Pan: What the Hell DId I Just Watch?
Directed by: Joe Wright
Written by: Jason Fuchs
Based on Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
Starring: Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Amanda Seyfried
Running time 111 minutes
Rated PG for fantasy action violence, language and some thematic material
Pan is the story of young Peter (Levi Miller), who was abandoned by his mother just before the breakout of World War 2. In the orphanage, Peter noticed a well off nun, and vanishing boys, and took it upon himself to get to the bottom of this mystery. While investigating he discovered –I promise I am not making this up—pirates dropping into the orphanage from their flying pirate ship and snatching boys from their beds. When Peter is unable to escape the pirates he is taken on board the flying ship, as they race to avoid being shot down—I wish I was making this up—by the RAF because they visited in the middle of the London Blitz. After they escape, the boys are brought to the mines of Neverland, run by the ruthless infamous pirate, Black Beard (Hugh Jackman). The thousands of child laborers are enslaved to mine Pixum—pixie dust—a magical mineral that no one knows anything about, but Black Beard desires more than anything. In the mines, peter befriends a young James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), who helps him escape when he and Peter discover that Peter can fly. Peter’s ability to fly is concerning to Black Beard because there is—because why not—a prophecy about the chosen one, the child of a human and fairy prince who will return to defeat Black Beard. When Hook and Peter escape, they crash their damaged stolen flying pirate ship in the woods, conveniently close to the hidden native Piccaninny tribe. There the princess Tiger Lilly (Rooney Mara) told Peter about his mother, and his destiny to become The Pan, save Neverland, and restore the hidden fairy kingdom.
Pan is a very confused movie, screenwriter Jason Fuchs, and director Joe Wright seems to have disagreed about what type of movie this is, and who their audience would be. Fuchs seemed to be writing for a younger audience than Wright directed for, and the disjointed nature between the direction and the writing wreaked havoc with the film. The bizarre musical numbers, the simply outlandishly goofy costume, and the gaping plot holes were only some of the rampaging problems that lead one audience member to give the screen the finger, and prompted me to ask if we had actually seen the final product, or a proof-of-concept avant-garde film.
In the beginning of the film, I was getting the impression we would see a darker take on the origin story of Peter Pan. A horrific orphanage, abduction, a world war, but then they arrived in Neverland, and Black Beard emerged to droves of enslaved children singing Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Honestly, I am not making that up. A short while later the pirates prepare some captives to walk the plank while they sing the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”, at this point I was concerned, this didn’t fit at all. However, it managed to work for Moulin Rouge, and maybe it will make sense once we get further into the movie. Unfortunately, this may have been the entire library of punk songs the filmmakers knew, because it never happened again. That concept was completely abandoned, which is good, because it did not work, and came off like a drug-induced idea that was not re-read sober. Such as the character of James Hook, who could be more accurately described, as Han Solo from Tucson Arizona circa 1875. While the character was fine, he did not fit with the rest of the characters in this universe, not that any of these characters fit together, he stood out as more of a misfit than the others did, and the idea that he is supposed to become the great nemesis to Peter Pan did not fly at all. I am at this point opting not to bring up the whitewashing of Tiger Lilly. I will instead focus on what my daughter had to say about this character. She was unarguably cool, and the best, and most interesting character in the film. When given the opportunity she kicked ass, and rebuffed every advance by Hook. To young girls, this was a great female character on the screen. For that I applaud the filmmakers, for choosing to not cast this with someone that at least looks ethnically Native American I do not applaud, it was a travesty. Honestly, I cannot even address every problem with this film without this becoming unreasonably long. The film has very few redeeming qualities; unfortunately, they are lost in a sea of awful concepts and ideas that should be left in smoke filled film-school dorm rooms.