Joe Wright’s “Pan” is Another Neverland Hit

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Joe Wright, in association with PacRat Films and the makers that brought you the Harry Potter films, has brought the fantastical world of Peter Pan back from its years of slumber with his new movie “Pan.”

The impressive cast of Hugh Jackman as the infamous Black Beard, Garrett Hedlund as soon-to-be Captain Hook, Rooney Mara as Tigerlilly and Levi Miller as Peter Pan left audiences with little to be desired apart from a few more hours of play in a world far, far away — Neverland.

This version of Peter Pan’s tale differs greatly from the original Disney film in 1953 and its live action reboot from 2003. Its tone reflected that of the late Robin Williams’ version “Hook” from 1993. “Hook” was an epilogue of sorts to the Pan tale, while “Pan” was the prologue that many had been waiting for. They surely weren’t disappointed.

“Pan” was nothing short of fantastic. The cast was strong and had great chemistry. There were a few deviations from the original storyline, but that is acceptable with more than a half-century gap between the original and this version.

The visuals were by far the most stunning and beautiful that I have seen this year. Everything from the flying pirate ships and the hazy gloom of WWII era London to the fantastical fairy world of Neverland left me in awe. Pirates dressed to the nines in makeup and flashy clothes, fairies shimmered like dying stars and wide-open vistas, mythological in nature, combined to give our inner child a full course meal for the eyes to devour.

This was a breakout role for Miller as Pan. He manages to portray the naiveté of a child while keeping the headstrong perseverance and will of a man. He was Pan to a “T.” Jackman played a captivating Blackbeard, with drama dripping from his language like venom from a cobra’s fang. Hedlund was rambunctious, womanizing and overall virtuous, with the perfect blend of good and evil that later fuels the relationship between Peter and Hook in the original story.

The story follows Peter from when mother left him at the orphanage. He holds onto the idea of her return, like any kid would. This love of his mother leads him into trouble most days.

The nuns who run the orphanage see him as a little demon. Soon enough, Peter and his friend discover that the nuns are selling orphans to an unknown person. This person just so happens to be Blackbeard. And so, the story of Peter being taken to Neverland begins to take form.

Once in Neverland, Peter finds himself in servitude to the ruthless Blackbeard, who has the young boys mining for fairy dust. No one knows why, but they do as they are told. That is, until Hook and Pan meet for the first time. Before you know it, the two hatch an escape plan to find Peter’s mother, who is rumored to be on the island. Hook just wants to go home. This unlikely duo finds themselves on the run from a band of ruthless pirates led by Blackbeard. And so the story goes.

Although the story was phenomenally fresh and well-written, there are some major problems that had me deflated in the theater. There are two scenes soon after arriving to Neverland where the audience finds themselves in a Mad Max-like vista of workers within a mind being whipped into a frenzy by Blackbeard to the tunes of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana and “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones.

This no doubt was a stylistic choice by Wright to bring the film into a new age, but in reality it took me completely out of the story. Instead of focusing on the story, I couldn’t help but stifle laughter and a cringe when I listened to the oil-and-water-like concoction that was the music to the scene.

Jackman’s character of Blackbeard was also disgruntling. A character as menacing and shrouded in pirate lore as Blackbeard should have been much more menacing to the eye. Instead, the costume designers decided to make Jackman look closer to a gothic Marie Antoinette. I couldn’t help but wonder when Blackbeard was going to shower his slaves in cake. It was simply ridiculous. Had they worked on making him more menacing and serious, the film would have done much better logistically. I understand that the film is meant to be fantasy for children and to create a world far detached from our own, nonetheless, I couldn’t get past it. There wasn’t a moment where I believed that Blackbeard posed a real threat.

Despite these two shortcomings, the film was a triumph. It was not just fantastical and inspiring to the inner child that sleeps within us all, it was pure unadulterated fun. It isn’t often that a movie and story so rooted into the mind of adults can pop up so fresh in a way such as this. Taking familiar characters and building a backstory to support the story we all know is a tough job. I wasn’t bored for a moment, even if it was rated PG.

“Pan” was the perfect prologue to a story known and loved by many. Wright takes you on a pixie dust-fueled ride through another world. Pay the extra bucks for the 3D show and you won’t regret it, no matter your age or childlike tendencies.

“Pan” is showing at Cinemark Theaters in Conway and is rated PG for fantasy action violence, language and some thematic material.

image via pop-break.com

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