When we're first introduced to Hugh Jackman's villainous Blackbeard in this movie, he's introduced in the most villainy way possible. We see him suiting up, fixing his wig and walking all sinister-looking out onto the side of his ship.... except they don't do it quite how you expect. Instead, every single person standing outside, watching and waiting for his entrance, is singing 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' by Nirvana. I hate to say it, especially since this saying is thrown around more often than I'd want it to, but it was at this moment onwards that I knew I was going to have a ball with this movie.
Pan is the unnecessary, yet welcomed, origin story of Peter Pan (Levi Miller). The film starts in World War II. Peter is an orphan, causing mischief with the nuns whose job it is to look after him. One night, not long after a bombing, Peter and a bunch of other orphans are snatched up from the orphanage, taken aboard a pirate ship and flown to the magical land of Neverland. Peter's thrown into the mines, mining away with the thousands of other miners, including a young, not yet evil Hook (Garrett Hedlund). The two hatch a plan to escape from Blackbeard's (Hugh Jackman) mine and out into the surrounding forrest. It's here they meet Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), who helps them on their quest to find Peter's mother and save a bunch of fairies from Blackbeard's pirate army, who are also on the hunt for Peter and co. It's quite the adventure.
If you came out of this movie absolutely despising it, I wouldn't complain. Honestly, I'd understand. Unless you hate it simply because Tiger Lily is white.... then I might argue. She's native to Neverland, not America. But as I was saying, if you didn't like this film, I'd get it. It's certainly not a film for everyone. Everything in this movie is completely over the top, all the characters are pretty much caricatures and everyone over-acts. But it works so goddamn well, resulting in a (nearly) constantly entertaining movie that was much better than I was expecting it to be.
Director Joe Wright, the man responsible for the latest adaptations of Anna Karenina and Atonement, brings so much energy to every scene. Whether it's Peter breaking into a nun's office or a bunch of pirates raiding a tribal area, Wright makes everything feel alive. There's never a down moment. From his opening scene, which gave off some film noir vibes, all the way to the closing credits, Pan is expertly coloured, perfectly positioned and a tonne of fun. It's hard not to have a smile on your face the whole way through.
Never before has Neverland been depicted in such a way. Wright's version of Neverland feels right out of a child's imagination. There's pirates, mermaids, crocodiles, fairies, flying, weird robot-like bird creatures, guns that turn you into coloured smoke and so much more. It's somewhat reminiscent of Tim Burton's Wonderland, but it's treated so much better. And it has better performances. And there's no Johnny Depp dancing. And it has Hugh Jackman giving an absolutely brilliant and energetic performance. And there's Nirvana. There's no dragons though. That was disappointing.
The film is just so ridiculous and random that it works. It verges on being too ridiculous and too uneven, yet it's executed masterfully so it ends up being neither It's 111 minute runtime flies on by, mostly thanks to the cast and director. The cast are all fantastic, first time actor Levi Miller having great chemistry with both Rooney Mara, who has proved herself to be one the greatest actresses working today, and Garrett Hedlund. All are fantastic. Then Cara Delevingne shows up for a few seconds before disappearing. I was very confused and slightly underwhelmed. But the scene had crocodiles so I'll let it pass.
Unfortunately, Pan isn't all smiles and good times. There are some things that really drag it down. For instance, some of the dialogue. Some of the corniness fits in with the vibe, but other stuff not so much, especially the foreshadowing of the events in the original Peter Pan movie. The dialogue in the final scene between Hook and Peter is atrocious, and a scene I will not spoil that involved Peter and someone who shall remain unnamed (for the sake of spoilers) felt completely shoehorned in.
Then there's the visual effects, which are really inconsistent. There's some great moments of true wonder, particularly the scenes involving flying pirate ships, and then there's some moments where you wonder what the hell went on in the editing room, specifically the scenes where characters fly. It's on the same level as Attack of the Clones, and we all know how well the visual effects in that movie hold up.....
To sum up, Pan is a bright, colourful, visually stunning and unbelievably fun movie. If you don't like it, I'd understand. It's full of over acting and corniness, but I had an absolute ball with it. It's got its fair share of problems, but it's just a good time at the cinema.
3 1/2 Stars