Warning! Contains spoilers!
I grew up watching the Peter Pan cartoon. Frankly, I thought he was a bit of a dick. Team Wendy was far more interesting. Those Victorian children gave us a counter to the chaotic world of pirates, fairies, Indians and crocodiles. Come to think of it, it was all a bit diet 'Hunger Games'. 'Pan' is a prequel to those adventures. In film terms it has to weigh in against the excellent 1991 'Hook'. Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman gave the franchise a hefty revamp. Big shoes to fill, 'Pan'. Think happy thoughts.
Life is pretty grim for Peter (Levi Miller). Stuck in an orphanage during war torn Britain, the most excitement he has is cleaning gutters and not getting beaten. Because this orphanage is run by the most evil nuns a PG rating can get. While on an 'adventure' from his brutally harsh life he discovers the Sister Superior (Kathy Burke) has kept personnel records and tones of rationed food all for her self. Turns out his orphan buddies haven't been evacuated to Canada but rather sold to pirates from another world. If there is one thing that doesn't surprise me about nuns, its that they have criminal connections with multidimensional child smugglers. Anyhow, Peter ends up being nabbed by these jolly sky corsairs and ends up in the mystical realm of Neverland. Only its not so much a mystical realm as it's a hell hole mine run by the Pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Thanks to the scheming of hook happy cowboy (Gareth Hedlund), Peter escapes into the wilds. With help from the indigenous people of Neverland, he searches for the lost fairy kingdom before Blackbeard can destroy it for drugs. Or fairy dust. Basically drugs. There's even a crocodile.
I have to give credit to 'Pan' for its balls out rendering of Neverland. The trip there was just as impressive. The flying pirate ship battled past Royal Air Force Spitfires until it reaches orbit. From there Peter is able to lightly high five Jupiter (the size of a basket ball) before plunging into an endless vista of oceanic spheres populated by a wondrous display of aquatic life. I don't know what the writers had been smoking but it was potent stuff. The jungles of Neverland are a CGI nightmare of green mixed with the added terror of giant necromantic birds. When we meet the locals they appear to be a mad mix of every tribal peoples that five minutes on the National Geographic web page could pull up. As I said, its mad. Please enjoy a pint or two before delving in. Don't take this as a one sided endorsement. Madness doesn't always mean exciting. The comparison to drugs was not made lightly. This is intended to be a kids film but Neverland has a weirdness that boarders on the insane. When the pirate ship enters the mines and the new slaves are treated to a rousing song from the workforce I almost started tapping my feet and joining in. Its like I new the words to this dirge, this chant of the damned... wait a minute. Are they singing Smells like teen spirit by Nirvana? They bloody well are! Neverland is unsettling and claustrophobic rather than a realm of adventure. Swing and a miss.
Without a setting I can love the rest of the movie slowly lost my good will. It brings out my petty side. The accents are terrible (with the exception of Jackman who gives us a perfectly rendered pantomime bad guy). What actors I do know are underused. Rooney Mara has to hash through mediocre lines and a preposterous love story as Tiger Lily. The up and coming Cara Delevingne (who was fantastic in this years 'Paper Towns') is relegated to perform as a trio of none speaking mermaids. Future canon elements are forced in with almost cringing predicability. There is a crocodile. It's big and scary! I hope Hook never gets close to it (wink, wink, the story bleats). Tinker-bell gets unceremonious shoved in at the last minute just to say she was there. Just like here. One cant help but postulate on how it was put together is such an uninspiring way. The whole point of a Peter Pan prequel hinges on the faithfulness and playfulness of the directors use of the original material.
Second exasperation on the left and straight on to boredom. Two Brian faces out of five.