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article imageReview: ‘Pan’ fails to find balance between story and theatrics Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 9, 2015 in Entertainment
‘Pan’ is the newly imagined origin story of the beloved characters of ‘Peter Pan’ that doesn’t exhibit any commitment to its inspiration, but instead creates a wild world of radiant imagery and exaggerated characters.
As timeless as Peter Pan’s age are the endless possibilities the story presents for new interpretations and extrapolations. A number of feature-length films have been made — live action and animated — that relate the original tale or create new adventures that put the spotlight on other characters, such as Tinker Bell and Captain Hook. In addition, certain personalities have been extracted to appear in other fantasies, including Once Upon a Time. The latest rendition, Pan, delivers an origin story that sets Peter and Hook on the same side to battle a mutual enemy: Blackbeard.
In spite of growing up in an oppressive orphanage run by cruel nuns during the war, Peter (Levi Miller) maintains hope that his birth mother will one day return for him. In the meantime, he uses his great imagination and curiosity to pass the time and annoy his overseers. However, as boys begin to disappear in greater numbers, Peter discovers they’re being taken by pirates. Unable to escape, he’s kidnapped and transported by a flying ship to Neverland. Enslaved by Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), he’s forced to mine for pixie dust with all the other “lost boys.” When a mishap reveals Peter may be the prophesized saviour of the island, he and James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) escape to find the native tribe and offer their allegiance against Blackbeard. But Peter soon discovers his history with the island extends much farther than the day he was brought there.
It’s undoubtedly necessary to create a fantastic world to complement this imaginative story, but the one constructed in this film may be too elaborate, too comic. From Blackbeard’s ostentatious bustle to the Cirque du Soleil acrobatics to the extensive use of CGI, filmmakers struggle to create a world in which the audience can believe and by which they can be appropriately swept away. Its extravagant nature keeps the viewer at arm’s length, which is generally the opposite of what a genre picture is supposed to achieve. Moreover the inclusion of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as Blackbeard’s anthem and The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” as an executioner’s theme song do the movie no favours.
Nonetheless, there was at least one aspect without fault: the casting. Miller is the perfect little scamp, convincingly causing or getting out of trouble at every turn. He also has a wonderful connection with Hedlund as the pair is left with nothing but each other in front of many green screens. Hedlund’s American bravado isn’t exactly a typical trait of Hook’s, but he does deliver on his customary confidence and overestimated charisma. The character is a far cry from the actor’s typically solemn roles, though he fully embraces the opportunity to be light-hearted and boisterous. Jackman’s flamboyant portrayal of the fabled pirate is an unusual interpretation, translating his narcissism into an over-the-top performance that looks exceptionally fun for the actor who definitely draws on his stage experience. And Rooney Mara plays the less animated Tiger Lily who shows a lot of compassion while providing a hint of femininity amongst all the testosterone.
Ultimately, the final product has very little to do with J. M. Barrie’s original story or any other version ever brought to the screen. But in seeking to establish its independence as a prequel, the film tries to do too many things that diminish the inherent whimsy of the characters (what happened to the need for “happy thoughts” versus multiple thrashings?). The result is an ostensible mishmash of a lot of vibrant but not necessarily cohesive ideas — it’s basically a colourful action adventure with some familiar names and locations to which director Joe Wright has applied his experience in grandiose productions. Yet that same energy and wackiness make it a film you won’t hate having seen, even if you can’t make heads or tails of what it was you witnessed.
Director: Joe Wright
Starring: Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman and Garrett Hedlund
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