Pan - This Lost Boy Does Not Rock
Dir: Joe Wright
Starring Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Levi Miller, Kathy Burke, Adeel Akhtar, Amanda Seyfried
P J Hogan’s 2003 Peter Pan has proved in the subsequent years to be a Pan for the ages. Before that, Spielberg’s much-maligned Hook at least had a good first hour in it (the bit before they got to Neverland.) So Wright’s reimagining is on something of a hiding to nothing, unless it has a smart, well-reasoned reason to re-tool Barrie’s original. Sadly, it doesn’t have that.
What it has is a handful of ideas that are applied rather heavy handedly to both character and plot elements of what went before, leading the film more into a cul-de-sac rather than a new direction. Thus we have Peter, now an abandoned orphan, growing up in an east end boys home populated by the progeny of Dick Van Dyke’s accent, and ruled by a caricature-friendly collection of Oirish nuns, led by a wasted Kathy Burke. After an impressive night time kidnapping and a pirate ship vs Spitfire dogfight over London, we’re off to Neverland.. Here, James Hook is a young man with both his hands and an accent straight out of a 1930s Hollywood matinee idol. (Hopefully a shocking piece of misdirection that the actor’s career will survive.) Plus, he dresses like Indiana Jones and acts like Han Solo – quite literally when he shows up in his ship at the proverbial last minute. The bad guy of the piece is therefore not Hook, but Blackbeard – a historical figure in a fantasy scenario who forces his thousands of supposedly “free” slave miners to sing Nirvana songs to him. Yes, you read that correctly, that’s Hugh Jackman and chorus up there warbling their way through Smells Like Teen Spirit. WHY?!?
And that defines the problem with Wright’s film – it’s verges from completely random to painfully obvious. Need a flashback? That’s OK – the water just happens to be memory water. Want to drop a reference to the original? Don’t worry, we’ve got dialogue like – “He’s lost?”/”Yes, he’s a lost boy” – and yes that was the sound of a CLUNK you just heard.
Cara Delevingne shows up as a bunch o’ mermaids at one point. Why? Why not? After all the film does like to pilfer from a number of sources – the Neverbirds mix moments of Jurassic Park with bits of Avatar, Star Wars keeps recurring (not least in Hedlund’s Han), the crocodile has a Free Willy moment, even the Bible crops up with Peter reinvented as a Messiah like figure with a mum named Mary (maybe not a virgin but his dad was something of a fairy.) For what wants to be an original take on a well worn tale, it’s all strangely derivative, referential and distinctly unoriginal. Which is a shame because some of the unending stream of set pieces are visually impressive and you’ve got to love the moment when Dumbo, sorry Peter, learns to fly. Sadly it’s accompanied by a very basic “you have to believe in yourself/and we’ll win if we do it together” banged home message. And did we mention Adeel Akhtar’s alleged comic turn as Smee? Disgraceful!
For all your Neverland needs, go back to the Hogan. We don’t, we don’t, we don’t believe in this Pan.
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