“Pan,” a prequel to J.M. Barrie’s original story, reveals the true story of a young boy, who became the hero we all know as Peter Pan.
As a child, I often left my window unlocked at night, in hopes that I would receive a visit from a magical boy named Peter. Disney’s 1953 animated film, “Peter Pan,” first introduced me to J.M. Barrie’s otherworldly tale, but it didn’t reveal much about the title character. For years I wondered just how Peter came to be a lost boy, stuck in the timeless limbo of Neverland.
Director Joe Wright’s latest film, “Pan,” attempts to give a backstory to Barrie’s creative masterpiece, but distracts audiences from the story by sensory overload. Overly excessive action sequences and blaring sound effects overwhelm any effort made to develop the plot. But the film is saved from being a complete shipwreck by its gorgeous cinematography and charming characters.
Peter’s story begins in an orphanage in World War II era London, after his mother leaves him on the front steps with a note, promising to see him again. Years later, after multiple boys in the orphanage go missing, Peter (Levi Miller) takes it upon himself to solve the mystery, only to discover that they are being taken in the middle of the night by pirates, and is kidnapped himself.
Peter is transported on a flying ship to Neverland, where he is to be one of thousands of boys forced by the evil pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) to work in mines. After getting into a fight with other miners, Peter is forced to jump off a plank as punishment, but before he can reach the ground, he begins to fly. This shocks Blackbeard, who reveals an ancient prophecy, predicting that a boy who can fly will one day overthrow the pirates, and liberate the natives of Neverland.
To prevent this, Peter is put in jail, but then escapes to the jungle of Neverland with the help of fellow orphan James Hook (Garrett Hedlund.) Once in the jungle, Peter is joined by Hook and the princess of the natives, Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara,) as he struggles to discover his true identity.
Though the plot of “Pan” can be confusing, certain cast members miraculously managed to shine through. Hedlund creates an entirely new version of Captain Hook, who has always been portrayed as a crazed, paranoid pirate. Though a bit gruff, Hedlund is boyishly charming, and reminded me of a young Harrison Ford.
Miller, though only 13, managed to portray an emotional depth that many of his older cast mates failed to. He’s mischievous, brave, and silly, everything that Peter Pan is expected to be.
“Pan” is presented to audiences with a colorful, candy coated exterior. The film is incredibly beautiful, as Wright is known for his aesthetically pleasing films such as “Atonement” and “Pride and Prejudice,” but unlike his previous films, “Pan” has nothing more to offer. The film runs at almost two hours, but would require at least three more to fully explain all of the unnecessary subplots.
Though Wright created a Neverland that’s a spectacle all by itself, it’s not enough to support the weight of the massive, overly complicated storyline. “Pan” may have answered some of the questions that Barrie fans have mulled over for years, but such a classic story deserved more of an effort.