Is there a story that’s been adapted more times than the tale of Peter Pan?
Since his debut in 1902, Peter has appeared in video games, on stage, radio, TV and of course movies with the most famous being the 1953 Walt Disney adaptation.
Hugh Jackman leads the cast of Pan – an origin story that promises to show how a young orphan became Peter Pan. After pirates abduct him from a London orphanage in the middle of the night, Peter (Levi Miller) is taken to Neverland.
Hugh Jackman’s is a rock star villain on a hunt for fairy dust in a bid for immortality; a rather major plot element that’s mostly disregarded and only hinted at. Much like with last year’s Maleficent, Pan tries to portray one of cinema’s most iconic villains as a misunderstood soul with a kind heart. But where Maleficent was mostly a success in that respect, Pan’s Captain Hook (Garrett Hedlund) is too sleazy to be appealing.
Sometimes you can change perception of popular villains. But whilst Maleficent was a fearful, powerful sorceress in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, Hook was always a bumbling idiot and a bit of a dick – so it’s harder to take him seriously as a womanising, ass-kicking convict in Pan.
Total newcomers to the story will have no problem with this character in this movie, but generations of audiences are so used to a particular representation and this movie doesn’t do enough to convince us with this take. Meanwhile, hints and references to a future rivalry between Peter and Hook feel like terribly shoehorned in sequel set-up.
Pan has a certain charm and is decent Saturday afternoon family fodder, but ultimately it falls short more often than it soars. Its potential is damaged by films that have come before it, with the prime example being Hugh Jackman’s turn as Blackbeard. As charismatic and entertaining as his portrayal is, it all just feels a bit too Jack Sparrow.
As the title character, Levi Miller struggles to sell the clunky dialogue and it’s somewhat bizarre how Peter shows hardly any shock or surprise at the weirdness of Neverland. Huge flying crocodiles? Cool, whatever. Ships flying into space? Yawn. Mermaids? Average. Fairies? Mildly amusing.
Perhaps ‘mildly amusing’ is a perfect way to sum up Pan. Much like this summer’s Fantastic Four reboot, it’s hard to imagine anyone that will feel strongly enough to either love or hate this film – it’s firmly in mediocre territory.
If it does kick start an evidently-planned franchise, we’re likely to be talking Narnia rather than Harry Potter levels of impact and popularity.
Released in UK cinemas on Friday 16 October 2015.
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