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Pan

on October 8 | in MOVIE REVIEWS | by | with 1 Comment

MPAA Rating: PG for fantasy action violence, language and some thematic material. Running time: 111 minutes. Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Summary:

It’s a damn good thing both Pan and The Matrix were released by the same motion picture company, because they’re basically the same movie. Oh, to be sure, there have been “chosen one” films where the unwilling hero is thrust into a situation way beyond his control, surely to stumble, fall, and doubt himself at first before rising to the occasion and fulfilling his destiny. Maybe it’s because both involve their main characters flying…
 
DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Michael Parsons, Movie Critics, Film CriticsWell, sort of. Neo only flies in the last few seconds of The Matrix, but it’s something he has to build toward, the way Peter (Levi Miller) has to do in Pan. And just like Neo, he has a moment where he unknowingly shows his nascent power before losing it for the rest of the movie. Replace Trinity with Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), and you’ve got a perfect stand-in for Neo’s female guide into the unknown. I must apologize – I find parallels in strange places and they tend to stick in my mind, like a stubborn splinter that you can’t get out with a simple tweezing. However, I stand by it – it’s The Matrix-lite for kids.

Pan isn’t without its interesting moments or notions. Unfortunately, those come at the very beginning, where we see Peter’s life in an orphanage after being dropped off by his sorrowful mother, Mary (Amanda Seyfried) twelve years earlier. Aside: Did they really mean for a single mother who reportedly underwent a magical birth to be named Mary? There are definitely more Christian metaphors that Pan houses in its kid-adventure clothing, so I’ll answer yes to that one. Hey, wasn’t The Matrix also a movie with heavy Christian metaphors?

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Michael Parsons, Movie Critics, Film CriticsBack to the interesting: Peter and his fellow orphan Nibs (Lewis MacDougall) share space in the bunkhouse, where it seems orphans are disappearing at an alarming rate. Also, as this opening sequence takes place during the London Blitz of World War II, the orphans are subsisting on soup, while Mother Barnabas (Kathy Burke), the head of the orphanage, remains fat and fed. This part of the film contains the most genuine fun you’ll have for the whole movie, as we see Peter and Nibs go sleuthing for answers, finding a massively hoarded stash of stuff, and also getting more than they hoped to when they break into the records room: a letter from Mary which Peter has never seen, but will be crucial to the film’s plot.

After being found by Mother Barnabas, the film takes us from WWII-era London to Neverland, where we are greeted with mine workers chanting the chorus and second verse of a very familiar 1991 song, which brings us out of the fantasy world with such a screeching halt, the viewer is thrown completely out of the movie. Pan doesn’t recover from this abrupt shift; instead, it turns into a by-the-numbers self-esteem children’s piece. It doesn’t help matters when we find Peter’s first friend to be James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), who’s first seen giving Peter advice on surviving the mine.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Michael Parsons, Movie Critics, Film CriticsHedlund plays Hook as a raving lunatic control freak, growling and preening with a very uncomfortable, off-putting energy. Eyes ablaze with some kind of inner fury and dental appliances making his mouth exaggeratedly huge, Hedlund does his best impression of Gary Busey mixed with Eric Bana from the 2009 Star Trek reboot. (There’s another cinematic character I’m reminded of with Hedlund’s performance, but it’s slipping my mind right now. I will surely add it to this review if I remember.) Regardless, I’ve never wanted anyone to be off the screen as much as this iteration of Hook, who’s corny, loud, arrogant, and annoying.

Alternately, I barely recognized Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard, Peter’s bête noire. Honestly, I thought they were giving big roles to Adrien Brody again (and why not? I like Brody’s work) and was quite surprised to see Jackman’s name at the start of the credits. Aided by makeup, prostheses, and a more guttural voice than I’m used to, Jackman uses his screen time to terrify Peter and ooze a seductive evil vibe, slickly changing tones between being a rockstar pirate and crazed hunter with a dark secret.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Michael Parsons, Movie Critics, Film CriticsHowever, I’ve never seen more effort in trying to make an audience swallow what screenwriter Jason Fuchs wants you to swallow. References to J.M. Barrie’s characters or plotlines are treated with a bit of a “nyuk-nyuk”-style elbow jab, dropped in ham-handedly and left to hang there. His revisionist take on Peter Pan and James Hook – where “enemies start out as friends and friends start out as enemies,” as Mara’s opening narration forewarns us – leaves no room for subtext or nuance, not content to push its points to the audience with any subtlety or grace.

Instead, Peter’s disbelief in himself is rammed down our throats repeatedly in an effort to REALLY MAKE SURE WE GET IT. While Pan is visually stunning and worth its 3D upcharge – the final scenes in the Fairy Kingdom will astound you – it spends way too much time repeating itself, eventually giving way to conventional feel-good cop-outs. Its key sin is trying to be too clever without being fundamentally good, embracing cliché instead of inspiration.

 

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