Why was I excited about this film again? The trailer wasn’t particularly good, and the production had a some big issues. The casting of Rooney Mara, a white actress from a wealthy family, as Tiger Lily, a Native American princess, brought a lot of attention to Pan, and not for good reasons. It was also pushed back from July, slap bang in the middle of summer blockbuster season, to October, a traditionally quiet time in the movie industry. Even with all of these red flags, the cast, visual style and the promise of a new take on a famous story kept me interested.
The new take I’m referring to is a look at the origin of Peter Pan, something the Disney classic didn’t really touch on. On top of exploring the history of Peter himself, most of the other famous characters from the story return, including Hook, Tiger Lily and Mr. Smee. The big twist on the formula is that Peter and Hook (here called James Hook, as he’s not yet the Captain of ship, which finally answers the question of which came first, his name being Hook or his hand being a hook) are friends, and a new villain is introduced, the pirate leader Blackbeard.
Even though he’s new to the story, Blackbeard is by far this film’s biggest asset, and that’s largely due to the excellent performance from Hugh Jackman. The tone of this film is all over the place (more on that shortly), but Jackman manages to be both campy and entertaining, and bring a true darkness to a great villain that’s wasted here. Unfortunately the rest of the cast in no way keep up with him. Garrett Hedlund is fine as Hook, although the character does seem shoehorned in at times. Rooney Mara barely makes an impression as Tiger Lily, but to be fair her role is nothing special. The biggest let down however is newcomer Levi Miller as Peter Pan. I can’t stand it when English actors put on voices that don’t sound at all like English people (HOLY PUDDIN’!), and this is one of the worst cases of it I’ve ever seen. I get that he was meant to be fun and childish, but he was just irritating.
The main issue, as I’ve already hinted at, is the tone. There are so many stupid moments that had my eyes rolling so far into the back of my head that I could see the people getting bored behind me. The production design is at times incredible, but the goofy stupidity that’s happening in the foreground takes so much away from it. Hugh Jackman bring so much intensity and quality that I almost don’t want to say anything bad about this film, but there were just too many things that I couldn’t ignore.
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