Ah, Joe Wright what have you done? The director who brought us the tightly choreographed beauty of Atonement (2007) and the neatly played Pride and Prejudice (2005), has pitched his tent in Neverland and reimagined JM Barrie’s classic characters with a panache-free mix of poor acting, ropey CGI and noise in the fantasy adventure, Pan.
On the face of it, this prequel, which aims to tell the tale of how the ‘boy who never grew old’ arrived in Neverland and decided that a life of carefree adolescence would suit him just fine, could have been an enjoyable adventure. Unfortunately, it loses its way somewhere around the second star to the right and fails to make it straight on until morning.
Younger viewers will probably enjoy this movie for what it is; there are plenty of colourful set pieces, lashings of CGI, loads of noise and the odd laugh. However, for anyone who has read the book, or seen the Disney animation or even PJ Hogan’s more recent 2004 version of Peter Pan, you’ll be left feeling short changed that you don’t discover why Captain Hook and Peter are on such bad terms (indeed in this story they become pals) or how Pan and Tinkerbell became such good friends.
If you’re left miffed by the gaping holes in the storyline, you’ll be even more so by the casting and characters – which, even for a fantasy film, seem off-the-wall. Peter Pan stands no chance at all played by debutant Levi Miller, whose performance is both wooden and annoying. Introduced as an orphan at the Lambeth School for Boys, under the brutal stewardship of wicked nun Kathy Burke, Peter is a dyslexic cockney urchin but seems to forget this midway through the film when his diction is refined to that of a Home Counties schoolboy – that’s pixie dust for you.
He also comes with the baggage of being the chosen one (yawn), the one who will fulfil the prophecy and deliver Neverland from the tyrannous regime of Blackbeard.
But Peter is far from the weakest element in Pan! When you think of the archetypal Captain Hook, you conjure in your mind a bewigged, pseudo-aristocratic dandy. So, when James Hook (Not yet Capt, played by Garrett Hedlund) is introduced as an Indiana Jones clone, you’ll be forgiven if you gag on your popcorn. The Hook character is so out of kilter with the rest of the film that it completely ruins any sense of flow.
Thank goodness therefore for Hugh Jackman, who does the decent thing and hams up as an excellent Blackbeard, a rollicking, dastardly, moustache twirling pantomime villain, who brings at least some fun to proceedings.
This, then, is a film that will entertain undemanding young minds, but also a story opportunity abandoned in favour of unimaginative CGI and a plotline transposed from any of a number of superior ‘prophecy’ movies.
In cinemas nationwide from 16 October 2015