Pan full movie review - One of those untold origin stories that should have been left untold
To get one thing straight, there is no pleasure taken panning this film. Being someone who has liked some of Joe Wright's previous work (especially 'Pride and Prejudice', 'Atonement' and 'Hanna'), who likes Hugh Jackman and adores the source material that 'Pan takes inspiration from.
Although it is not a film without redeeming merits, 'Pan' was hugely disappointing. It starts promisingly but then stumbles downhill once we get to Neverland and apart from the odd bright spot doesn't properly get back up again. As an origin story inspired by J.M. Barrie's magnificent story with its complex themes and rich characters, to say that it disrespects the source material is being kind to the word disrespect. But it is very underwhelming on its own merits too, while 'Anna Karenina' didn't do much for me 'Pan' is the one time where Joe Wright has come close to hitting rock bottom.
'Pan' starts off really promisingly, with a real sense of threat and false security. A lot of effort went into the production values, and there are frequent points where it does show, especially in the visually dazzling scene where the children are stolen, the whole film is exquisitely photographed, the set design is very colourful and eye-poppingly vivid with a wondrous-looking Neverland and lavish costumes apart from the ridiculously gaudy ones for the Indians. The incidental score has the right amount of whimsy and rousing energy. There is one good performance, that of Hugh Jackman who is clearly enjoying himself with glee as campy, energetic but sinister Blackbeard.
Not all the visuals work. There are so many special effects that it does start feeling too much and making the spectacle take over the story. Apart from the ships, the scene where the children are stolen and to a lesser extent the translucent mermaids, the effects are less than special, very amateurish-looking digital doubles, skeleton birds that look worse than a low budget video game from 15-20 years ago and very over-sized crocodiles that make them seem more goofy than threatening. Equally, there is a lot of spectacle, but they are very mixed when it comes to execution. Sometimes the spectacle dazzles, but at other times they're little more than nauseating kitsch. It does seem that all Wright's efforts went into the visuals and spectacle but he completely forgets telling a story and making the characters interesting, for Wright this is pretty inept.
Apart from Jackman, the rest of the cast struggle. Well actually Nonso Anoozie is pretty good, just that his screen time isn't enough to shine. Amanda Seyfried is suitably compassionate, but again very little to do. Levi Miller does do his best as Peter, he's suitably perky, has charisma and is cute as a button, but his character doesn't ever really go anywhere and he doesn't give as much charm and emotion as he should have done, Peter's trademark mischievous side is more cocky and desperate. Garrett Hedlund overacts dreadfully as a wannabe Indianna Jones/Han Solo and Brendan Fraser-esque-hero sort of Hook, constantly speaking in a way that seems to impersonate James Stewart and John Huston and very poorly, that he becomes very annoying with no foreshadowing whatsoever of the dark and complex character Hook as we know him would become. In a controversial piece of casting, Rooney Mara looks completely bored and miserable. Cara Delevigne is a pretty pallid presence though is disadvantaged by throwaway writing, and Adeel Akhtar gives a performance so stereotypical it might cause offence. None of the characters are interesting or colourful enough, although Jackman gives it everything even he can't disguise that Blackbeard's motivations and such are paper thin.
On top of the spectacle, 'Pan' also includes musical numbers. These musical numbers manage to be even more memorable than the incidental score, and that is not a good thing. Although spiritedly performed, they are not only jarringly anachronistic in style, but they are also out of place, too randomly thrown in and almost like Wright was trying to be a wannabe Baz Luhrmann, which doesn't suit Wright at all (was taken right out of the film once the characters started singing Nirvana). The script is also prone to anachronisms and often sounds completely stupid and too heavy in the cheese and schmaltz factor. There isn't really much of a story, and what there is of it is executed poorly with very little new to say, most of it not even trying to make sense to the point of being incomprehensible. There are some good ideas here but they are badly rushed through, the whole children as slaves idea was the one strand that was properly elaborated upon and had some emotional impact of some kind. Consequently, the whole point of the story is completely lost in translation, and not only was the whole Peter and Hook as friends poorly developed, plus they didn't seem believable as friends (Peter seemed as annoyed with Hook as much as those watching the film were), but there is next to no foreshadowing of them as enemies either which would have made Hook much more interesting. Most of the story is basically an excuse to include as many set pieces and musical numbers as possible, regardless of whether they were important and of good-quality or not.
Overall, a big disappointment. A few good things here and there, but this "untold" story should have stayed untold. 3/10 Bethany Cox