From the moment the trailer for “Pan” called it the “untold story” of Peter Pan and Captain Hook, it was already apparent how much of a frustrating failure the film would be. This, of course, was in July. Now, just a few days away from the film’s theatrical release, it is safe to say that these assumptions were accurate.
The main selling point of “Pan” is that it gives a backstory to J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan.” It shows where Peter came from, how he met the other important characters of “Peter Pan” lore and how he eventually became the flying, crowing and fighting boy who never grew up. Peter, played by budding child actor Levi Miller, is whisked away from his World War II-era orphanage by pirates led by Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) who want to use him and hundreds of other children to mine for a mineral form of fairy dust.
In the film, Peter is a prophetic messiah figure who will one day save Neverland from Blackbeard’s clutches. In summary, the plot is absolutely ridiculous, going through great lengths to give unnecessary depth to a character that is already deep and interesting on his own.
Miller’s interpretation of Peter is just plain annoying. For most of the film, Peter pines over his lost mother. At first, this is adorable, emotional and endearing, but for the rest of the movie it is whiny and unbearable. Some argue that this quality can be excused since the film is an origin story and Peter isn’t yet the headstrong, confident leader figure that he will eventually become. However, his unbearable personality still makes the character less appealing — you end up rooting for the pirates more than Peter and company.
The rest of the cast is all right, at best. Garrett Hedlund’s Hook is less savvy buccaneer and more Han Solo, right down to the scene in which he abandons the prophetic protagonist for a personal goal just to save the hero later at the last minute. Rooney Mara’s Tiger Lily is just bland, taking the character from a racist portrayal of a Native American whose only purpose is to get kidnapped to an exposition-droning machine who can fight sometimes. Finally, Adeel Akhtar’s Sam Smiegel is even more annoying and useless than the original Mr. Smee.
But maybe the best — and simultaneously worst — part of the entire movie is Blackbeard. There’s something about the way in which Jackman puts so much energy into this awfully written villain that boosts the film from a low D-grade to a slightly higher D-grade. Every scene with Blackbeard in it is so packed with ham that you forget about the baloney that is the rest of the film. Jackman’s bombastic cheese fills one half of the screen, and his constant shouting fills the other.
Perhaps the best summary of Blackbeard would be his introduction, when he spouts a semi-capitalistic “land of opportunity” speech to the enslaved children right after making them all sing Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in a sort of working-line chorus. He then joins them in singing “Blitzkrieg Bop” before kicking children off the plank and into a canyon. I wish I were kidding.
Much like the movie’s protagonist, “Pan” likes to think it’s really clever. All throughout the film are small references to the original work, ranging from sight gags such as repeated focus on Hook’s non-existent right hand to cringe-worthy lines like “think happy thoughts.”
“Pan” ultimately represents one of the great mistakes the film industry and filmmakers have been making for the past five years. Not only is it yet another reboot of an established story, but it is also another secret origin film. We’ve already had “Maleficent” and “Cinderella,” and there are two different “Jungle Book” remakes coming from two different studios.
If you want a visually impressive retelling of “Peter Pan” or more adult analysis on the characters of the original tale, please rent the 2003 version of “Peter Pan” or “Hook,” respectively, because “Pan” is not worthy of any happy thought to get it off of the ground.
“Pan” is now playing in theaters nationwide.