On its surface, the movie “Pan” may simply seem like another remake of J.M. Barrie’s story of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. However, instead of the pixie dust and ticking crocodile mythos that most are familiar with, “Pan” gives a twist to the story by portraying the character’s origins. The film revolves around the adventures of Peter (Levi Miller), who, with the help of his allies James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) and Princess Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), tries to save Neverland from the notorious pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman).
Among the larger-than-life characters who populate the film, the most praiseworthy is Jackman’s portrayal of the ruthless Blackbeard. As the main antagonist of the film, he is a character who combines charisma and seriousness with surprising moments of humor. Jackman’s Blackbeard is a cartoonish figure welcome in a film that sometimes takes itself too seriously.
What’s more are the film’s visuals, especially in 3D. Just like every glossy adventure movie released these days, they rival James Cameron’s “Avatar” special effects in their vividness. “Pan” achieves something that the Disney “Peter Pan” could not, and captures the fantasy and magic of Neverland in a way that never verges on excessive.
Unfortunately, the film has little to offer apart from Jackman and its extensive visual effects, which ultimately can only do so much.
To begin with, there is a large disparity between these newly re-imagined characters and the memory of these same characters from previous adaptations of the story. The question arises of how Peter and Hook, so different already, would somehow become the characters we know and love from our childhood stories. Although “Pan” is an original story, and audiences seem to be expected to give some leeway between the characters they see and the characters they know those people are supposed to become, it is nevertheless difficult to bridge the gap.
Another point of contention is the existence and role of Princess Tiger Lily; this character met with backlash early on when it was first reported that Mara, a white actress, had been cast as the Native American character. Controversy aside, it is difficult to see exactly what the character adds to the plot, even though she does aid Peter and Hook on the periphery in their fight against Blackbeard. Her status as a main character, however, is still an exaggeration. “Pan” would have functioned almost just as well without her.
Other disappointments include the film’s purported action scenes. “Pan” follows a growing trend of dark, gritty re-imaginations of beloved characters and stories, which are only now becoming rather tired. In this way, it is similar to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy or Disney’s series of reimagined fairy-tales (Maleficent, Cinderella, and the upcoming Beauty and the Beast). “Pan” contains a number of uproarious fight scenes, but for a movie that seems to aim for a more realistic re-imagination, the scenes themselves do little to thrill children, and certainly are not enough for their parents.
If there was any hope that “Pan” could turn itself around toward the end, it is lost in the disappointing and surprisingly brief wrap-up. The movie seems to pride itself in exposition, building suspense and the makeup of the narrative, but it is never able to amount to anything. Even when the battle is over and the dust had settled, the film still seems to leave audiences wondering if there were some twist coming that they hadn’t anticipated. Given the time “Pan” spent on building up to an action-packed showdown, the final minutes left many desiring more.
In short, Pan is a reimagining that wows with visual effects and is somewhat redeemed by Jackman as its principle antagonist, but does not seem to know what to do with its own subject matter. It is unclear whether it is an adaptation aimed at completely redoing the story of Peter Pan or simply paying homage to it.
Strictly speaking, it is an average, run-of-the-mill blockbuster, and boasts an enticing, action-packed premise that is sure to draw audiences. However, childhood fans of the story and its characters would be better off finding something else to occupy their Saturday.
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