Rachel LaBonte ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
It’s a story you’ve heard before: A little boy who doesn’t want to grow up lives on the mystical island of Neverland with his group of Lost Boys, fighting pirates and hanging with the natives. The tale of Peter Pan has been done over and over, from 1991’s Hook to 2003’s Peter Pan (And that’s just scratching the surface). However, the latest attempt to revitalize the immortal boy has a new trick up its sleeve in the form of an origin story.
Pan tells the story of an orphan boy named Peter (an excellent Levi Miller) who, one night, is plucked from his bed in a dreary orphanage by pirates and brought to Neverland to work for the dastardly pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Once there, he meets a variety of characters, including a two-handed Captain Hook (Garrett Hedlund), and discovers his destiny. If the last part sounds familiar, don’t be surprised. It’s the kind of story that has been told many times before, only this movie tries to cover it up with spectacle and wonder.
The Neverland at the heart of this film is not one one would recognize right away. Peter’s introduction to the island comes in the form of hundreds of orphaned boys singing Nirvana. This Neverland has cable cars and metal structures in the sky that act as a dock for ships. On one hand, while it has to be applauded to director Joe Wright and screenwriter Jason Fuchs for trying to inject some originality into it, a part of it feels like it’s not in Neverland. It doesn’t seem to hold the same magic.
The characters themselves are different than one may imagine, especially Hook. Here, he isn’t a pirate, and he isn’t out to kill Peter. Instead, he’s more Indiana Jones than Jack Sparrow, right down to the hat. Hedlund, while talented, puts on a distracting voice that makes him sound a bit Southern and always tilts his head whenever he speaks. While the character is enjoyable, those ticks are quite irritating and make hard to believe he will go on to be the infamous Captain Hook.
Of course, with this being Hook’s origin story as well, there needs to be a replacement villain, and that is where Blackbeard comes in. Jackman certainly owns the character well, tapping into the right amount of bravado and vileness. However, neither the costume nor the script serve him well, as he wears a black leather get-up that resembles a tutu and utters lines like “the brooding majesty of my disappointment.”
Wright was obviously going for a new, fresh take on Neverland and its colorful cast of characters, but in many cases everything comes off as simply ridiculous. This is especially clear within the representation of the natives. Most audiences have heard of the controversy this film and its casting of Tiger Lily stirred up, but for those that have not, this should get them up to speed: Instead of tapping a woman of color to play the native princess, Pan cast Rooney Mara. Mara is a very talented actress, and few will dispute that, but there is no reason for her to be cast here over a woman of color. There are actors of color in the background of every scene involving the natives. That begs the question: Why cast Tiger Lily as white?
For all its flaws, parts of Pan are still enjoyable. The special effects are incredible, and made even more impressive by 3D. John Powell’s score only adds to the feeling of wonder and adventure, and it really is interesting to see the dynamic between Peter and Hook as it is not yet antagonistic. However, it is difficult to enjoy the movie without feeling guilty when keeping in mind its grievous casting choice regarding Tiger Lily. Between that and its crazy attempts to make everything unique, some of the magic is lost along the way.
Overall Grade: B
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