Even though one could argue that Pan qualifies as one of those pointless, purely money-grubbing live-action remakes of Disney films that are so popular right now, this isn’t exactly the first time the story of Peter Pan has been adapted. Perhaps there are just so many ways to tell the story that this was a version that simply had to be made for us to see? Perhaps this film wasn’t made to cash in on the popularity of any previous version and has something legitimately new to bring to the table?
Well, if by “new” you mean “changing the story so that it resembles more a moronic fanfic á la Alice in Wonderland than it does the original tale of Peter Pan”, then yes, very new indeed. Unless you count all the older stories it steals tropes and story elements from, and that its aspiration to be a darkly reimagined origin story makes it feel like it’s trying to mimic Fant4stic, a film that should inspire nobody on the planet ever.
In this version, Peter Pan is one of those “chosen one” characters. Yes, they even had to go and add that cliché, because by God, that’s exactly what Peter Pan was always supposed to be about. Played by Levi Miller, he lives in an orphanage after being abandoned by his mother (Amanda Seyfried), before a group of pirates from the magical realm of Neverland, who answer to Hugh Jackman‘s Captain Blackbeard, enter our world in their flying ship and seize him. This was, of course, meant to happen because Peter Pan turns out to be destined to save Neverland from the evil pirates and rescue the slaves who are forced to work mining fairy dust for Blackbeard because fairy dust halts the aging process or some shit.
So apparently fairy dust, the stuff that comes out when you smack Tinkerbell’s booty, is now something you dig up in mines. No, they don’t once refer to it as “unobtanium”.
Too huge a chunk of the film is set inside Blackbeard’s mine, not really giving us the sense that Neverland is all that whimsical, varied or interesting. However, Peter does befriend another miner who goes by the name James Hook, played by such an unbearably hammy Garrett Hedlund that he makes Christopher Walken look like he was taking the role seriously. Spoiler alert: him and Peter remain friends at the end. He never loses his hand to a crocodile and his arm never once bears a hook. If it’s too complicated for you to figure out how to get a character named Captain Hook right (hint: his left hand is a replaced by something else), why are you allowed to write anything ever?
We also get to see Adeel Ahktar as Mr. Smee and Cara Delevingne as literally every mermaid. And yes, let’s address the big albino elephant in the room: they also cast Rooney Mara, the palest girl alive, in the role of Native American princess Tiger Lily. Before you ask: no, her performance is not good enough to excuse such a blatant case of white-washing. Why must I endure this when I just got done being angry at Stonewall?
As is common nowadays, for all the bad things I’ve got to say about this film, a saving grace is often the way it looks. Sure, the imagery is sometimes obviously CG’d and other times restricted to the interior of that boring mine, but there are moments where the visuals translate the whimsical wonder of Neverland just fine. We can do almost anything with visual effects and computers now, so using that technology to realize a fictional world like Neverland is a wonderful idea. Sadly, it doesn’t go far enough to justify the rest of this movie.
I’ll give some kudos to Hugh Jackman too, mainly due to how much fun he seems to be having. As a character, though, he’s not a great or memorable antagonist – neither is Peter as a protagonist, for that matter – and I still would have preferred a proper Captain Hook. I suppose they might be leaving the scene in which Peter cuts off his hand and feeds it to the tick-tock crocodile for the sequel, but something tells me we won’t be getting that. It does involve box office money.
If you too are angry at this film, know this: I’ve read articles in which people are outright dreading what a huge loss of money this film will be due to how few people pay to see it. If this is true and this film indeed doesn’t make a sufficient fraction of its budget back, I think we can rest easy knowing that no one else will be inspired to make a movie like this (or Fantastic 4) again. Whether or not we’ve learned our lesson about casting girls like Rooney Mara as Native Americans remains to be seen.
There’s really no reason for you to go see Pan. It’s just another misinformed reimagining of classic characters that nobody asked for and it doesn’t even have the decency to be more like Maleficent or Cinderella by also blinding the truly hardcore fanboys/-girls/-otherkin with their nostalgia for the Disney versions. Better luck next time… by which I naturally mean Beauty and the Beast.