Thursday, October 22, 2015

Pan (2015)

Film: Pan (2015)
Stars: Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Adeel Akhtar, Amanda Seyfried
Director: Joe Wright
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 1/5 stars

Yes, I had read the reviews, and I still went in anyway.  I have loved JM Barrie's story about the boy who doesn't grow up since I was a kid, and that love has grown through the year's, what with PJ Hogan's masterpiece in 2003 (if you haven't seen it, get thyself to thy Netflix queue) and just generally how the story has so many classic elements.  As a result, with actors like Garrett Hedlund and Rooney Mara, brilliant director Joe Wright, and the Pan lore, I couldn't miss this movie even with its giant splat of a tomato over on RT.  That was clearly a faulty logic considering what I ended up viewing, but there it is.

(Spoilers Ahead) The film has so many problems it's hard to know where to begin.  I think what might be the first and worst problem is the beginning.  The Peter (Miller) here is pretty nondescript, and not someone with any sort of real personality, which is sort of appropriate-Peter Pan is not known for being one of your deeper protagonists.  However it shows when you put him center stage and not Wendy, so thoughtful and full of contradictions.  Peter here is seen as an imp, but considering he's under the control of a cruel pirate nun (it comes across as ridiculously as it sounds in what is surely the worst portion of the film, though that's not for a lack of competition) it's seen as totally justifiable.  After the nun sells the boys to the pirate Blackbeard (Jackman), things get even weirder.

It must be discussed, since it's arguably the sequence that people have eye-rolled the most over, but the entire Nirvana/Ramones scenes are just terribly bad.  I'm not sure if Joe Wright spent too much time watching Mad Max, but I don't get why we had an elaborately-staged musical scene in a film with almost no other musical scenes, in the middle of the movie where Jackman and all of the Lost Boys perform Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" like we've just entered the Thunderdome.  Did Wright not realize that we would be getting another Mad Max movie this summer that would clearly make this parallel not only ridiculous but also people would pick up on it?  Either way, the entire scene is jarring in a bad way and doesn't jive with the rest of the film, and sort of puts you off of Jackman's Blackbeard during his very first scene.  While admittedly I am not nor have I ever been a Hugh Jackman fan, Daniel Day-Lewis himself could not sell this scene.

Jackman's performance is appropriately hammy given its nature, though it never finds the calculating brilliance that Jason Isaacs brought to Hook in 2003's Hogan adaptation (again, I would have nominated him for an Oscar that year-for real).  While Isaacs played his character as a cartoonish human, Jackman just goes full-on cartoon, a narcissist who doesn't really play on his narcissism, who is willing to ruthlessly dig up Neverland just to extend his rather pointless seeming life.  He isn't aided by much else in the film though.  We have Rooney Mara eyeing the racism line pretty hard as Princess Tigerlily.  While she never explicitly is stated as being a Native American, her father clearly is and considering Mara is white in real life, I feel like the filmmakers made a grave mistake here not casting an actual Native American actress to play the role (which PJ Hogan did #justsaying).  Mara's performance, like a lot of her work, is pretty hit-and-miss here (click the tag below for my complicated history with the admittedly-talented but not always consistent Oscar nominee), as she plays the role as too straight and kind of boring.  Garrett Hedlund, an actor I more consistently admire and follow, isn't much better, especially in earlier scenes where he seems to go from zero to ninety in terms of Captain Hook's lunacy.  The script does him no favors in this regard, it's worth noting; despite us knowing him as the future nemesis of Peter Pan, we get very few hints aside from fourth wall-breaking winks as to why Hook would eventually come to despite Peter.  Instead we get a horny, cranky, and manic piece-of-work from the actor, and the entire time I just kept thinking "but he was SO good in On the Road!"

The production work is sort of in the vein of How the Grinch Stole Christmas-there's so much of it that you want to think it's good, but in reality it's mostly gaudy and awful.  The steampunk design of the clothes is the sort of costume work that is showy, and maybe even wins accolades, but it doesn't fit with the film's motif, particularly when you compare it to the docile World War II sequences and the Hook-inspired Tigerlily and her tribe.  The Visual Effects are also bloated and gross-the Neverbird in particular is a weird creature, one you can't tell if it's good or evil, but just that it looks like the creature from Up!.  All-in-all even the visuals, which should have been a silver lining, are atrocious.

All-in-all then this is a failure.  I would normally bemoan this fact since Peter Pan is such a wonderful story, but as I've pointed out several times this has already been done, and quite well, by PJ Hogan so we have a definitive version of this tale.  Apparently we also needed a prequel for some reason, or so some now-fired studio executive thought.

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