First thing’s first, if there’s one thing any adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s beloved Peter Pan doesn’t need, it’s songs by The Ramones and Nirvana. I suppose, maybe, somewhere down the line there could be a version riddled with pop songs. But when your film is trying to be a straight up prequel — as in the case of director Joe Wright’s Pan — by the time it’s already invested a good 30 minutes of setup in the real London ruins of World War II, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Blitzkrieg Bop” couldn’t be more out of place. There. So, with that out of the way, how does the rest of the film stack up? Well, it’s a visual stunner at times.
The biggest problem is that screenwriter Jason Fuchs pounds the audience over the head with prequelitis. Every line feels like a setup to a sequel that hopefully never “graces” us with its presence. Meanwhile, the cast is directed to overact as much as humanly possible. Hugh Jackman can be known for subtlety, but here he’s bound and determined to chew up and spit out scenery. But the most out of place is definitely Garrett Hedlund — he who seems to think Hook needs to be brought to life as a mashup of Jack Nicholson pretending to be James Stewart as Indiana Jones. You almost have to see it to believe it. In other words, don’t. You can thank me later.
In this installment of the ever growing list of Peter Pan adaptations, poor Peter (Levi Miller) has just been left at the door of an orphanage. Twelve years later, Peter is living the hard knock life amongst sadistic nuns, with only his best friend Nibs (Lewis MacDougall) to keep up his spirits. One day, London is under attack, and just wouldn’t you know it, Peter has just figured out that the other boys are being sold to pirates for rations. Soon enough, Peter is swept aboard a flying pirate ship, captained by Blackbeard (Jackman) himself.
Blackbeard runs a mining operation full of singing prisoners, where they’re looking for the key to immortality: pixie dust. At the mines Peter meets Hook and the two escape. To avoid the evil clutches of Blackbeard, they wind up crashing one of Blackbeard’s ships in the jungle where they’re imprisoned by Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) and her Piccaninny tribe. Now, everyone’s lives are at stake with Blackbeard hot on their trail, and his end game is to follow Peter’s destiny to unlocking the hidden world of pixies.
Nothing adds up in this adaptation. Chock full of horrible acting and action scenes that are outright ludicrous — did you know if you shoot a Piccaninny they explode into pastel smoke clouds? — and while they do look pretty dang good in 3D, the story and acting is so atrocious you’d never know it’s from the same director of Hanna, or even Anna Karenina and Atonement. This is Neverland on acid, and not in any good way. It’s never a good sign when the finale feels like you’ve woken up in the middle of a Dragon Ball Z episode or M. Night Shyamalan’s Last Airbender.
I suppose I should point out that the girl sitting next to me was eating up every minute of it. Laughing at the inanity, gasping at the audacity, and crying at the sentimentality. For the rest of us, you’re going to be hard pressed to find a cohesive reason to suffer through the runtime. As much flack as people have given Steven Spielberg’s Hook over the years, at least it had a sense of fun. Just because Wright splashes one of the most fully realized versions of Neverland to grace the screens, doesn’t mean you have to pay to see it. There are way better movies out right now, and Pan is just another blip on an ever growing list of adaptations. Even P.J. Hogan’s Peter Pan was way better than this. Audiences should just do themselves a favor, save the money and stay home and watch the Disney classic.