Review: Pan Is An Insulting Mess
Director: Joe Wright
Screenwriter: Jason Fuchs (written by) and J.M. Barrie (characters)
Principal Cast: Hugh Jackman, Levi Miller, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Adeel Akhtar, Nonso Anozie, and Amanda Seyfried
Summary: 12-year-old orphan Peter is spirited away to the magical world of Neverland, where he finds both fun and dangers, and ultimately discovers his destiny — to become the hero who will be forever known as Peter Pan.
As I said in my Stonewall review, sometimes the writing is on the wall before a movie comes out. In the case of Stonewall it was focusing on a fictional white boy instead of the real life trans woman of color. In the case of Pan the writing seemed to be on the wall the second they announced the very white Rooney Mara was playing the Indian princess Tiger Lilly. This was the sort of thing Hollywood could get away with in the early years but not now in a much more diverse and political conscious world. That wasn’t improved when the clips and marketing material showed a very indigenous looking garb on a very white woman. Also, people are very sick of prequels but I did my best to go into Pan with low expectations in a hope that maybe it wouldn’t totally let me down.
Pan is an utter mess of a movie from the migraine inducing 3D, to the character and world design, to the CGI looking about a decade out of date and the musical selections that made no sense.
The idea behind this movie is to show how Peter Pan ended up in Neverland in the first place, and also boasts that it’s going to show us how Captain Hook and Peter grew to hate each other with the line “sometimes enemies start out as friends”. This isn’t a completely terrible idea for a movie, but it fumbles it so much I wasn’t sure screenwriter Jason Fuchs even bothered to coherently connect his scenes. The movie features James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), and how he helps Peter (Levi Miller) escape the evil Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) to save the fairy kingdom. Peter is apparently the chosen because apparently filmmakers don’t know how to write any stories anymore that don’t require an army of good, being lead by a chosen one, against an army of evil. It’s been done so many times by so many different stories that there is just nothing new that Pan brings to the table, and the only things it does bring are extremely problematic.
The character of Tiger Lilly and the natives of Neverlands are some sort of mix of Native American, Asian and African culture smashed together and lead by a white woman. Tiger Lilly had the potential to be one of the most interesting characters in the movie if she was given anything interesting to do and if she wasn’t so incredibly racist. She gets most of the good fight scenes as she flips around like this is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but aside from that and some very awkward flirting with Hook she doesn’t do much. The entire look of the native tribes is so bright and visually busy that it becomes headache inducing just to look at them. Then they made the extremely confusing decision to have the natives explode into colorful smoke when they die. At one point Peter crawls away with colorful powder all over his face and all I could think was that he was covered in people. There is also the implication of the “white savior” when the natives eventually kneel to Peter. The entire movie is filled with problematic implications.
Since I began to review movies professionally I’ve started seeing movies in 3D a lot more. I have never reacted to 3D well and it tends to give me migraines; The eyestrain from Avengers: Age of Ultron made my eyes water like I was sobbing uncontrollably. I’ve found that I can tolerate subtle 3D but Pan is anything but subtle. Within seconds the movie had things flying out in my face like this was a Universal Studios ride, and by the end I had a full blown migraine. The 3D isn’t helped by the fact that the CGI and green screen look about two decades out of date. Pan also makes the baffling decision to include some modern music for no apparent reason. When Peter arrives at the pirate fortress they are all singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. They don’t commit to it, throwing in two more weird song choices, and then abandoning the idea all together. Hook never shows any indication of becoming the type of person who makes children walk the plank but instead is a Han Solo parody that isn’t funny.
Pan is a movie that children might enjoy, though I like to think kids have better taste than that, but there are bright colors and 3D things flying in their faces. The parents that are going to get dragged to this aren’t going to enjoy this mess of a movie because there isn’t anything worth looking at. You’d be better off taking off your 3D glasses all together and trying to catch a nap than watch all 111 minutes of Pan.