Peter Pan is the boys fairy tale; though it was written by the great J.M. Barrie in the nineteenth century, it fits right along Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. What separates it though from those stories is that our leader Peter guides it’s audience on an adventure to Neverland; the place where the innocence of childhood comes to life. Though I can understand girl’s enjoying the story nonetheless, most boys have taken Peter Pan as the kind of story they could admit is fun without looking like a sissy. The tale comes with pirates, Indians, crocodiles, mermaids, flying, and the general idea that the fun of childhood never has to end.
Given it’s popularity, it seems like it’s bound for a reinterpretation. We’ve gotten different viewpoints of the story from other published novels, but what I had not seen was a full origin story. Normally I would have groaned at the concept as I felt it was used too often in plenty of other Hollywood productions, but this is something that I’m simply too curious to find myself annoyed. My favorite adaptations still remain Disney’s Peter Pan and the Steven Spielberg directed Hook, but will Pan do the character justice?
Rather then opening in the Victorian era, we find ourselves in WWII London where a baby Peter has been raised in a cruel orphanage. Now at twelve, Peter (played by Levi Miller) is interested in what happened with his mother. While discovering extra food thats being kept away from the rest of the boys, he finds a letter stating that his mother will find him “In this world or another”. The head nun catches them and punishes them by raising a pirate flag for a call. Overnight, a band of pirates capture some children, including Peter as it flies away beyond space in time to reach the magical realm of Neverland.
Peter finds himself in an open mine where other pirates and miners start chanting “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (I’m not kidding) to introduce Blackbeard the pirate (played by Hugh Jackman) as he sings along. Peter makes friends with another miner, James Hook (played by Garrett Hedlund) and manages to escape into the jungle where they encounter the Indians. Just as they are about to be killed, Tiger Lilly (played by Rooney Mara) and her father discover the pan flute necklace Peter wears and declares him the Pan, the one who will lead an uprising against the pirates.
Pan’s the kind of rare movie that was a studio product, but allowed director Joe Wright to add some of his strange ideas. The “Smells Like Teen Spirit” moment and floating water traps are only the beginning on how much creative freedom the producers took with Pan. It screams “spectacle” with it’s large looking world and had a neat design, but it still needs a proper story to go with it. I’m…okay with the prophet scenario, but rather then dwelling into the deeper personality of the boy who won’t grow up, we seem him and his friends engage in fights in the colorful world.
The finished picture feels like a Cirque Du Soleil production and not in a good way. The movie is so focused on looking spectacular that the general plot feels very rushed in order to get to the next pretty scene.
Levi Miller does exceptionally well, carrying the picture even if Peter is underdeveloped. The rest do fine, though Hugh Jackman’s Blackbeard is so hammy that I put him in the same category as Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s so bizarre and strange, that I can’t help but laugh at the choices he makes. He clearly had fun and I had fun observing him.
I’ll give this three pan flutes out of five. I think most kids will like Pan, though it was too fast paced and immature for my taste. I’ll remember the show more then I did the story. It’s an eye candy movie and that should help decide whether this Peter Pan is for you.