Reviewed by: Jessica D. Lovett
Hugh Jackman … Blackbeard
Levi Miller … Peter Pan
Rooney Mara … Tiger Lily
Cara Delevingne … Mermaid
Amanda Seyfried … Mary
Garrett Hedlund … Hook
Nonso Anozie … Bishop
Paul Kaye … Mutti Voosht
Emerald Fennell … Commander
Kathy Burke … Mother Barnabas
Julian Seager … Livingston
Jimmy Vee … Lofty
Adeel Akhtar … Mr. Smee
|Director:||Joe Wright—“Hanna” (2011), “Atonement” (2007), “Pride & Prejudice” (2005)|
“To truly understand how things end, we must know how they begin.”
Like a wild shopping spree in a candy store, “Pan” exuberantly overwhelms the senses with explosions of vivid color and sugar-rush sweetness. Those expecting a regurgitation of the classic Disney cartoon will be disappointed, as “Pan” is a prequel in the truest sense. Some of the warmly familiar imagery strike a chord—crocodiles, clocks, pirates, Indians—but with a renewed sense of how those elements fit into the new backstory. There are also plenty of literary nods to those who know Barrie’s original Peter Pan stories, like having a character run through Kensington Gardens in London.
Honestly, I was expecting an entertaining, yet slightly stale, retelling of the same ol’ tale, but I was stunned at the creativity and brilliance that this new twist brings to familiar characters, explaining how the original story came into being. “Pan” felt like an independent art film that was suddenly gifted a decent budget, causing it to blossom outward, accordingly. It skillfully mixes the fairy-flying whimsy and swashbuckling heroics of the book with a darkly modernized villain who is sharpened into a three-dimensional character, largely due to Hugh Jackman’s deep portrayal of the pirate’s twisted sense of justice.
Without adding too many spoilers, “Pan” is the story of a 12-year-old orphan named Peter who, as an infant, was left on the doorstep of an orphanage by his mysterious mother. It turns out that Mother Barnabas, the abusive, cruel head nun running the orphanage is in league with pirates, selling orphans to them in exchange for gold. In their rummaging for the truth, Peter and Nibs find a letter from Peter’s mother in his personal file. Peter’s mother had written that she will always love him and promises to be reunited with him someday, giving Peter renewed hope of escaping the harsh orphanage life. Peter and his friend Nibs try to expose Mother Barnabas’s plot, but Peter ends up being taken by the pirates and taken to Neverland where he learns his true destiny!
One amazing thing about this film is that it mixes several seemingly unrelated cultures and styles together (Steampunk, Native American, Indian, cowboy/western, Gothic, WWII era Britain, and modern rock) in an intriguing narrative collage that somehow meshes together seamlessly. There are heroic characters that are self-sacrificing, brave, kind, and loyal—including two strong female warrior characters who show their strength respectfully and with humility toward male characters. Beside the good examples of character present in the film, there are several cautions.
The pirates are painted in such a way that they could be too scary for younger viewers, so use caution before bringing young children. They are definitely nightmare fodder, but do not cross the horror film line, feeling like a sort of cross between circus freak show acts and ragged, ruffled Victorian era pirates. One pirate has three dried human hearts pinned to his vest, but this is only flashed by briefly. The pirates are sadistic and grin menacingly as they kill, but their gunshots are muted in their scariness by the fact that multicolored paint powder bursts forth when people are shot, splattering rainbows, rather than bloody gore.
Certain nuns at the orphanage are seen in a merciless light, but, in my opinion, neither Catholicism nor religion itself are demonized. Peter is seemingly abandoned by his mother, boys are physically and verbally abused by the orphanage workers, kids are abducted by pirates and enslaved in mines. There are also brief scenes with WWII bombers flying over and bombs exploding.
There is no language besides one “heck,” one “darn,” “damnation,” and a “bloody hell.” There are the obvious supernatural elements of the Peter Pan mythology and plenty of action sequences including giant crocodiles, angry natives, and such. There are also completely censored, yet still topless, mermaids and brief drug use by the pirate captain. Tiger Lily’s outfit bares her tummy and little cleavage.
The darker fairytale elements are tempered by pirate ships soaring through space, fairies fighting pirates in crystal caves, and other visual feasts of fantasy. This film is certainly no darker than the book itself or than classic Grimm fairy tales—though given the modern wings of expert CGI, please exercise caution with younger, more sensitive viewers. In short, if you are are a fantasy or classic literature enthusiast and aren’t scared by Hugh Jackman with false teeth and pale, scarred makeup or by huge toothy crocodiles leaping over and attacking ships, you may enjoy this “PG” film.
Violence: Moderate to heavy / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Mild
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
…“Pan” looks great—the special effects are state-of-the-art, and that should delight small children. But the story lacks magic. …
—Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
…“Pan” boasts some delightful moments, breathtaking colors, a charming young star, and and the robust energy of veteran performer Hugh Jackman. Yet even so, the film fails to enchant in the way Peter Pan is supposed to. …
—Debbie Holloway, Crosswalk
…PAN is a little scary in parts for younger children, and has some brief foul language, but is a fabulous adventure with a strong moral worldview and positive redemptive elements. …
—Ted Baehr, Movieguide
…this sweeping, swirling, twinkling explosion of CGI color is a long way from that beloved story about a boy in green tights who never wants to grow up—even if it's got some charms of its own. …
—Bob Hoose, Plugged In
…Stripping all whimsy and wonder from the Peter Pan story, Joe Wright's prequel is a busy, bungled bust. …The director displays his typical formal virtuosity and keen eye for young talent here (Aussie newcomer Levi Miller is assured in the title role), but it’s not enough to enliven the depressing dourness of the film’s worldview. …
—Andrew Barker, Variety
…a grim and bizarre prequel, with Levi Miller the lone bright spot… You walk out of “Pan” feeling flattened, and bummed out. …
—Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune