After some controversy over the filmmakers’ casting decision for one of the title roles, Joe Wright’s directed Pan finally opens to a less than stellar reception from both critics and movie-goers. J.M. Barrie’s legend of Peter Pan is given a prequel treatment in Pan, the new live-action retelling of Peter Pan scripted by Jason Fuchs that features some of J.M. Barrie’s key characters and locations in Neverland. Pan is a bold attempt at providing an origin story for Peter Pan, with an even bolder attempt in its decision to cast Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) as Tiger Lily, a Native-American Indian princess of the Piccaninny Tribe. Hollywood is once again accused of whitewashing its cast, and the decision has been met with a lot of criticisms. Nevertheless, the show must go on, and Mara has even more pressure to convince the audience, many of whom may have grown up watching Disney’s animated Peter Pan, that she is very much like her character. On the flip side, she can also relate to why people feel the way they do about her, or any other actresses that aren’t of Native American ancestry, playing Tiger Lily. Speaking to People magazine, Mara said:
“It was something that I thought about before I met with Joe. When I met with Joe and heard what his plans for it were, it was something I really wanted to be a part of. But I totally sympathesize with why people were upset and feel really bad about it. I think we’re both very independent women who can hold their own. We don’t need a man to save us.”
Controversy aside, it appears that Pan has more issues to deal with than the casting of Tiger Lily. Produced on a mega budget of $150 million dollar, the movie opens to a disappointing $15.3 million in North America. The story is a retelling of Peter Pan (played by newcomer Levi Miller), a half-fairy half-human boy who could fly. Peter is left at the doorstep of an all boys orphanage by his biological mother (played by Amanda Seyfried) in the care of a heartless nun called Mother Barnabas who allows the boys to be snatched away in their sleep by pirates to be taken to Neverland to mine for fairy dust. There, Peter meets and befriends a pre-evil Captain Hook (Garrett Hedlund) and learns of his destiny and the truth about his origins.
Pan is aesthetically pleasing and a visually stunning ride from beginning to end. It’s easy to see where most of the production budget’s spent on. The special effects and CGIs are impressive, but that is usually expected of this big budget type films. Casting Levi Miller as Peter Pan is applaudable and this amateur teenage actor (who looks no older than 10) effortlessly brings out an innate rebellious streak in Peter Pan that’s a joy to watch. Everyone else however just brings the film’s entertainment value down a notch or two. Hugh Jackman is easily the biggest star of the film, but his role as the ruthless pirate Blackbeard is so cartoony that it’s laughable. Blackbeard is a real historical pirate, known for his thick black beard and fearsome appearance but in Joe Wright’s vision, he is reduced to a powdered-face madman, donning a Marie-Antoinette wig and King Louis XIV’s tights. The film is not intended as a musical, but there is one scene where the characters break out in a song and dance that seems oddly out of place. Jackman makes his entrance in this film singing his lungs out to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in the form of a musical that has not only the audience scratching their heads, but (as revealed by Hugh Jackman in an interview) the Warner Bros executives asking, “Uh, are we doing a musical?”.
The worst performance in this film, however, goes to Garrett Hedlund in his turn as a pre-evil Captain Hook. In Pan, Hedlund’s Hook steals Indiana Jone’s style and fashion sense, wearing a khaki-colored shirt complete with a fedora hat. Despite looking the part of a leading man, Hedlund just isn’t very convincing in the delivery of his lines. Anything he says just ruins the scene and the actor needs to realize who his target audience is (hint: there are adults trying to enjoy this movie too and not just little kids who will laugh at anything). Unfortunately, the atrocity doesn’t end there. The script hints at a possible romantic endeavor between Hook and Tiger Lily.
Pan is a beautiful live-action film integrated with CGIs and full of wonderful special effects that may win the hearts of very young viewers. However, the boring storyline that seems too focused on the cliched theme of fulfilling a prophecy of becoming the “the chosen one” to save Neverland from the bad guy like Blackbeard makes Pan tiresome and worn-out. Pan is yet another forgettable film with tapped out potential.