By Christian DiMartino
Believe what you’ve heard: Joe Wright’s Pan is a big-budgeted, joyless, stupid, unnecessary, mess. But hey, at least while it is stinking up the place, it looks good doing it. Kind of like Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls.
This is a film that spins its wheels for nearly two hours, and doesn’t build a case for its existence. Was anybody asking for a Peter Pan prequel? Um, probably not. And yet by the end, it doesn’t justify its actions. I had one question going into it, and it was never answered.
Pan opens in an Oliver Twist-y orphanage. Peter (Levi Miller, one of the better casting choices, surprisingly) is a bit of a troublesome child, and he believes that his mother (Amanda Seyfried, barely used) is out there somewhere. Then, in the middle of the night, Peter is abducted by a pirate ship.
The ship takes him off to Never-Neverland, as Metallica once put it. Surely a Metallica reference doesn’t make sense here, but yet, neither does a large group of people singing along to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Yes, you read that correctly. Upon entering Neverland, he sees a dismal yet majestic place, pretty much being ran by Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), who has these people digging in search of fairy dust. Why? Because when he sniffs it, he turns young again. Huh, pretty sure Jordan Belfort knows that feeling.
Not long after, Peter discovers he can fly, which means that he might be the “chosen one,” or something. He soon goes on the run, and he befriends a man named James Hook (Garrett Hedlund, miscast). He has both hands, making his name a giant coincidence. From then on, he meets Tiger Lilly (Rooney Mara), and then the movie just tries to find ways to reference the story we all know, love, and would rather spend our time on.
To point out the tragedy of Pan, one must pin-point why it is such a shame. For starters, Wright. Wright, who made Atonement and Hanna, is a talented man. But he has never been known for big-budget affairs. Perhaps there is a reason. Though his films have always had a certain visual pizzazz. This one is no different. With the exception of these fugly Never-Bird things, the film dazzles the eyes.
Another tragedy is the casting. Miller suits the role, and Jackman hams it up nicely. But Hedlund, a talented actor, brings no charisma, and what he has feels forced. Mara is an excellent actress, but she doesn’t belong here. And Seyfriend is nearly ignored. Why didn’t they just cast a nobody?
Another damn is that it’s never any fun. It passes the time I suppose. And forgive me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this supposed to be fun? The idea of Neverland in general is majestic, but every attempt to bring up the original story just felt phoned in. It also tries things that don’t work, such as that Nirvana thing.
Things get explained, kind of. But the burning question, to me at least, is: How do Hook and Pan become enemies? Never explained. Hinted at, but not elaborated. It also never even shows Hook getting his hook. It’s as if they ran out of ideas. But trust me, they pretty much ran out of ideas at the start of the production.
I’m willing to go on whatever journey Wright has to offer. This film is pushing it though. He has made great films, and he will make them again. But this is simply not one of them.