Pan – Film Review

Big production values aren't enough to save this muddled, clunky Peter Pan origin story

J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan tale has already spawned a Hollywood sequel, Steven Spielberg’s 1991 blockbuster Hook, but now comes a wholly unnecessary prequel from Atonement director Joe Wright.

Conceived as “the untold tale of how a young orphan named Peter would become the hero known forevermore at Peter Pan”, Wright’s film begins in the 1940s with Peter’s mother Mary (Amanda Seyfried) dropping her baby son at a London orphanage. A monstrous nun called Mother Barnabas (Kathy Burke) maintains her cruel rule over the orphanage by banishing mischievous orphans to Neverland, where she sends Peter (played by newcomer Levi Miller) 12 years later. There, tyrannical pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) turns him into a slave labourer mining for fairy dust alongside wise-cracking fellow prisoner James – not yet Captain – Hook (Tron: Legacy‘s Garrett Hedlund).

What follows is an over-complicated and largely uninvolving origin story. Peter discovers he can fly and that, according to an ancient prophecy, it is his destiny to kill Blackbeard. After he and Hook escape the mine, they team up with a brave Neverland native called Tiger Lily (The Social Network‘s Rooney Mara) and embark on a race to the Fairy Kingdom, where Blackbeard believes he will be granted eternal youth and gain control of Neverland forever.

Though Wright’s film has stunning kaleidoscopic CGI visuals and some neat set-pieces – including a brief but arresting cameo from Cara Delevingne as multiple mermaids – the director never manages to make Pan’s world fully immersive. None of the characters are especially compelling – Hedlund’s James Hook feels like a poor man’s Indiana Jones, while Jackman’s camp baddie is actually less scary than Kathy Burke’s grotesque nun from the early scenes.

The script from Ice Age: Continental Drift screenwriter Jason Fuchs ricochets between competent and clunky throughout: did 12-year-old boys in the 1940s really use the word “unhygienic”? And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, there’s a mass pirate singalong to Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.

Though its sumptuous production values partly compensate for the ropey plot, Pan is an expensive flop that makes a magical story feel remarkably boring.

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