“If you don't believe, Peter, then neither will they.”
It seems that every decade there is a new attempt at bringing Peter Pan back to life wether it be a reimagining of the classic tale or a prequel. This time it was Joe Wright’s turn to give us an origin story of Peter Pan and how he arrived at Neverland. The concept seemed pretty interesting considering Pan is such a fascinating character, and Joe Wright who delivered solid films like Pride and Prejudice and Atonement seemed to be the perfect man for the job. That is why Pan was among my most anticipated films of the year, although that anticipation began to wear down once the first reviews starting coming in. The visuals are quite mesmerizing, but the problem with Pan has more to do with the narrative structure of the film. Pan is such a lovable character, but here he seems to lack that charm that made kids fall in love with his childish and wacky behavior. This Pan seems more mature and not very mischievous. He is in search of his mother and is trying to find meaning to his existence. But that approach sort of takes the fun out of his character. However, the choice of including Hook as an ally was pretty engaging. I liked that element of the story, but that was about it. Hook and Pan have a solid relationship in the film, but it never takes center stage and the action scenes kind of eclipse any attempt of establishing these characters. Hugh Jackman rarely works for me as a villain since he seems to go over the top with these characters at times. Blackbeard was not the exception for Jackman. Rooney Mara seemed like the perfect choice for Tiger Lily, but her character is never given much opportunity in the film and I thought it was a waste of talent. Pan seemed to have all the right ingredients to become a success but from the moment Peter arrives at Neverland to the sound of miners chanting Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, all the magic disappeared.
I wouldn’t blame the film’s lack of heart on its cast because I thought there were some strong performances. Levi Miller did a good job playing the title character, but the problem is that this Peter simply wasn’t childish and lively as the ones we are used to seeing him in. Adeel Akhtar was given the task of playing Sam Smiegel and in my opinion his character was the closest to the cartoon. Of course here Hook is playing Peter’s friend so he is nothing like we are used to seeing. Garret Hedlund gives the best performance of the film and I think that his character would’ve been a more fascinating character study. We could have used more of his origin story and then explore reasons as to why he ultimately became the Hook we all know. The cast and the visuals were all very satisfactory, but the narrative elements are what ultimately hurt this film and didn’t allow it to take off the way I would’ve wanted it to. Pan was definitely a disappointment for me, and it just goes to prove how difficult it is to bring Neverland to life. I’m in the minority here, but I think that Spielberg’s Hook is the best adaptation of the story. Watch that instead.