A slow burn, but once it’s lit it stays lit.
The plethora of remakes and reworking’s of classics continues with Joe Wright’s Pan, a more mature take on the Peter Pan story set to be released later this month.
Context is vital to any film experience and Pan is no different. However, the sluggish start in dreary World War II London drags on for a tad too long. Most of us going to see Pan know of his difficult start in an orphanage in London and while there are some comedic moments, particularly between Levi Miller and Kathy Burke, with her over the top rendition of Mother Barnabas, I found myself looking at my watch waiting to see when Peter will go to Neverland.
Maybe it was due to my desire for the London orphanage section of the film to end but once Peter gets kidnapped by Bishop (Nonso Anozie) the narrative really picks up and moves at a galloping pace as we are introduced to Hugh Jackman’s unique take on Blackbeard, indeed he wears a wig alluding to Marie Antoniette while he adorns himself in Louis XIV-style costumes. Jackman himself noted that his role as Wolvereine in the X-Men franchise started “to narrow things a bit for me” but his incarnation of Blackbeard shows, not only his prowess as an actor but also his versatility; something that can not be said of all of Hollywood’s A-Listers. Indeed, the tongue in cheek introduction to Blackbeard results in a fairly comedic tone which continues when hundreds of miners he has working for him sing Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana and The Ramones’ Blitzkreig Bop. If one omits the clear anachronism of this and take it as it is, I would hazard a guess that there will be many grinning faces around the cinema theatre.
The relationship, and friendship, between Pan and Hook is another highlight of this prequel. Indeed, the opening narration of how “Friends can start as enemies and enemies start as friends” open the floor to this little-explored dimension of the Peter Pan story, and one that director Joe Wright rightly forefronts despite the ever increasing gallop that the film moves at. This pace in Neverland does not let up but increases with the introduction of many of J.M Barrie’s greatest creations such as Tiger Lily. However a character that should have been celebrated has drawn controversy to Wright and his team for the casting of Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily as her origins are Native American rather than Caucasian. While it is disappointing that Hollywood has prostituted the character in a sense, it is hard to argue Mara’s performance is anything other than captivating.
The stellar performances of the cast and the myriad of characters that are introduced in the final 30 minutes provide a mirage that covers how light Pan is on genuine story. However, director Joe Wright, with a backlog of box office successes such as Atonement, Ana Karenina and Hanna, has the skill to weave a web of hypnotic enchantment which places the viewer in the centre of the magic world of Neverland, and isn’t it just such escapism that brought Peter Pan into our hearts in the first place?
Director: Joe Wright.
Cast: Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Garett Hedlund, Rooney Mara.
Running Time: 111 minutes.