Ten-year olds would love Joe Wright’s Pan. It makes for a perfect Saturday matinée show in a cinema swarmed with barely tempered kiddywinks, their saucer-wide eyes lapping up the giddy visual spectacle and the unbridled cheesiness of its plotline. Here’s a movie that fulfils the adventure narrative formula (a formula that wouldn’t probably occur to ten-year old brains), ticks all the fantastical boxes (flying orphan, weird pirates, gorgeous mermaids, fairy dust) and delivers a finale set in a sparkly crystal cave that would make any hyperactive sprout shit their pants from excitement.[divider]+[/divider]
Pan turns up late to the blockbuster party and then pretend it’s fresh and punctual when it should really shrivel up from embarrassment with its shameless derivation.[divider]+[/divider]
It’s an undemanding, uncomplicated fantasy blockbuster that thrills and pleases the common pre-pubescent denominator that, in ten years time when they all become twentysomethings and have gone a bit cynical, would all come to realise that holy shit that was embarrassing why did I even like that movie? Ugh. Same thing happened with my early 1990s self when someone called Steven Spielberg lobbed us with Hook, a movie in which my puny brain back then thought was an incredible piece of adventure cinema, a thought that somehow swiftly shrunk and withered and then reformed into what now seems like spite. Now I think of Hook as terribly mawkish – Hollywood pop entertainment at its most patronising.
So let’s just hope these kids grow quickly out of this Peter Pan prequel-update-reboot-or-whatever. Wright’s version, no matter how competently rendered, deserves to be dragged by our collective claws all the way to 2015 because, frankly, it’s too outmoded for its own good. We’re now in an age when we’ve got past all the Harry Potters, Pirates of the Caribbeans, Lord of the Ringses and Avatars, and something like Pan turns up late to the party and then pretend it’s fresh and punctual when it should really shrivel up from embarrassment with its shameless derivation.
Don’t get me wrong, there is some little fun to be had here: Hugh Jackman gets busy thesping as the alternately camp and nefarious Blackbeard, who at one point orchestrates Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit as if it were Moulin Rouge! albeit set in Immortan Joe’s Citadel in Mad Max: Fury Road. But this is the only scene where Pan places its tongue firmly in cheek. Omit this and you might as well sleepwalk through the entire damn thing. It strives hard to please, threading all sorts of imaginable tropes from the Hollywood book of tricks and religiously avoids any form of offense. Forget the whole drama about Rooney Mara not being “native” enough to play Tiger Lily – the real insult here is that Pan spent far too much on production values and forgot to pay a better writer who can write a damn good script.
If it weren’t for newcomer Levi Miller (immensely watchable as the titular airborne-challenged tot), Pan dulls into a charmless existence, weary with blockbuster fatigue. Even Garrett Hedlund’s James Hook looks stale, a character who seems to have walked out of an Indiana Jones movie and then fell through the cracks of Hollywood’s Hall of Heroes, clumsily impersonating that Wisecracking Leading Man and Possible Romantic Interest archetype to its last death rattle. So uninventive and one-dimensional are its characters that by the time Pan reaches its over-busy, CGI-wrought finale, with shitloads of fairy dust pixels blowtorching the screen, not one emerge as a three-dimensional human being. Just a bunch of cardboard cut-outs propped up in Wright’s prettily decorated yet flimsily crafted and frivolously manufactured storybook movie for ten-year olds and below.