Movie Review | Pan (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Freda Cooper 11.10.2015

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Pan (UK Rating: PG)

Disney's been going back to the future of late with its live action remakes of classics: Maleficent and Cinderella have both scored at the Box Office and there's a whole lot lined up, including  The Jungle Book next year. Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery, which could account for Warner Bros.' riff on the Peter Pan theme, yet this time it's a prequel.
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Pan, which is released on Friday, 16th October, tells the early story about the boy who never grew up. Originally just called Peter (Levi Miller), the young lad was kidnapped from an orphanage in London to serve under Captain Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) by digging out lumps of solidified fairy dust to make the pirate immortal. Blackbeard is also the sworn enemy of the Neverlanders and the fairies, all of whom have been banished to the forest. They believe that a boy will arrive to lead a rebellion against the pirate, but Peter has to prove he's the boy they have been waiting for by showing he that can fly…

The outcome is pretty obvious, then, right? This being a prequel, as well, there are other characters that figure in the J. M. Barrie classic. Smee (Adeel Akhtar) is as dithery as ever, but this time working for Blackbeard. Hook (Garrett Hedlund) hasn't met that dreaded crocodile yet, although he already has a phobia about dabbing his hands in the watery depths - he is also something of a hunk, and a romantic interest for the feisty Princess Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara). Even Tinkerbell swoops in for a brief appearance.

The way director, Joe Wright, has mashed-up cultures and cherry picked from other children's favourites, though, would have Barrie turning in his grave. The orphanage where Peter lives in decidedly in the style of Dickens, yet the setting is World War II. When he arrives in Blackbeard's kingdom, he and everybody else in the flying galleon (how it actually flies is a total mystery) is greeted with a chorus of Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' all orchestrated by the pirate himself. Where did they learn that from? On top of that, Hook is played just like Indiana Jones, complete with a very similar hat. It's messy and doesn't make for a coherent story, let alone an entertaining one.

There's something even more fundamental missing, something that no fairy story of any description should be without: magic. All the fairy dust, mermaids, and flying galleons are no substitute from the genuine sparkle that the film desperately needs. If Warner Bros. is trying to beat Disney at its own game, it will have to do better than this, especially if planning for a sequel, as the closing sequence points towards. The one thing that should be kept is the show-stopping Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard, with his horribly obvious wig and manky teeth. He carries the film on his capable shoulders but, with any luck, he won't follow in Johnny Depp's footsteps by playing the role ad nauseam.

How it will fare as a family film depends on the children that go to see it. There are some elaborate set pieces, including a spectacular giant crocodile leaping out of the water, Jurassic World-style, but they don't make up for the genuine lack of excitement. For the youngsters among the audience, it's also so wordy that fidgeting is the inevitable outcome.

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Rated 5 out of 10


Thankfully, Pan isn't the only family film on offer over half-term, otherwise it would be DVDs all round. Hugh Jackman's Blackbeard aside, it's a hollow experience, with little or nothing in the way of sparkle, excitement or wit. Thank goodness J. M. Barrie's original story is so familiar because, on its own, this prequel doesn't amount to much.

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