Director: Joe Wright
Writers: Jason Fuchs
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Levi Miller
Genre: Fantasy Adventure Family
When I saw the trailer for this film back in last December I grew very excited. I’m a longstanding Peter Pan fan. I love the prequel tale called Neverland (2011), the live action version of Peter Pan from 2003, and the classic movie Hook (1991). This is my Peter Pan story line-up. Pan looked like it might just replace the Peter Pan prequel spot from the looks of the trailer. Unfortunately, though the visual effects are stunning that’s about all you’re going to get from this film.
Peter is an orphaned boy hailing from World War II London living in a boy’s home. When he suspects the head nun is committing some sneaky shenanigans such as hoarding rations, he decides to spy on her one night and discovers the nasty nun has been selling his fellow orphans to pirates. During the kidnapping Peter is spirited away on a flying ship to Neverland. There he discovers he is part of a prophecy that could save Neverland–and that his mother might be alive and on the island. With the help of James Hook and Mr. Smee, he seeks after his remaining family member.
Violence/Scary Images: Since the film is PG, there really isn’t much to caution about. In fact, it’s particularly mild for a Peter Pan story. There are a few cuts and scrapes with a bit of blood, the worst is on Blackbeard’s bald head at one point. A few people die, but it’s either falling off a cliff or being shot in a puff of neon smoke. Characteristic to Peter Pan movies there is some swashbuckling and uncharacteristic there are also some flying ship fights.
Language/Crude Humor: There are maybe three or four times that someone swears and it’s either h*** or d***. At one point someone farts in an enclosed area and Peter gets hit in the crotch.
Spiritual Content: This is a Peter Pan story so expect some magic. There are fairies, pixie dust, and mermaids. Peter flies (of course) and Blackbeard uses the pixie dust or pixum to stay young.
Sexual Content: Hook flirts with Tiger-Lily. And some of the natives wear little clothing, showing bare men’s chests and women’s bellies.
Drug/Alcohol Reference: There’s not really any drinking shown which seems out of character for pirates. The closest thing I could think for a drug reference is that Blackbeard uses the pixum as a vapor to remain youthful by inhaling it through a mask.
Other Negative Content: Peter breaks into the head nun’s office.
Positive Content: There are some cliche elements of home is where you make it and about being special, but nothing that was really moving and fresh.
I went into the theater with an open mind, knowing this movie could go easily go either way. Much to my disappointment, my first inkling this movie would be a shoddy one came very soon when Peter was shown living in World War II era. Normally, I love stories in this time period, but this isn’t the time period Peter Pan is supposed to be in and it didn’t do anything for the story, but provide an interesting air raid scene. All of the other elements could have been done in Peter Pan’s proper time period which would be in about 1900.
Another element that dragged down the film was the tone. Peter Pan has a bit of a dark element to the story what with him being a little boy who fears to grow up and who is constantly hunted by pirates who can and will kill him. The Lost Boys find hunting pirates a game and encounter spooky places like the Black Castle.
Pan has a very kiddy and goofy feel starting with the overly nasty Head Nun to the pirates with the gaudy pink and turquoise cloths and clown make-up to the guns the shoot neon puffs of smoke to cleverly hide the deaths of characters. Pink pirate smoke? Really? Not to mention the dorky scene where Hook and Smee talk in their sleep.
The plot was very cliche. Boy with prophecy that says he will defeat evil bad guy. No twists or turns. It’s very straight forward. Any “twists” are seen and done. Some lines and events allude to the original story, but only about five instances. Plot holes were frequent and sub-par editing led to jumpy transitions. How in the world did Tiger-Lily whip together that colorful basket boat in apparently enough time for it to be the same time of day for she, Peter, and Hook to ride in it? And when did she even start making the boat? The scene jumped from no boat to boat.
The casting wasn’t bad. Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, and Levi Miller are all good actors, but they didn’t have good material to work with. Their lines were very cliche and didn’t carry emotion that could pull you into the scene. Their character arcs were very basic and barely changed the characters at all. Also why is Hook Southern? Why? Whose idea was that?
All of the characters lacked the appropriate backstory to make you truly care about them. Many opportunities were given, but none were expanded enough. Why is Hook so distrusting? How did Smee come to be there? Why is Blackbeard so bent on being young? None of that was explored. Lastly, the villain’s motivation was very weak. He was evil because he’s selfish. That’s it? Hugh Jackman is a great actor and he could do a formidable villain, but the director didn’t use him to his full potential.
This version of Neverland is very pretty. The steampunk elements were intriguing for the environment. No expense was spared for CGI for the flying ships, the grand vista,s the jellyfish mermaids, the pixie dust cave, and the thousands of fairies. It’s definitely a very visually appealing world. This was the best part of the movie, but nice worldbuilding can’t hold an entire film. Also the Neverbirds … We’re not even going to go into those … Just no …
The soundtrack is all right. Normally, I love John Powell, but I didn’t care for the zany sequences of the score. I don’t plan on buying this soundtrack, since maybe two songs interest me.
Pan is a disappointment. It had so much potential, but the movie wasn’t handled properly. Though the visual effects are stunning, the bad dialogue, cliche plot, and undeveloped characters drag the movie down like a millstone. If you’d like a good Peter Pan prequel that ties into the original story and has good writing, I’d recommend using your movie money for Neverland. It may not be the prettiest in visual effects, but the story, the thing that counts and what Pan lacks, is strong.
+ Visual effects are stunning + Good music + Hugh Jackman
- Weak and cliche story line - Weak villain motivations - Characters are very dimensional have very flat character arcs - Too goofy and kiddy in parts - No Emotional Pull - None of the jokes made me laugh - Frequent cheesy oneliners we've all heard before - Hook is a cowboy
The Bottom Line
Pan is a disappointment. It had so much potential, but the movie wasn't handled properly. Though the visual effects are stunning, the bad dialogue, cliche plot, and undeveloped characters drag the movie down like a millstone. If you'd like a good Peter Pan prequel that ties into the original story and has good writing, I'd recommend using your movie money for Neverland. It may not be the prettiest in visual effects, but the story, the thing that counts and what Pan lacks, is strong.