Director: Joe Wright
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Amanda Seyfried, Levi Miller, Kathy Burke
Running Time: 111 mins
Hollywood heavyweight Hugh Jackman throws a somewhat listless punch in this lacklustre prequel to the Peter Pan fairytale.
With a title that will no doubt provide plenty of fodder for the critics, Joe Wright’s PAN tells the story of how Peter and his Lost Boys came to be in Neverland.
Shaky scriptwriting and the absence of a major star for the first 15 minutes give this film a somewhat protracted start. We discover that Peter has spent his life so far being raised by some less-than-holy nuns in an orphanage in London. Abandoned by his mother (Amanda Seyfried) for as yet unknown reasons, we meet a rebellious young Peter (newbie Levi Miller) who gives the nasty nun (Kathy Burke) a run for her money.
Things thankfully liven up when the boys are stolen from their beds in the dead of the night, spirited away by pirates to work as slaves in a twisted version of the famous Neverland. Indeed, it’s not long before we’re treated to some swashbuckling action and introduced to the supposedly dastardly Hugh Jackman as the dictator of Neverland, Captain Blackbeard. In an interesting, but somewhat unconvincing, twist to the classic Peter Pan tale, a young James Hook (not yet a captain) played by Garrett Hedlund is actually nice and becomes Peter’s best friend and personal saviour.
It’s not long before we learn that the despicable Blackbeard is stealing orphans to set them to work as slaves mining for a rare and precious commodity fairy dust. The narcissistic Blackbeard believes it’s the secret to Eternal Youth but, since he’s driven fairies to the brink of extinction, his precious powder is in short supply.
From here, the plot adheres to a fairly traditional structure, with Hedlund’s alternative leading man winning the heart of the recalcitrant tribal princess Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) and Peter Pan overcoming the odds to save the fairies from a life away from the fabled Neverland.
As far as leading men in pirate roles go, Jackman has big breeches to fill. He’s certainly no Jack Sparrow but, at times, he is a convincing showman, hamming it up and making the most of some fairly poor scripting. Levi Miller also shines in his first performance for the big screen, conveying the wide-eyed wonder of Peter with aplomb. Elsewhere the quality of the performances is a little more varied, with Garrett Hedlund proving most disappointing of all – at times his wooden performance feels so phoned is as if to have come via a phone line from Neverland itself.
Indeed, Wright’s dizzying direction is the only thing to truly recommend Pan, with every action sequence handled adroitly, leaving the kids in the audience gasping and the adults on the edge of their seats. It’s by no means Wright’s best work (that award goes to ATONEMENT) but he can walk away with his head held high enough from a film that ends up feeling somewhat less than the sum of its parts.
By Joe Newell and Joe Fowler
PAN is released in cinemas October 16.