The “boy who wouldn’t grow up” never seems to get old in Hollywood. Whether it’s Disney’s classic, Spielberg’s Hook, 2003’s traditionalist live-action Peter Pan, Finding Neverland or endless straight-to-DVD Tinkerbell fodder, JM Barrie’s creation seems to be a bottomless well of inspiration.
Now, Atonement director Joe Wright helms yet another adaptation, a prequel that aims to give us the untold backstory of how Peter became The Pan.
This origins story has a promising Dickens-meets-Narnia start: Peter (an excellent Levi Miller) is an orphan in 1940s wartime London who sleuths for answers as to why so many children keep disappearing from the orphanage. He is kidnapped by an RAF-bothering pirate ship, who naps the kiddies for Blackbeard’s mining effort in Neverland. However, the imaginative opening is dragged down by a stock messianic storyline, shaky special effects and an unoriginal finale set in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Wright, who is never short of ideas, throws so many at the screen that the overall effect is more messy than masterful.
The cast all play to the back row and just about keep things afloat. Kudos to Hugh Jackman, going full panto as Blackbeard, who is inexplicably introduced to the sound of his underage slaves chanting to Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. (Apparently, grunge managed to find the second star to the right and went straight on till morning...) Jackman chews the scenery for all it’s worth and softens the blow of Garrett Hedlund’s James Hook. The latter desperately attempts to channel Harrison Ford, playing the antagonist-to-be as an over-enunciating rogue that is as grating as John Powell’s bombastic score.
“To die will be an awfully big adventure”, wrote Barrie. Pan is awfully big in scale and, fortunately, isn’t enough of a shipwreck to have you praying to walk the plank. Children will enjoy the OTT ride and adults will soldier through the retina-assaulting barrage of primary colours. It stands as one of those prequel stories, like Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful, that you didn’t ask for but still manages to entertain, despite its many flaws.
Pan | Directed by Joe Wright (USA 2015) with Hugh Jackman, Levi Miller, Garrett Hedlund. Starts October 8