We get soft and cuddly with ‘Pan’, the latest version of the Peter Pan fable that no one asked for.
I have now seen Pan twice, to make sure I wasn’t dreaming or suffering some sort of PTSD from the initial watch. But on second inspection this movie is still as bad as ever.
We all remember Peter Pan in his various spells in film. For me the two would be the Disney animated film from 1953, and the spiritual sequel Hook in 1991. The Disney film had pioneering animation and was faithful to the story, and fantastic performances and actor choices in Hook.
Now we are introduced to the prequel nobody wanted – Pan. We all know the story: boy goes to Neverland, forms a bond with a group of lost boys and has fun and adventures against his enemy Captain Hook, who’s hand was severed by Peter and fed to a crocodile, right? Wrong!
Pan comes from writer Jason Fucks Fuchs and director Joe Wright. It starts in a WW2 orphanage (this information will be relevant later) where our protagonist is pining over his mum (not his dad for some reason) and generally larking about. Children have been going missing, and we find out that the nuns running the orphanage have a deal with the pirates from Neverland to take the children in exchange for pirate gold.
Now just read that back – we’ll forget the fact the nuns are bad, that has been done (see Nuns on the Run). But the big omission for me is that somehow a group of nuns have met with pirates, who go around in a flying ship and agreed some form of monetary exchange for the children in their care. How does that even happen?! Did the pirates land the ship outside an orphanage one time, and explain the need for children and that they would pay handsomely for them? Did the pirates try other orphanages around the world to get a good deal?
Next they take all the kids, including Peter Pan, and fly off to Neverland. That’s after getting in a dog fight with two spitfires over London and crashing into a number of future tourist hotspots. Again this just doesn’t make sense. This obviously isn’t the first time they’ve done this: they’ve been doing it every night, so London must be aware of a “Nazi” super plane which looks like a pirate ship! Again, Jason Fuchs refuses to give us any explanation for this.
They then land in Neverland where they mine pixie dust, or as they call it Pixum *Sigh*. Let’s just stop and remember the time frame for this film. WW2 right? But when dropping off the children in the mine we get a lovely rendition of Smells like teen spirit by Nirvana. Everyone is singing it, including Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), 50 years before its even released! I would love to be in the room when they came up with that idea:
Jason Fuchs: Then they land the ship and dump the children off, we just need a chant or something for them to come into.
Joe Wright: I can’t think with all that music coming from next door! What is that? Nirvana? Sounds like Smells like teen spirit by Nirvana.
Jason Fuchs: What did you say? Smells like teen spirit by Nirvana? Seems weird but OK!
We’re then introduced to James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), who incidently has no hook. Just for reference, here’s a quote from James Hook’s Wiki page:
“An iron hook replaced his severed hand, which gave the pirate his name…”
So his name is now some form of inside joke, or fore-shadowing. But it’s so in your face it’s painful. It felt like the writer chose to do no research into the back story of the characters, and instead of reading up on the Peter Pan books from J.M Barrie, he just noted the name down and went along his merry way.
I have nothing against Garrett Hedlund – I think he’s a good actor. But his portrayal of James Hook is laughable. It’s like they’ve gone into an untouched area of the rainforest and asked a tribe there to do an impression of an American. It’s all head cocked, big teethy smile and an accent which can only be described as a root canal for your brain.
We also find out that Blackbeard wants the Pixum *Sigh*, to make him young again. But not like 18 – 21, more like 30 – 40 young. Uhm, why! If I could go back and be young again, I’d be 18, just living on energy drinks and awkward disco sex etc! We just get a quick 10 sec scene of an old man, inhaling Pixum *sigh* and turning into a slightly younger Blackbeard. So to confirm, the mine with thousands of children in, the trips to earth, paying nuns in gold is all so he can be middle-aged. What the hell do the pirates get out of this arrangement, Jason? Ah, no answer.
After they escape we’re greeted with another Jason Fuchs subtle nod:
Hook: Did you find the boy?
Pirate: No the boy is lost.
Hook: OK, so he is a lost boy.
Wow! Did anyone get that reference? Even my nan got that reference, and she’s super dead.
Now I will skip over a large chunk of the story as quite frankly it’s boring. It’s all green screens and a lot of jumping. You can even see the harness a couple of times. Hook and Peter Pan basically escape and go to Tiger Lilly (Rooney Mara), who explains about a prophecy about a boy who can fly and kill Blackbeard. A surprisingly decent bit of casting is Jack Charles as the leader of the tribe. As a skilled aboriginal actor, Charles was a great fit for this role – if a little out of place with all the nonsense going on around him.
So Blackbeard wants to find the fairy kingdom so he can live forever in a constant state of mid-life crisis. So he finds the tribe and kills Jack Charles, with Hook, Peter and Tiger Lilly escaping in the medium of more jumping. This kicks off the obligatory romantic connection between Hook and Tiger Lilly. For anyone who’s a fan of Disney’s Pan, it might be weird to see Hook and Tiger Lilly – a forty-something pirate and a young girl in that film – get together.
They then run into Blackbeard at the entrance to the inaccessible fairy kingdom, which Peter can access because he is *Drum Roll* half fairy! Gone is the J.M Barrie origin story of two loving parents who wanted their son to grow up, so he escaped. Now he is the spawn of a fairy copulating with a human, who then left him on earth to travel back to Neverland to fight a war between Pirates and fairies.
So Peter finally learns to fly, saving Hook’s life in the process, which gives birth to one of the most forced lines in the film…maybe ever:
Peter: I can fly!
Hook: Alright you can fly, no need to crow about it.
“No need to crow about it” is not a thing people say! Its like Jason was writing a subtle nod to the audience, but actually in the process pulled down his trousers and waved his genitals in our faces.
The finale of the film sees Hook and Peter killing Blackbeard and going back to earth, where they rescue all the children from the orphanage and bring them to Neverland to be lost boys. Now with the ending of the film, Jason walks on screen and drop his trousers again:
Hook & Peter: Set course!
Peter: Oi! I’m the chosen one.
Hook: But I’m the ship’s captain.
Peter: Alright, CAPTAIN Hook.
Then just in case you missed the genital-waving we get one more:
Peter: Will we be friends forever?
Hook: Yeah of course, what could go wrong?
HAHAHAHAHA! Nice writing Jason, here’s an Oscar for your genitals! The lazy script and unnecessary changes to the backstory are the main reasons why this movie can’t work. It’s like doing a movie on Robin Hood, and him not using a bow and arrow. There are set points in the Peter Pan story which can’t just be glossed over, but this movie glossed away, with a foul-smelling brown type of gloss.
The CGI is weak, the green screen is obvious, the jumping is ludicrous, the premise is terrible, the dialogue is lazy and the over-the-top performances are like sand paper scraping against velcro.
Now the good points of the film. Sorry, I mean point: Hugh Jackman. He played his part to the best of his ability. His performance is on par with Dustin Hoffman in Hook. He has a presence on screen which just blows everyone out of the water (pirate pun). He has a good amount of screen time and really is the only reason to watch this film. Still, please don’t watch this film. Watch Hook, or the Disney animated film instead. The 1 out of 10 is for Jackman, and Jackman alone.