Oh, I’ve been waiting for a film like this. I’m going to rip this apart like a stray dog going at a T-bone. I’m going to pan Pan, bury Barrie, and right Wright’s wrongs.
In fact, I did so just after seeing it, in a series of texts to my friend Maggie. I originally just wanted to use screencaps of this conversation as illustrations for my review, but since they were written based on my fresh impressions of the film, I’ll use them as the foundation of my review.
And let me just say: thank you, Maggie, for wanting to hear more.
Original texts will be in italics. My interpolations will be in regular type.
ME: Omg Pan
MAGGIE: How bad was it?
ME: My #2 worst film of the year. So bad. So pointless.
ME: I’m usually forgiving of performances, but Garrett Hedlund as Hook was absolute shite.
MAGGIE: He seemed like he would be.
ME: He tries to play Hook as a kind of Indiana Jones ripoff with bronchitis.
MAGGIE: Wtf that sounds awful.
ME: He’s completely uncool and uncharming.
Seriously. I haven’t seen a performance I hated that much in a long time. Every choice he makes fails utterly. He starts out being an obnoxious jerk who literally helps Peter one second and the next tells him “I’m not your friend” and to go away. Nothing he does subsequently redeems him, so we’ve got a festering wound at the heart of the film from the get-go. I hope they give this guy a Razzie.
ME: And the kid who plays Pan is pretty bland.
Sorry, Levi Miller. I don’t know if you were directed to be an imitation Freddie Highmore or if you’re just not that good of an actor, but you brought no charisma to the table. You delivered your lines just fine, but you’d do well to put this film behind you as much as possible.
ME: Hugh Jackman is boringly hammy.
I really can’t remember much about his performance at all. That’s really not a good sign. He goes big and loud, and makes, really, fuck-all in terms of an impression.
ME: Rooney Mara is totally forgettable aside from how misguided her casting was.
MAGGIE: She seemed like it.
Given that she otherwise seems to be relatively careful in her choices of roles, I’m honestly disappointed that she took the role in the first place. But she really doesn’t do very well either, though her work, the racial aspects aside, is the least problematic of the four principals.
ME: For a movie that makes an effort to cast POC, all the major roles are played by white people.
Even when he had a good idea, Wright fucked it up. Most of the POC characters are fairly stereotypical in appearance and/or speech, which really doesn’t help.
ME: They sing Nirvana for no reason.
Oh, God. This scene. This might go down as one of the great WTF moments of the year. It’s the kind of left-field choice that either works perfectly or fails utterly. Here, it fails utterly. They sing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as Hook makes his first entrance (preceded by a hilariously awkward monologue which introduces him like he was in a wrestling match–“He’s the original nightmare!”), because…everyone knows that song?
It’s kind of a brilliantly ironic choice, using an alt-rock anthem in a piece of mainstream blockbuster would-be entertainment. I’m sure Kurt would approve.
MAGGIE: What the fuck.
ME: Blackbeard is basically a crackhead.
“Is”. It’s so fucking blatant I’m amazed the studio allowed it.
ME: Peter grows up in your standard horrible orphanage which is in league with Blackbeard for no stated reason.
They even raise a Jolly Roger so Blackbeard’s henchmen have the green light to abduct the orphans! Why? WHY?!?!
ME: The evil head nun is Irish.
MAGGIE: What the hell
MAGGIE: Tell me more.
ME: Peter is also growing up in Blitz-era London, a good 40 years after the character was created.
This really baffled me. I get that Neverland is supposed to exist outside of time, but why not put him in a horrible Victorian orphanage and at least be somewhat period-appropriate?
ME: A pirate ship flies through the middle of a dogfight, is observed by the participants, and as far as I know, the orphanage is never questioned.
This also baffled me. The usual rule in films like this is that fantastical events are somehow hidden from the views of the general public, either by the dark of night or by magic. But here…nope, they’re sailing right through a dogfight, and the RAF totally sees it, and absolutely nothing comes of it.
I get that fantasy operates on a different kind of logic than realism, but this is just fucking sloppy.
ME: Confusing opening sequence with Amanda Seyfried hopping a 10-foot fence with ease, even though she has an infant under her trench coat.
It also looks fake due to the obvious CGI. And it really does seem at times like there are two different women running through the foggy streets (of London).
Oh, and there’s a dumb moment where she leaves baby Peter in front of the door of the orphanage (which she wasted no time in vetting), walks away, stops as if she remembered something, then goes back and whispers a goodbye to the infant, because he can totally compute that.
Oh, and she leaves a Significant Necklace around his neck, because there’s no way a little kid will lose that (or have it taken).
ME: The action sequences are completely unexciting.
There’s one with Peter, Hook, and Smee in some kind of cable car between two different stations (it’s all part of Blackbeard’s mining operation), and it’s really not thrilling in the slightest.
ME: Peter basically fairybends at the end.
I couldn’t find a GIF of that scene, but it was memorably stupid.
ME: Hook and Peter are friends through the ending of the film, so their rivalry is never established, making this a pretty useless prequel.
Apparently Wright’s original plan was to have multiple prequels, possibly bringing us up to the events of the original story. Well, tough shit, Joe.
And fuck you for that final “What could go wrong?” line. Yeah, we know they’ll be mortal enemies someday. We probably knew that if we were going to a Peter Pan movie in the first fucking place.
MAGGIE: This is amazing. Keep telling.
ME: Smee is the most prominent character played by a POC (by an Indian actor), and he’s annoying as shit.
Sorry, Adeel Akhtar. You were not good. You were very annoying. Better luck next time.
ME: Tinker Bell appears for a few seconds and never again.
And Peter knows her name because he can speak the language of the fairies or some bullshit (he is half-fairy, but…).
MAGGIE: Incredible. Tell me more.
ME: Peter is a prophesied “chosen one”.
Like Mike from the B+ Movie Blog says, there’s always a prophecy.
ME: The natives of Neverland basically live like the Na’vi.
ME: Peter plays with Saturn at one point.
MAGGIE: I’m enjoying this. More more.
ME: Fairy dust–sorry, “Pixum” is basically crack rocks, which Blackbeard inhales the fumes of to keep permanently young.
If they weren’t trying to make us draw the parallels, then they must be the most naive people to get $150 million to make a film.
ME: Let’s see…
MAGGIE: What the fuck.
ME: Hook flirts with Tiger Lily like a jackass and she finds it charming.
ME: There are mermaids for no real reason.
Except so Cara Delevingne can earn a paycheck, apparently.
ME: Crocodiles pop up once and never again.
Gotta hit all the bases, however half-assedly!
ME: Hook is just a total asshole.
ME: There are these weird zombie-birds that fail completely as menaces.
I don’t even know what those were about. I wish I could find an image of them, because they’re ridiculous.
ME: How Blackbeard came to be is never mentioned.
ME: The water in Mermaid Lagoon is “charged with memories”.
There’s a weird scene where Pan and Tiger Lily get in the water, and he sees memories, including images of his mother, and it’s just an awkward bit of staging that doesn’t add much at all.
ME: Peter’s mother’s ghost appears at the end it’s supposed to be sad and it isn’t.
Oh, and there’s also a fake-out earlier on where we and Peter are led to believe she’s still alive and it turns out Tiger Lily and her tribe lied to him so he’d “embrace his destiny” or some bullshit like that. It’s a really tired plot device and one I’m damned sick of, because the deceived character always comes around and does whatever they were being tricked into doing in the first place. It’s just a way to create cheap drama.
MAGGIE: This sounds like a train wreck. What was your worst film of the year.
ME: But just barely.
ME: Pan was at least ambitious, if idiotic.
ME: Aloha was just idiotic.
I will give Pan that. However much its gambles failed, it did take them. It was a bad idea to begin with, given that the property is hardly at the height of its popularity–remember the Pan film from 2003 which made less than $50 million at the box office? At least that film got solid reviews and cast a Native American as Tiger Lily.
I’ve really got to wonder why so high a budget was given to Wright, who hadn’t had a real hit since Atonement, and whose previous three films had not been successes on a level that would suggest he could deliver a blockbuster. A property unlikely to draw blockbuster-level audiences + a director whose highest gross to date wouldn’t even top this film’s budget = Pan.
MAGGIE: This sounds wonderful.
ME: It’s such a mess.
ME: It’s tanking so hard.
MAGGIE: Thank goodness.
It might end up being his highest-grossing film, but since it’s made only $30 million in the US to date and another $60 or so million worldwide, it probably won’t come within pissing distance of making a profit.
ME: It cost as much as Mad Max.
ME: Yet…who spent their money better?
MAGGIE: Mad max.
As Immortan Joe would say…
ME: Mad Max was a gamble that paid off.
ME: Pan was not.
MAGGIE: I’m glad.
ME: Anna Karenina also sucked, but Wright got away with that one, somehow.
Maybe Anna isn’t that bad. But it was pretty damn boring.
If there’s anything good I can say about Pan, it’s that the money does show. The sets and costumes are lavish, and the CGI, though overused, mostly works quite well. But Pan’s triumphs are but superficial. It’s right down there with the worst of the year, and it may well be an iconic disaster in years to come.