October 10, 2015
I do not know what is it about Peter Pan that filmmakers keep wanting to make films about him. The animated 1953 Disney classic was quite enough. I did not really like the live action films made about him, including the generally well-reviewed "Hook" (1991) and the generally panned "Peter Pan" (2003). I certainly did not expect that another Pan film would be made again after that last disastrous attempt, but here it is.
This new "Pan" tells us an original origins story that preceded the adventures recounted in the J.M. Barrie book and the Disney animated film. Peter was a feisty orphan in an institution run by an obese monstrous nun. One night during World War 2, Pirates from the sky started snatching young boys up into their ship. Peter and the boys were transported into another world led by a vain, flamboyant, Nirvana-loving leader named Blackbeard, and made to work in his fairy-dust mines.
When Blackbeard suspected that Peter may be the young boy foretold to overthrow him from power so he was promptly imprisoned. Of course, Peter would escape with the help of fellow inmate James Hook. From there begins his swashbuckling battles against the Pirates. His adventure would also involve other familiar elements of the Pan legend, like Natives (no mention of Indians here), Mermaids, Fairies and a giant Crocodile.
The best thing about this film was the totally charming performance of child actor Levi Miller as Peter Pan. His Peter was charismatic without being overly cutesy or annoying, unlike how other child actors may have played the spirited character. I liked his no-nonsense attack on his role, with a genuine and infectious sense of juvenile excitement. Unfortunately for Miller though, the rest of the adult cast fail to support his valiant efforts to keep the film afloat.
Hugh Jackman overacts with madman glee to make his Blackbeard pop. However, his gothic leather costume with ruffled skirt comes off as trying too hard. Is he supposed to be funny? I felt it came off as rather desperate. Only Jackman's star power kept that caricature of a role from totally collapsing into a complete embarrassment.
Rooney Mara plays a Tiger Lily with no personality. The makeup on her face and the clothes on her body literally burst with the most vivid colors. Unfortunately it was ironic that the person who wore the most color would turn out to be the one most utterly colorless.
The most disastrous performance of them all was that of Garrett Hedlund as James Hook. Hook (before his pirate days) was supposed to be Peter's Indiana Jones (in fact he was even annoyingly dressed like Indy), the hero Peter can depend on to get out of the tightest spots with street-smarts and fighting skills. However, Hedlund with his bland looks and wooden acting, had absolutely no screen presence. His lack of chemistry with anyone else really hurt the film badly.
Strangely, despite the breathtaking visual spectacles of giant sky pirate ships and the bright colorful costumes, the film as a whole felt turgid and joyless. There is no spark of magic or wonder at all, as would be expected in a fairytale adventure like this. Director Joe Wright had done so much better work before in films like "Atonement" and "Anna Karenina". Maybe the CGI extravaganza got into his usually efficient way of storytelling, or maybe Jason Fuchs' script was simply unremarkable in the first place. More buckle than swash. 5/10.