October 10, 2015 // 5 Comments
For those who don’t know, I love movies, television and anime. I also love critiquing them, as such I occasionally write reviews. As such, I hope you enjoy this one!
Upon walking out of Fantastic Four, I declared the only way I’d see a worse movie this year was if I watched the universally panned Adam Sandler video game flick, Pixels. This was a joke based on the fact that I wasn’t ever going to watch Pixels (I’m not that much of a masochist) and that I thought that Fantastic Four was easily going to be the worst movie I saw in 2015. No way could something be worse than that.
I should know better than to say something like that, because then bad things happen.
Things like Pan, happen.
For those not in the know, Pan is the latest in the long history of movies based on the J.M.Barrie play known by many names but most commonly as Peter Pan. This story and it’s characters are household names largely due to the Disney move (of which I am admittedly, not the biggest fan) and it’s not really surprising we’ve seen so many takes on Peter Pan as we have. There’s a lot of good ideas to mine here and Neverland is one of the more unique fantasy worlds in fiction.
So what makes Pan such a colossal failure on every conceivable level?
A lot of it comes down to trying make the story into something it’s not. Peter Pan is a story about embracing the joys of youth and not letting the need to grow up stop you from being young at heart. It’s not now, nor has it ever been a story with a chosen one narrative, and that’s what Pan has decided it needs to be. It scotch tapes the standard chosen one narrative to the original world of Pan in the form of a baffling prequel to the original story that is designed to show us how Peter became Peter Pan and first fell into the world of Neverland.
The ins and outs of this are confusing off the bat. Peter seems to come from World War 2-era England. My problem with this is I always got the impression Peter had been in Neverland a long time for the whole ‘never grow up’ thing to make any sense. Most versions of Peter Pan seems to take place at most… five to ten years after this story takes place. It’s weird to me to make it this contemporary but that is the least of this movie’s problems.
The writing here is absolutely awful. It’s a paint by numbers chosen one narrative. Peter is abandoned and he’s told he’s not special by evil nuns (no, those exact words). One night he’s whisked away to a fantasy world where it turns out he is special and that it’s his destiny to save Neverland from the completely laughable threat that is Blackbeard and his pirates. This sort of thing can work when it has heart, but Pan has no heart and is just filling in the blanks with characters from a famous work of fiction.
Peter needs a snarky, older mentor character so let’s make it Captain Hook! He needs a wise mother figure so let’s make it Tiger Lily! Forget that neither of these characters had anything to do with the roles we’ve shoved them into, let’s just make them what we need them to be. Fairy dust made people fly in the original play but that doesn’t fit with this story, so instead here the fairy dust is needed to help keep Blackbeard young.
Even though I thought the whole point of Neverland was that it kept people young…?
It’s a confusing, jumbled mess that falls apart if you even for a second try to apply it to anything resembling logic. Connecting this movie to the story it’s supposed to be a prequel to makes no sense either, as it contradicts several parts of that story multiple times. Most egregious to me is the characterization of Captain Hook. You’d expect his and Peter’s story to be a riff on the relationship of Jim and Long John Silver from Treasure Island. You’d be wrong, obviously, as clearly the best thing to use as inspiration for your take on prequel Captain Hook is Han Solo.
I actually thought they might go this route with the character based on his appearance being very much inspired by Indiana Jones (I know, loose connection) but I didn’t expect it to be this direct. Call the main character ‘kid’? Check. Flirty romance with the princess? Check. Leaves before the final battle to save his own skin only to turn up at the end to prove he’s a hero at heart? Check. If that last part sounds like it’s going to prevent us actually seeing how Hook becomes… well… Hook then…
No spoilers but, let’s just say I think the movie is either trying to sequel bait, or didn’t want to make one of it’s lead heroes look bad.
Technically the movie is a nightmare. The CGI ranges from passable to ludicrous, with some of the designs looking completely out of place in this world. The editing is all over the place, with obvious cuts made to try and salvage the movie. Other cuts look they are just mistakes left in the movie and many of the action sequences are impossible to decipher. The cinematography is also awful, with several sequences of characters talking directly into the camera face on, which such a basic mistake I can’t believe it was allowed to pass.
That doesn’t even get into the train-wreck that is the tone of the movie. I’m seeing this movie get a lot of decent reviews, and I suspect that this is due to it getting a pass for being a kid’s movie. The movie mostly goes for the light-hearted, adventure tone that you’d semi-expect from this material. The problem is the trailers want us to think this is a serious epic and the movie itself is desperate to have some edge to it. As such, a lot of dark stuff happens in Pan that is just jaw-dropping. Most notably is the execution of a child that is played completely for laughs early in the movie.
Just because you don’t show the child’s corpse smashing against the rocks after he’s pushed off a plank, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen movie. Yikes.
The acting is… mixed to bad. Hugh Jackman is hamming it up as Blackbeard, but in a way that makes him the most fun part of the movie. Rooney Mara is wasted as Tiger Lily as she spends most of the time looking like a Katy Perry tribute act that is too good for this movie, and Garret Hedlund turns in the worst performance of 2015 as Captain Hook. He spends the entire time mugging for the camera and putting a weird accent that sounds unnatural and cartoonish. This is the kind of performance that goes down in bad movie history, I have no idea how it even came into being. Something this bad, simple should not be.
It’s worth saying that the actor who plays Peter, Lexi Miller, is also… pretty bad in this, but I put this more down to Peter being written so badly and unnatural, that I don’t think any kid could’ve pulled this off.
The worst part about writing all of what I just wrote, is that it doesn’t even cover every single thing wrong with the movie. This will get online riff shows making fun of it at some point and I honestly would say that you need the ability to make fun of this movie to enjoy it. I watched it with an audience in a cinema and I wish I had the ability to pause the movie at points to take in what just happened. I don’t want this review to go on into infinity, so I’ll just end it with this.
Early in the movie, when Peter arrives in Neverland, he is greeted by the sight of Blackbeard’s army of pirates and their children slaves. They are singing a song to usher out Blackbeard as he walks out onto the deck of his ship to look over all that he controls. In theory, this is a triumphant moment that emphasizes just how powerful our villain is. I love the concept for this, as well as the image of Blackbeard looking over them all. The problem is the song they used. What song was it?
Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana.