Did the world really need an origin story for Peter Pan? It seems to me that we've gotten on just fine for the hundred-plus years since author J.M. Barrie introduced his mythical, mystical "boy who never grows up" in 1904 without much need for the whys-and-wherefores behind Our Man Pan. Nonetheless, in this age of franchises, trilogies, and shared universes, it's not altogether surprising that we now have Pan, director Joe Wright's prequel depicting an abandoned orphan's inevitable journey to becoming the flightiest kid in Never Land.
From a script by Jason Fuchs, Pan fills us in on how young Peter (Levi Miller) is mistreated and malnourished at the WWII-era London orphanage where his mysterious mother left him. However, his fortunes take a sudden turn when, in the middle of the night, he's abducted along with many of his fellow orphans by the crew of a flying pirate ship that whisks them off to Never Land. Once there, the youngsters are forced into the mines at the behest of the charismatic Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman).
Just when things look like they can't get much worse for the lad, he makes the acquaintance of one James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), a charismatic rogue who's also looking to make his break from the mine. Together, the pair make a break for it, in the process meeting a lost tribe of natives led by Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), who may or may not be able to help Peter decipher the secret of his own identity. Despite the best efforts by Wright to liven the proceedings, it all has a bit of a "played twice" quality to it.
Mind you, I'm not saying it's a bad idea to do what is essentially Peter Pan Begins, but when you set out to fill a void that's lasted this long, whatever you choose to fill it better measure up. And sadly, despite some terrific effects work, excellent use of 3D, and an appealing young lead in Miller, Pan never quite lives up to the promise of its own promise. Instead, Fuchs has larded the story with cliches, whether shoehorning another "Chosen One" into what's already a pretty rich mythology, or the old "best friend-turned-mortal enemy" trope.
Speaking of that, while the film's casting is mostly on-point (Jackman especially is having an absolute blast bouncing between super-campy and super-creepy), Hedlund's bizarre, mannered performance as Hook is nothing short of disastrous. While it's true the script doesn't give him much to do other than be a scoundrel in the Han Solo vein (right down to his flirtation with a rebel princess), The Tron Legacy actor (who I've defended in the past) adopts an awkward, affected delivery that's so clownish that it almost singlehandedly brings the whole thing down around him.
A few months ago I revisited Steven Spielberg's Robin Williams starrer Hook for the first time since it first came out at the tail end of 1991. I had a great deal of affinity for the film since my childhood, but during the course of that viewing I was horrified to find that the movie, featuring Williams as a grown-up Peter and Dustin Hoffman as Hook, was unwieldy, un-involving, and interminable. Cut to a few months later, and upon walking out of Pan, all I could muster was, "Well, it's better than Hook." That's not high praise. C+
For some more Pan talk, as well as discussion on other new releases and Hollywood Headlines catch the latest episode of the MovieFilm Podcast at this link or via the embed below: