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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Movie Review: 'Pan'

The re-re-rehash of Pan never, ever captures the magic of the Disney classic.

Review by Matt Cummings

Some ideas are best left on the storyboards back at the office. A Casblanca remake/sequel? Get out of town. A Ben Hur re-imagining? Sadly, that one's nearing a release. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell Warner Bros. that a Peter Pan remake was just as bad an idea. The result - Pan - never, ever captures the fun of the original, sacrificing story for only mediocre special effects and plenty of bad press.

Rather than stick to a solid, traditional plot, Pan sticks us with several uncomfortable origin story facts: Captain Hook (Garrett Hedlund) actually has two hands and is a genuinely nice guy, and Peter (Levi Miller in his first role) - who wears an on-the-nose reference to his name around his neck - is an abandoned child in WWII England. His mother, a pseudo cameo in Amanda Seyfried, is a bad ass Neverland warrior who decides she can't protect the boy even with an army behind her, and that a war zone is somehow safer. When the 12-year-old Peter is captured and delivered to Neverland (as part of some bizarre child slavery subplot), he comes face to face with their oppressive overlord Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Requiring pixie dust to maintain his youth, Blackbeard will stop at nothing to gain its power, while his enemies Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), Hook, and Peter fight to free Neverland and discover the true whereabouts of Peter's mother.

In an effort to make his film more PC-friendly, Director Joe Wright has actually robbed Pan of its individuality. Content to spend its budget on glitzy effects, Wright dashes any hopes for an excellent story, leaving any hope for a real Neverland as far away as a distant star. We've seen recent evidence of how important universe building is, failing miserably when ill-used (Terminator: Genisys). And yet, it all could have worked, if Wright hadn't also made some terrible decisions in his casting. Jackman is never bad in anything, and here he's actually pretty good. Miller is very good, leading many scenes himself and proving that he can be a commodity once he's clear of the stain of Pan. But Hedlund is nothing more than an Indiana Jones rip-off, never quite getting a line on Hook, and Mara's controversial casting (a Native American was originally envisioned) doesn't help either. There's also the strange attire of the Neverland crowd, looking like a cross between Native dress and New Orleans party.

And then there's thoroughly random elements, like a cameo by Cara Delevingne as not one but three mermaids, without creating any idea of their role as anything more than hidden city bouncers. There's also an odd chant of Nivana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' that is totally out of place - like more than 50 years out of place - as Peter's orphanage is delivered to Blackbeard. The fact that Seyfried is poorly used here - along with a non-speaking Tinkerbell that's featured for all of 30 seconds - tells me Wright really never had his vision in place, because no edit could have saved this one. It's clear that someone's idea of a somewhat familiar origin story is really just a completely foreign one shoehorned in with familiar character names from a beloved Disney film.

A summer sure-fire soon became an October ditch, and from the looks of it, Pan has deserved every bit of that criticism. It's unnecessarily pompous, boring in many sections, with uneven action and special effects that do nothing to legitimize a universe that frankly didn't need a reboot. It's the kind of decision audiences deride, and with good reason. No doubt that argument will find new voices, as this one could run aground before it even sets sail.

Pan is rated PG for fantasy action violence, language and some thematic material and has a runtime of 111 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.


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