I think the Peter Pan franchise might be one of the most often remade. Hook, Peter Pan, Pan, several Tinkerbell animated movies… We’ve seen sequels, remakes, and spinoffs. So it only made sense that we eventually get a live action prequel to how Peter became the Peter that we know. Unfortunately, this movie has been hated on by most critics and reviewers that I listen to, so I went in with really low expectations.
Newcomer Levi Miller stars as Peter, an orphan in World War II era England, who is suddenly captured one night by a crew of pirates in a floating ship. He is taken to a huge mining quarry, where pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) is searching for fairy dust embedded in the land. Peter teams up with other captive James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) to escape and meets up with a group of local natives (including Rooney Mara’s Tiger Lily) to ultimately try to down Blackbeard and save the fairies.
The most experienced name in this cast is Hugh Jackman, who has very rarely let me down. Luckily, I thought his performance was the highlight of this movie. He stole a few maneuvers from Johnny Depp and his Captain Jack Sparrow routine, but he also kept it very real and delivered a few really poignant moments, including a 1 on 1 scene with young Peter that is probably the best scene in the whole movie.
I also appreciated the visual flair on the movie. When the pirates shot their pistols, colored powder blasted out, covering any actual violence. Instead of blood, we saw bright blue and orange powder everywhere. It kind of worked. The CGI was respectable, except for when Peter was flying, and the character design was almost reminiscent of Mad Max: Fury Road. Visually the movie was very cool.
What didn’t work?
The movie relied on young newcomer Levi Miller as Peter and unfortunately he was flat and uninteresting. He had a few scenes meant to be emotional but they rang hollow.
Worse than this, though, was Garrett Hedland. Playing a young Captain Hook, he was distracting the entire time. He was doing this voice, or maybe an accent is a better word, that was completely out of place. I don’t quite know what he was trying to do and I’m surprised that director Joe Wright (Anna Karenina, Atonement, Pride & Prejudice) let this happen.
There were some other weird decisions made that I’m not quite sure about. While the movie takes place during World War II, the pirates sing two modern era songs (“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana and “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones). Why is this? No one ever references it, explains it, or anything. It’s distracting and completely out of place.
The biggest problem with this movie though… is that I just didn’t care. Jackman’s Blackbeard was the only character to show any sort of emotion. I didn’t care where they were going, I didn’t care who won or lost (maybe because prequels lack mystery), and I ultimately was disinterested in this whole thing.
But here’s the thing. Kids in the theater were clapping and gasping and super into it. So I’m clearly not the target demographic in this case. So, my rating below applies to my experience, with the full knowledge that kids might love this adventure.
Pan is a kids’ movie. For adults, you may find the cast uninteresting and the story generally predictable and disengaging. Jackman does his best and the vivid imagery of the movie looks nice but ultimately I can’t recommend this movie to anyone that’s going to actually think about what they’re watching.