Through the London smog and chaos of World War II, director Joe Wright’s, “Pan,” begins with a promise and ends with a letdown. Distracted by an overload of special effects, delusional characters and forced humor, we are left to wonder if we’re watching the origins of J.M. Barrie’s literary masterpiece or a Tim Burton nightmare.
Beginning in an orphanage, rations are scarce and Peter, played by up-and-coming actor Levi Miller, is somewhat of a troublemaker. It turns out that the nuns are secretly selling the orphans off to pirates, who spring down from the ceilings in the dead of night and snatch the boys from their cots. The boys are new recruits aboard Blackbeard’s (Hugh Jackman) ship and they’re headed to Neverland.
Once they arrive, the orphans are put to work. They are to mine for Pixum, which is like pixie dust in a rock-like state, for its rejuvenating qualities. Unsurprisingly, Peter escapes Blackbeard’s wretched crew with newfound acquaintances James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) and Sam Smiegel (Adeel Akhtar). Lost in the jungles of Neverland, the three are soon captured by a group of natives, and Princess Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara).
If mermaids, flying ships and fairies weren’t enough in the original fairy tale, “Pan” goes unbearably further. As dizziness sets in and minds reel, Wright creates a world engulfed with delirious graphics, like fast paced chase and fights scenes, with puffs of colored smoke flying everywhere. Everything was just clever enough to distract the audience from the holes in his directing.
With acclaimed knowledge and experience in literary adaptations such as “Pride and Prejudice,” it seems that Wright has lost his fictional charm in this big-screen debacle. Don’t worry too much, for the other actors, commendable in their imaginary roles, failed to really impress.
In his first major part, Levi was a decent Peter Pan. With gold for a heart and mischief in his eyes, you couldn’t help but to love the illiterate orphan who desperately wanted to find his mother. The likings of a fighter abandoned since birth, Levi’s Peter was youthful and for the underdog.
Poor Jackman, who had a fake wig and pale complexion, wasn’t fooling anyone with his Jack Sparrow style of acting. As if that was the only poor character portrayal, Hedlund failed to do any better as the young Captain Hook, painfully dragging out his tough guy and predictably dim-witted dialogue.
Both characters were almost just as bad as the casting for the brave Indian warrior, Tiger Lily. Mara, known for her role in David Fincher’s 2011 film, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” didn’t carry much magic, unless with a sword in hand. Including the obvious fact that Wright casted a white actress to play a Native American role, Mara seemed emotionally detached and dull.
As colors and cannons flew, the film’s animation was undoubtedly good, just overboard. Known for his scores in films like “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Happy Feet,” John Powell yet again knew his energetic audience and made the music to fit the part.
Ultimately, “Pan’s” intention was honorable, just poorly executed. Not many can say they never wondered about the “lost boy’s” background, however, Wright makes it so difficult, with all the jazz, to picture Neverland for yourself. He leaves no mystery to the beloved children’s story.
At one point, Peter tells Blackbeard that he doesn’t believe in bedtime stories, and frankly, after seeing this movie, you won’t either.