FlixChatter Review: PAN (2015)

PAN2015Hollywood’s obsession with origin stories continue with this latest reimagining of Peter Pan story. The story is set during the WW II Blitz era London and centers on the 12-year-old orphan Peter (Levi Miller) who lives in cheerless orphanage run by heartless and cunning nuns. But of course we know he won’t stay there for long as he will soon be whisked way to the magical world of Neverland to fulfill his destiny [yawn].

Pardon my dread there, but really, there have been a plethora of ‘chosen one’ storyline done in the past, and this one doesn’t really add nothing new. One of my pet peeves is whenever I hear ‘it’s your destiny’ or something along that line, I just can’t help to roll my eyes as it’s just so darn clichéd. Well, despite all the pixie dust we see in this movie, it lacks a certain kind of magic that would fill me with wonder.

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Don’t get me wrong, I think Joe Wright has a way with creating unique spectacle on screen. The 3D looks bright, colorful and panoramic, and feature some stunning camera work, especially the moment we get to Neverland and introduced to its flamboyant pirate leader Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Here we’ll see how Blackbeard’s plucked a bunch of kids from orphanages all over the world to work as slaves in his mine. So yeah, this movie is VERY loosely based on J. M. Barrie’s classic story, but that’s what you get from a reimagining adaptation. The quarry visual is reminiscent of Mad Max: Fury Road and the rousing rendition of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is rather amusing as it’s so unexpected.

In Neverland, Peter also encountered James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) who’s still working as one of Blackbeard pixie dust mine minions. Hedlund‘s basically channeling John Wayne-style cowboy and though he’s fun in parts, he’s rather devoid of real charm. There’s all the teasing that Peter and the would-be Captain Hook would not be friends later on, and there’s deliberate *suspense* over when Hook would lose his hand to a crocodile. There’s even a giant CGI croc leaping across your screen, just one of a plethora of sound and sight oddities throughout. Did I mention Cara Delevingne also makes a cameo as a mermaid triplets?

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The relentless CGI-fest will no doubt engulf your senses. At times the effect felt like a huge sugar rush overload. There is only so much eye-popping effects your eyes can handle, I actually had to close my eyes a few times just to recharge my senses. But no amount of visual spectacle can replace a heartfelt story and I think that’s what’s lacking here. There are moments later in the film between Peter and his long-lost mother that’s quite moving, but that emotional resonance is so few and far between.

I think one of the worst moments is between Hook and Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) which is just so awkward and pointless. In fact, the entire sequence in the island of the tribe that protect the fairy kingdom feels haphazard with garish colors and absurd battle action. Not to mention the fact that the casting of Mara as a Native American princess is just egregious. I read one reviewer who said ‘…Rooney Mara was crushed by a United Colours of Benetton ad’ Ouch! Ok so there is one character played by a non-white actor Adeel Akhtar, but he’s relegated to comic relief purpose and not much else.

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You won’t expect any subtlety in this movie and I don’t think Wright even tried. What’s also not-so-subtle is the fact that the film seems to be made to launch a franchise. Yet the script by Jason Fuchs is already stretched so thin, with minimal character development. It doesn’t help that it gets lost in the extravagant, noisy special effects. The film’s already a massive box office flop as it’d be a struggle to even make up the $150 million budget. But hopefully this means Wright will return to making intriguing dramas like Atonement and Pride and Prejudice.

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As far as performances go, I have to say that Jackman’s theatrical background is put to good use as Blackbeard. I know the role likely begets over-the-top performance, but all the scenery chewing gets irritating fast. Just like the movie, all the makeup/costume is so showy and circus-y but the character itself isn’t all that interesting. I do like Levi Miller as Peter though, I think he has that expressive face that reminds me of the young girl in the first Jurassic Park movie. Apparently Wright traveled to the UK, the United States, Canada, and Australia and looked at thousands of kids before he found Miller.

Overall, all the well intention of the filmmakers involved is swallowed up by overwhelming action and CGI spectacle. It also went on for far too long at nearly 2-hours, but too short on humor and whimsy. Like a rollercoaster in an amusement park, there are up and down moments, if only there were more ups than downs.

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Did you see PAN? Well, what did you think?

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27 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: PAN (2015)

  1. Hmmm, sad to hear. Quite frankly I never could find an attraction to this thing. Something looked terribly off. Glad now that I didn’t go ahead and dive into it. Maaaaybe on DVD.

    1. Hi Keith! Well your gut is right man, it’s really all spectacle and no substance. I think your young kids might enjoy it on Bluray later though, the visuals are pretty cool.

  2. You’re SO HARD ON THIS!!! NO!!! I loved this one. The more I think about it the more I love it, and almost all of your faults I found to be pluses. LOL…but that just proves everyone watches film differently. Well written review, Ruth, as always 😀

    1. Sorry Drew!! I wish I could be in your camp, I was actually ready to disagree w/ the critics. But well, the movie just didn’t do it for me. There was a couple of emotional moments but overall it actually bored me… :\ But like you said, to each their own right, no hard feelings? 😀

  3. I have no desire to see this movie, I still don’t understand the obsession Hollywood has with Peter Pan. How many films have they made within the last 10-20 years with this character? I think the only one I really enjoyed was Spielberg’s Hook. Also, if I remember correctly, wasn’t this supposed to come out last July? Guess the studio folks saw the final product and didn’t want to release it in the crowded summer season.

    1. Yeah I don’t think you would enjoy it Ted. It’s true Hollywood likes to rehash the same story over and over. I’m not a huge fan of the story though I really like Finding Neverland which is more about the author and his inspiration for the story. Yep, it was delayed from Summer and I think it probably would’ve bombed if it’s released then too.

  4. From the sounds of it, Joe Wright should stick to making Jane Austen films. At no point did any of the trailers or marketing for this fill me with a sense of “oh hell yes I simply must see this”…. I see my initial reaction has been borne out with a box office drubbing; sad, because I kinda wanted Pan to succeed.

    1. Hi Rodney. Ahah well I think he did a great job w/ Atonement which is not an Austen adaptation. I just think this was too much style over substance and too much hammy performances too.

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  6. My first thought when I heard news of this was ‘why’? Then I came to my senses and realised it’s all about the money, plain and simple. Wright’s a good director, but this is un unnecessary picture.

    1. Hi Mark! Yep, my thoughts exactly too, I probably wouldn’t have gone if it hadn’t been for the press screening. Wholly unnecessary and hopefully this flop will get Wright back into what he does best, something like Atonement or Pride & Prejudice.

  7. Tom

    Right on the money with this review friend; Joe Wright isn’t someone I’m really familiar with but I’m honestly not in too much of a hurry to find out more. Pride & Prejudice will come before anything else, but . . . meh. His style is so far bland, if Pan is anything to go by. Such a disappointment, this. . . (But I do agree about Levi Miller; he was actually pretty great)

    1. Hi ya Tom! Oh you should check out Atonement, superbly made and acted w/ James McAvoy & Keira Knightley (and Benedict Cumberbatch in a supporting role). First time I saw Saoirse Ronan and she’s a phenomenal young actress. Wright seems to be good w/ casting young actors, as he did here w/ Levi, but the movie is sadly meh.

  8. Sorry you didn’t care for this, Ruth. I just adored the sugar-coatedness of it, and it was nice to be swept into the fantasy of it all. It might help that I’ve always been a big fan of Peter Pan, though. 😉

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