ near constantly.
Abandoned on the steps of an orphanage as a baby, Peter is left in the none-too-tender care of the crooked nuns until, at the age of 12, they sell him to the pirates who spirit him away to the magical realm of Neverland to work in Captain Blackbeard’s mines. In the mines, he meets James Hook and the two of them join forces to escape and find Peter’s true destiny.
Levi Miller makes for a likeably pugnacious Peter, perfectly capturing that rose-tinted ‘boys own adventure’ mind-set and having a blast with the craziness going on all around him. Hugh Jackman likewise, despite a weirdly off-putting character design, chews the scenery with such unrestrained gusto that you can’t help but warm to his performance, even if tonally his character is all over the place – as is the film itself. Controversially miscast Rooney Mara does well as Tiger Lilly but Garrett Hedlund’s turn as James Hook is just plain weird. Slightly crazed in the eyes, it’s his intonation which really grates, landing somewhere in a weirdly over enunciating zone between Jack Nicholson and Jack Palance. No matter how many Jack’s he’s got though, he’s several cards short of a full deck.
Much of the design work is mediocre, with occasional flashes of inspiration (the floating spheres of water from the trailer for example) but the film struggles to escape the impression that it’s constantly borrowing ideas and images. Blackbeard’s mining pit is a PG version of Immortan Joe’s colony from “Mad Max: Fury Road” albeit it one where they sing a frankly bizarre sea shanty choral cover version of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ as they welcome the new child labourers. Not that that’s the only musical faux pas: the preponderance of pirate ships means even John Powell’s score can’t help but sound familiar. Like, “Pirates Of The Caribbean” familiar.
Outside the mines, things don’t improve much as we find the tribe of Neverland natives apparently live in a renovated Ewok village from “Return Of The Jedi”. The eighties movies are strong with “Pan”, though, because the finale – which disturbingly casts Peter Pan as a vengeful messiah – seems to be set in a dusty corner of the Donner-era Superman’s Fortress Of Solitude. While the background and environmental CGI is decent enough, the individual elements are terrible, especially some of Peter’s flying sequences where it borders on “The Polar Express”-levels of awful. Coupled with some atrocious wire work during the fight scenes, you end up with a very expensive movie looking decidedly cheap.
I’ve seen “Pan” being compared to “Oz The Great And Powerful”, a film which Mertmas hailed as the best movie of 2013 bar none so perhaps it’s only fitting that I close this review with his one sentence summary: ‘I sort of liked it, but it was a bit rubbish’. There you have it: Peter panned.