Genre: Action and Adventure, Family, Drama
Director: Joe Wright
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Adeel Akhtar, Levi Miller
Release Date: October 9th, 2015
“Neverland is a dream from which you can never awaken, visit this site ” Blackbeard— the villain from the new film Pan— states to the title character. If this entire film was a dream though, it’s the kind of dream that would make you wish for more sleepless nights. The new feature film is an old concoction of disparate elements that never comes together into one unified film.
When it opens, Peter Pan is a hopeful boy living in an orphanage under the supervision of psychotic nuns who hate the children they’re supposed to parent. Night after night, the nuns sell these orphans to a gang of pirates that swoop down and kidnap them from their beds. Flying around on a pirate ship in space, these kidnappers take the children to Neverland, a desperate land of rock miners who are hunting for shiny rocks to give to Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), their goateed and flamboyant king.
Despite the fact that Peter Pan is a child-focused story (and often told to young people), this film opens with a dark and dreary tone that could frighten young children. In Neverland, Pan himself quickly runs into trouble and is forced to walk the plank — an attempted execution that is cut short when Pan shows that he can fly.
Levi Miller seems to have the perfect look for the idealistic but lonely Pan but the script does him and the other actors around them few favors. It’s as if screenwriter Jason Fuchs wanted to see a unique vision of the story come together but didn’t have the ability to embrace his full idea. When the young orphans arrive in Neverland to the miners singing Nirvana’s Smells like Teen Spirit, it’s hard not to credit the film for uniqueness but when nothing fits together here, it’s hard not to fault the filmmakers for creating a film that seems unsure of itself or the story it’s trying to tell.
Throughout the forgettable story, director Joe Wright never seems to set an overarching tone for his film. At one moment, there’s a whimsical moment with mermaids but at the next moment, there’s a major battle where innocent kids are being attacked.
Even the relationships between the characters ring false as the actors struggle mightily to fit into this strange world. The otherwise able Garrett Hedlund, playing the future Captin Hook, seems to be deepening his voice in every scene hoping against hope that he’ll sound authoritative. Rooney Mara, as the warrior Tiger Lily, feels out of place here partially because the character is so ill-defined. The personality of the character seems to change moment by moment as she shifts gears from being a fierce warrior to being a maternal figure for Pan.
Hugh Jackman, meanwhile, seemingly overplays his scenes bringing the villain an air of silliness that undermines the fact that he’s supposed to be a devious monster. I don’t think a lot of devious monster have their prisoners sing rock anthems but he does here.
It’s true that there are a few moments here that recall some of Wright’s previous works like Atonement. There are a few visually stunning scenes here— including an attack on a fairy kingdom that works better than it should — but the film itself falls apart.
There’s an ambiguity here — about what the filmmakers were aiming for, about what the actors were trying and about the overall tone — that really hurts this feature. Earlier this year, Kenneth Branaugh embraced the story of Cinderella and delivered one of the best surprises of the year. Wright never seems to fully embrace the story he’s trying to tell here and it’s likely that the audience won’t either.
Review by: John Hanlon