Are you thinking happy thoughts about Pan? You are the only one.
Pan, written by Jason Fuchs, attempts to strike an original note in the Peter Pan mythos by serving as a prequel, but it ultimately falls flat. Like many fantasy stories, it serves as an origin story to lead you up to the sequel, but it relies on too many stereotypes that take away the imagination that the Peter Pan mythos thrives on.
The film starts with an interesting beginning set in a World War II backdrop, but once the plot shifts to the Chosen One story in Neverland, Peter (Levi Miller) becomes less of a character and more of a plot device. Peter’s motivation to find out what happened to his family almost disappears entirely when it gets shoved aside for exposition about the Pan prophecy.
As a big Peter Pan fan, I was disappointed that the plot boiled down to a fantasy cliche. There was plenty going on without adding this plotline!
A rich story could have been told about Peter’s family outside of his birth, the journey of discovery about his family’s origins, and use that as the driving force with his need to know about his parents as an orphan character.
Using Peter’s motivation to find his family would have him relate stronger to James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) by foiling what could be worse – knowing who had abandoned you to orphan life or never knowing any information about them at all. There was a missed opportunity to add depth to the connection between Peter and James Hook and spin a new aspect to their future actions as enemies.
Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) and the other natives suffer the most from the crowded story plot – as a whole, they are shoved into the background after they mention the prophecy. Tiger Lily was featured as a warrior princess, but only when plot needed her to fight. You see none of that during her time with the natives themselves. Why wasn’t she considered one of the best warriors of the tribe? It would have lent an interesting twist to the movie to have the tribe’s Pan helping Peter on his quest.
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Pan missed their moment to do something unique with Tiger Lily and her tribe, and as a result, their whole arc was regulated to exposition. If you’re hoping for a Ruffio to spice things up, I’m sorry.
The film is not all fairies and natives – we see a brief peek into the pirate community during the film. Similar to other live-action adaptations like the 1990’s Hook, this film attempts to dive into what Neverland is like for adults, but it only provides a brief glimpse of the darker nature.
Blackbeard’s (Hugh Jackman) purpose is to serve as an allegory of what most adults fear, but as a character, he’s largely a copycat of Captain Hook. Blackbeard adds no new perspective to the pirate community and seemed to have little influence on Hook as he was growing up on Neverland. But Blackbeard steals a few of Hook’s most famous lines, which could have alluded Hook modeled himself after Blackbeard – although we will never know. Without proper context as to why Blackbeard sprouts these quotes, it makes him seem like a cheap copy instead of an original character. Bad form!
One cool snippet for adults is Blackbeard’s reasons for searching for more pixie dust. His search represents a terrifying premise when you consider the size of Neverland and how long he has been there that he has exhausted the resource on an entire section of the island. Unfortunately, that’s the end of his standout character traits.
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Pan suffers from poor writing; it wants to show too much and stuffs a lot of ideas into two hours that will leave the audience a bit overwhelmed. From orphanage lost boys to pirates to tribes to fairies, there are plenty of stories that are waiting to be told and not enough time to dive into all of it. But the movie tries to relate to what was referenced in the Peter Pan films of the past, and takes on too much.
If the plot wasn’t so crowded, Pan would have been a big hit for the fall season box office.
The film had several gorgeous set designs that relies on primary colors that are popular with films targeted to children, and works as a family action flick. The actors looked to be having fun as well with a few scene-chewing moments.
But if you are a serious Peter Pan fan, you’ll realize that not even clapping will stir the belief that this flop will survive the Hollywood box office.