I’ve watched several films recently that have been difficult to put into words afterwards but Pan is definitely not one of them. Effectively a prequel to the stories we know and love, we see how Peter (Levi Miller) became that boy who doesn’t grow up and the only thing that is standing in his way is the formidable Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Peter must become the boy that he needs to be in order to prevent the whole of Neverland being taken and destroyed by Blackbeard with the help of new friends James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) and Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara).
There’s no arguing that we can expect everything from a child actor that we can from someone with age and experience but surely we can still put some expectation on them? Levi Miller plays possibly the most iconic role ever created for young boys and it just isn’t particularly satisfying. Part of the problem stems from the choice to try too hard to make him out to be a cockney lad when his accent constantly wavers from East London kid to Cambridge posh boy. The rest of the problem is he’s just missing that pure joy and curiosity of Peter that we’re used to, that unwavering confidence he usually has. Whether this problem should be on the shoulders of Miller or Joe Wright and Jason Fuchs is questionable.
Going back to problems with accents there’s one that can’t be ignored, Garrett Hedlund as James Hook, speaking as though Clint Eastwood and Jack Sparrow had merged into one person, and it was not a good mix in fact it is incredibly irritating, which accurately describes his entire performance. The constant overly large gesturing and crazed wide eyes makes him rather difficult to like, it plays out like perhaps there’s actually something wrong with him which knowing what we do of his future it’s entirely possible but for this film it doesn’t work. Again we don’t know whether this was a choice of direction for the character by Hedlund or Wright but it was not a great choice in my opinion.
My more conflicted opinion falls to Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily, though I was sceptical to her taking the role at first unsure whether Pan was a good fit for her skill set, I will admit that I was wrong on that count, she does a great job. The conflicting part is her chemistry with Hedlund’s Hook, it’s completely non-existent and unbelievable which is a shame. There’s no spark on-screen between the two of them. On the other hand there’s Jackman as Blackbeard to which I have no complaints whatsoever he does a fantastic job, I’m only disappointed that this will now mean he can’t play Hook if there is a further remake as he would be perfect. My last mention of the cast goes to Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions, Job Lot) for his wonderful version of Smee, he may not be very well-known but you’ll notice him here and there in TV and film, and is currently appearing in BBC drama River (well worth a watch, check it out), he is definitely on the rise.
The film as a whole I can describe much more briefly than the performances given, though it is not inherently bad it’s as how I described Miller’s version of Peter it is missing that classic joy of Disney films. When looked at it feels rather sad, there are some beautiful shots and entertaining moments but it doesn’t give out that impossibly positive message that past versions do; the wonders of childhood that anything is possible and it comes to life in front of your eyes. It feels unintentionally darker somehow, despite being a children’s film instead of magical as it should feel. I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about this film but I went in with an open mind and left rather disappointed. This is definitely a film for the kids and not for those who know and love the classics.