Hollywood’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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Did you see PAN? Well, what did you think?