So, I’m trying something new today, something I haven’t done before. I’m gonna review a current film, in theaters right now. I don’t know if I’m ever gonna do it again but I saw Pan (2015) last night, and if I don’t get SOMETHING out of it I will have wasted time and money, so here goes.
Pan is a pointless, useless movie. It’s a drawn out, fanfic-y storyline wrapped up in confused visual design and underwritten characters. There is not a single moment of film that doesn’t feel like it’s pulled from ten better movies, books and video games and staple-gunned together. Pan doesn’t know what it wants to be or what it wants to say. All it knows is that it really wants a sequel.
The film, directed by Joe Wright, was based super-duper loosely on the story of Peter Pan. The script, written by Jason Fuchs, was on the 2013 Black List, a list of the best unproduced (at the time) screenplays. But don’t take that as an indicator of TOO much quality, X-men Origins: Wolverine was on their 2005 list. The film stars Levi Miller as Peter, a young orphan living in WWII-era England in THE WORST ORPHANAGE OF ALL TIME. The nuns in this movie are so cartoonishly inhuman and monstrous in personality and depiction, I would honestly not be surprised if they turned into John Carpenter’s The Thing around open flame. The nuns are selling(?) children to pirates from Neverland because they somehow got in contact with each other. The pirates grab Peter and whisk him away to Neverland to be a child-slave. And once we get to Neverland, my real problems kick in.
Goddamn Wonderland had more consistent rules than Neverland does here. Bubbles of suspended water and giant skeleton-birds are integrated with cable cars and Fury Road-style shantytowns in a miasma of confused visuals. Every scene looks like it was given to a different art director and production designer, all of whom had just finished watching better pieces of media. The cable cars and airships bare an unmistakeable Bioshock: Infinite vibe, the forests and creatures feel ripped straight out of Avatar (2009), and Blackbeard’s pixie dust mines might as well be watched over by Immortal Joe.
Speaking of Bioshock: Infinite, I wanted to address something everyone has mocked in this movie. Blackbeard’s crew and slaves, at two distinct points in the movie, sing songs that certainly weren’t around during WWII. The first being Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit” and the second being The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”. Now, Bioshock: Infinite also did the whole “anachronistic music” thing, but there it was used to create a sense of disconnect and uneasiness with the world around the player. Here, it’s used to… um… I honestly don’t know. It’s used to be quirky, I guess. Speaking of, Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) hits the perfect balance of being underwritten and over-acted. His motivation is insultingly simple and his only definable character trait is “evil”. I have seen better defined villains in old Captain Planet episodes.
Back to the plot because I’m still less than twenty minutes in, Peter is confined to the pixie-dust mines, where he meets Captain James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) who is doing the over-americanized voice Henry Cavil did in Man From U.N.C.L.E. only in this film it isn’t a joke. Hook is basically a charmless Indiana Jones, from wardrobe to attitude. Also, the film doesn’t even try to create a morally grey character. It’s like if you made a Spider-Man prequel where Norman Osborn was just a really cool dude who never did anything wrong and was best buddies with Peter Parker. Eventually, Hook, Peter, and Smee (Adeel Akhtar) who is no-joke the best part of this movie, escape to go find the Piccaninnies. Now, it is almost impossible to not make Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara)’s collective of stereotypes not culturally insensitive, but they damn sure try here. But, despite casting the group as multiculturally as possible, the wardrobe and portrayl still made me incredibly uncomfortable. Maybe Tiger Lily is one of those things that should be left out of modern day adaptations, like the Little Mermaid’s suicide.
At this point in the movie, we learn that Peter is chosen one # 192311 because god forbid we have a fantasy movie where the hero isn’t destined to be so. Then the pirates attack and they fight the Piccaninnies with paintballs or something, I don’t know. Peter, Hook, and Tiger Lily escape to go find the fairy kingdom because it’s about time for the third act to happen so we can all go home. On the way, they encounter memory water because the lack of established rules means the movie can just make sh*t up as it goes along. They get to the fairy kingdom and the film steals the whole “protagonist is dyslexic because he’s hard-wired to read a mystical language” thing from the Percy Jackson series. Blackbeard shows up and there’s a big CGI fight scene where Tinkerbell and the fairies finally show up. Tinkerbell is more a plot device than a character in this movie. Blah Blah, the movie ends with Peter beating Blackbeard and he, Hook, and Tiger Lily going off to have adventures.
Overall complaints: The CGI in this film is honestly embarrassing. It would right at home with the rest of this movie back in 2008 where it belongs. There is a definitive uncanny valley quality to everything about this film’s CG that bothered me. Also, the bullsh*t attempts to shoehorn in aspects of the Peter Pan mythos at the expense of the film’s pacing is annoying. We get a full scene with a large crocodile because PETER PAN, AUDIENCE!!!! That scene does nothing to further the plot nor the characters. Tinkerbell might as well be literally any other fairy. Also, the nudge-nudge-wink-wink reference dialogue made me angry. At one point, after one of the pirates mentions they have lost track of “the boy”, the other responds “Yes, he is a LOST BOY.” I don’t know what happened in the next five minutes of the film because I walked out of the theater and had to psyche myself up to go back in and endure the rest of this movie.
At the very end of the film, Hook says something along the lines of “Man, Peter, we are gonna be friends forever, aren’t we?” (I don’t remember the exact wording) and I’m sure if I’d been seeing this movie in 3D, Garrett Hedlund would have stuck his head out into the audience, winked directly at me, and shouted “DO YOU GET IT, AUDIENCE??? BECAUSE IF NOT WE CAN EXPLAIN IT TO YOU MORE EXPLICITLY!!!!!” The other reason this line doesn’t work (aside from it being clunky as hell) is because, like I said before, There is zero foreshadowing that Hook is in any way not the greatest person ever. It’s an un-earned wink. Honestly, this feels like the first act of a better movie elongated to feature-length. It’s bloated and cluttered and unnecessary. But Smee was pretty good, so… points for that, I guess?
Two out of five stars.