Pan – Film Review by Emily Elphinstone
Director: Joe Wright
Writers: Jason Fuchs, J.M. Barrie
Stars: Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund
The most important thing to note about Joe Wright’s ‘Pan’ is that it’s great fun. Working as a prequel to J.M.Barrie’s original story without relying to heavily on the children’s classic, ‘Pan’ transports London from the Edwardian era of the Darlings, to the midst of the Blitz; with Peter living in a Lambeth orphanage ruled over by the iron fist of Mother Barnabas (A brilliant ‘Miss Trunchbull’esque Kathy Burke). Becoming suspicious of the amount of boys being ‘evacuated’ in the middle of the night; Peter and best friend Nibs eventually discover the truth behind the situation … Pirates, of course! This leads to a brilliant air fight between astounded RAF Spitfires, and the Pirate ship; something which shouldn’t really work but somehow manages to bring the audiences into the spirit of adventure, which so epitomises the entire film.
Wright’s Neverland is a world of flying Pirate ships and vast mines, where ‘lost boys’ from around the world are put to work digging for Pixum: the fossilised remains of fairy dust, which Captain Blackbeard (played as a panto villain in the best sense by Hugh Jackman) is desperate to find in order to stay young. The Pirates, meanwhile, are at war with the ‘natives’ and Blackbeard is terrified that the prophesy of a boy who can fly leading the natives against him will be fulfilled. Outside the mines, ‘Pan’ is a sumptuously coloured affair, and the design elements of the film will surely be in the running come Awards season. Blackbeard’s men resemble circus folk as much as pirates, terrifying skeletal birds with multicoloured feathers roaming the Island, and tribal folk disappear in plumes of rainbow hued smoke. It may well be one of the few films in recent times that actually work better in 3D than 2D!
The great thing about Pan is its use of recognisable characters, with a twist. Levi Miller really carries the film as Peter, very much a normal boy, with only his sense of determination giving a hint of future powers. Garrett Hedlund plays Hook as a womanising outsider, who would look more at home in a Western despite his love of Pirate ships; and Adeel Akhtar is wonderful as lowly clipboard carrying line-manager Sam Smiegal, who only Hook insists on calling ‘Smee’. It is just a shame that Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) is so very Caucasian. Mara does a great job as the beautiful fighting princess, but in the exquisitely multicoloured and multicultural home of the tribes, she can’t help but look miscast alongside tribal chief Jack Charles and warrior Kwahu (Tae-Jono Na).
With the film’s focus on the fight against Blackbeard, and Peter’s determination to find his parents, ‘Pan’ is a very different film to other Peter Pan adaptations, despite excellently placed references including the famous ‘Think a happy thought’. Finishing with Hook’s hands very much intact, we are still a long way from the beginning of the original tale; which may hint at a sequel to fill in the gaps. Somehow, I hope it is left at this – a wonderfully different take on a well known story, which manages to be both an old-fashioned children’s adventure story, and a very modern adaptation.