I hope you’ll forgive an opening “Pan” spoiler, but I promise this one detail in no way affects the outcome of the story, it happens in the opening sequences and overall, sums up what it’s like to experience director Joe Wright’s take on the J.M. Barrie classic character Peter Pan.
Towards the beginning of the film, Peter (Levi Miller) is kidnapped by pirates in a bungee flinging action scene that ends with Peter flying off to Neverland while Peter’s dearest friend watches helplessly from an orphanage rooftop.
The scene is obviously important, which will leave audiences wondering who the rooftop-marooned boy is meant to be. Maybe the exchange is a perfect setup for the character to return as a villain in a later adventure, or maybe he grows up to be Wendy’s father, which would explain the future Mr. Darling’s attitude towards his daughter’s bedtime stories.
The potential is fun to consider, and also paves the way for what could be an elaborate and visually beautiful game of connect the dots. The eventual reveal however is wildly lackluster, offering no reason for the attention and no worthwhile nod to the original material.
That promise without delivery isn’t just an opening flub, but instead the beat to which Wright constructs his entire Pan adventure.
This is not to say “Pan” is a insatiable charm vacuum, or that there isn’t an audience perfect for the material; it’s simply noting the story doesn’t earn its ticket to Neverland.
Like always, let’s break this down into talking points:
As far as visual effects go, there are moments in “Pan” that are simply beautiful. When it comes to flying pirate ships, “Pan” easily earns its place as the definitive benchmark for all airship-related cinema. But for every flying pirate ship there is a completely computer generated Peter; and we’re not just talking occasional wide shots of a less-than-realistic flying boy, but super creepy closeups of poorly animated facial expressions.
The bad CG is so bad, and the good CG is so good, it’s difficult to believe the effects came from the same creative team. Still, the ride to Neverland and many of the island’s backdrops are sparkly enough to give audiences something to look at when the story becomes less than interesting.
It’s obvious during the first quiet conversation between Peter and his tyrannical captor, Blackbeard, that Hugh Jackman believed “Pan” could be something special. While the outcome of that scene makes no sense, Jackman’s sincerity buys the story some needed credibility.
When Jackman is not on screen however, Miller abandons any of the fire or spirit you’d expect from the heroic Peter Pan, and Garrett Hedlund comes across more as a Captain Hook impersonator than any believable incarnation of the infamous villain. You probably won’t love or hate the cast of “Pan,” which sadly means you won’t remember the company either.
Long before Peter finds his way to Neverland, you’ll notice something missing from your movie experience. The obvious punchlines won’t make you smile and the witty one liners or mischievous antics that would usually cause you to fall in love with a character don’t seem to be working for Team Peter.
And right about the time Peter meets Hook for the first time in the heart of a hopeless mining camp, you’ll suddenly realize that “Peter and Wendy” doesn’t actually need a prequel! Then you’ll realize you have no idea what the central conflict of this unnecessary prequel is, which will then make you realize you have no idea how this whole story is supposed to wrap up, which will then makes 111 minutes feel like 1,111 minutes, which is a long time to sit through a movie you haven’t been interested in since Peter met Hook way back at the mining camp.
If you forget “Pan” is supposed to be another chapter of the beloved children’s classic, then you might be fine taking in the visual feast parading around Neverland. It’s not life changing, but it’s passable for a Saturday matinee with a few of your favorite young people.
However, if you’re a hoping for something magical, you want to believe in fairies, or you just love the fun of a crowing child besting his adult adversaries through flying sword fights, well, Wright wants you to know there should be a sequel soon that might possibly include some of that stuff. Wright’s Peter just has some growing up to do before he’s ready for all that responsibility.
In the end, if your kids are dying to see “Pan” this weekend, there are definitely worse fates you could endure. Just remember the lower you set your expectations, the more likely you are to have a good time.
Originally published KSL.com