'Pan' Movie Review: Hugh Jackman, Rooney Mara and Garrett Hedlund Round Out Star-Studded Cast

Get the details of the Hugh Jackman movie.

October 09, 2015, 4:17 PM
PHOTO: Hugh Jackman portrays Blackbeard in a scene from "Pan."
Hugh Jackman portrays Blackbeard in a scene from "Pan."
Warner Bros. Pictures

— -- Starring Levi Miller, Rooney Mara, Garrett Hedlund and Hugh Jackman

Rated PG

Two-and-a-half out of five stars

I went to see a Joe Wright movie and a Baz Luhrmann film broke out. Or at least something that wanted to be a Baz Luhrmann movie, very badly.

With "Pan," director Wright’s attempting to tell an origin story –- that of Peter Pan. Since it’s the world of Peter Pan, anything is possible and that’s exactly how Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie wanted it. So, perhaps in the spirit of Barrie, Wright lets his imagination run wild. The results are far more bizarre than entertaining.

"Pan" starts out promising, even touching. On a cool evening in pre-WWII London, a striking blonde woman with a porcelain complexion begrudgingly leaves her baby boy on the dark alley doorstep of an orphanage. It’s an emotionally-charged, beautifully rendered scene that has you believing you might be in for a special experience.

Cut to a few years later. It’s World War II and Peter (12-year-old Levi Miller) is still living in the orphanage run by an evil, obese, junk-food-hoarding nun who, naturally, hates him. But in no time, Peter and many of his fellow orphans are kidnapped by pirates in a flying ship -– one that’s perfectly visible to all of London and the RAF -- and whisked off to Neverland, where they’re greeted by what seems like thousands of Lost Boys singing Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (very Baz Luhrmann-esque).

Congratulations to Wright for thinking out of the box here but, to paraphrase an old saying, “Nirvana is Nirvana and Neverland is Neverland, and never the twain shall meet.”

To be fair to Wright and screenwriter Jason Fuchs, the flying ship escapes into some sort of space-time continuum thingy to get to Neverland, which sort of explains the completely incongruous nature of placing a song written in 1991 in a movie that takes place during WWII.

Then Hugh Jackman’s Blackbeard arrives to lead the chorus. He’s a combination of Flash Gordon’s Ming the Merciless, The Emperor Palpatine from "Star Wars," Count Rugen from "The Princess Bride," and Dora the Explorer. Actually, he’s nothing like Dora the Explorer, but you’ve gotta love Hugh Jackman. His commitment to the character, the dialog and the role, as one would expect, is fantastic. Unfortunately, in this case, he’s committing to a character, dialog and role that lack originality and sometimes simply don’t make sense.

We also meet John Hook (Garrett Hedlund), a handsome yet selfish rapscallion who uses Peter to escape Neverland. Later, we meet Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), who will attempt to help Peter find his mother and, perhaps, discover who he really is. Hedlund proves here he’d probably make a terrific Indiana Jones. Mara proves she deserves better.

"Pan" is an aesthetically pleasing yet misguided attempt to give us Peter Pan’s backstory. All the key players in this movie are unquestionably talented, but they’re part of something that feels like a blatant and somewhat desperate attempt to be something it’s not: a movie that captures the imagination and ignites a franchise. Instead, it’s a menagerie of uninspired whimsy that doesn’t seem particularly well thought-out. If you want to see a far more imaginative and entertaining backstory of Peter Pan, head to New York and check out the musical "Finding Neverland."

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