MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Hugh Jackman as BLACKBEARD
Levi Miller as PETER
Garrett Hedlund as HOOK
Rooney Mara as TIGER LILY
Adeel Akhtar as SAM SMIEGEL
Nonso Anozie as BISHOP
Amanda Seyfried as MARY
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Joe Wright
BY KEVIN CARR
In some ways, Peter Pan is a character that seems to have seen the world pass by him. While everyone still knows who Peter Pan is and what Neverland represents, there have been multiple failed attempts over the years to bring the world of Neverland and the character of Peter Pan back to the big screen.
With a box office dud in theaters ten years ago and a bizarre live performance on television this past year in recent memory, it seems the only real successful Peter Pan tribute was “Finding Neverland” about a decade ago, which is more about the author than the characters. In fact, the last bona fide hit based on Peter Pan that I can remember was Steven Spielberg’s “Hook” almost 25 years ago – and even then, that version doesn’t hold up as a charming piece of cinema.
Gone are the days of Disney’s “Peter Pan” animated film and the live stage production starring Mary Martin. However, even though Peter Pan has lost a bit of his luster over the years as the world of the 21st century leaves him behind, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some wonder left to behold in the story.
This past October, Joe Wright’s “Pan” opened to a whimper in theaters, and it’s a real shame that happened. Blame it on a strange Halloween-centric release date, or blame it on Garrett Hedlund chewing the scenery as a proto Captain Hook. Even though many people stayed away, I enjoyed the heck out of the movie and was happy to revisit it again on Blu-ray.
The story gives us the untold origin of Peter Pan, which begins in an orphanage in London during World War II. A young Peter (Levi Miller) sees the other boys in the orphanage kidnapped by pirates in a flying ship. He ends up along for the ride and sails through the stars to Neverland, where he becomes the slave of Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), mining the earth for fairy dust. Soon, Peter escapes to learn his destiny to be in Neverland and his connections to the fairies of the land.
There are some problems with this movie, with the most glaring one being Hedlund who delivers his lines with the cadence of Jack Nicholson’s “Three Little Pigs” scene in “The Shining.” The story also leans a little too heavily on the classic “chosen one” trope which has been done in every form of literature from “Star Wars” to “Harry Potter.” There’s also the often criticized casting of uber-white Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily (though this is actually explained in the bonus material with a brief discussion of the ethnicity of the natives in Neverland).
However, even with these faults, “Pan” is a fun family adventure. It’s a visual feast, which is not an uncommon thing for a Joe Wright movie. In addition, unlike a typical Joe Wright movie that can get needlessly morose, “Pan” offers a strong sense of child-like wonder and adventure. There are silly moments, but it’s about a boy that can fly in a magical pirate ship, so why are people being so hard on this?
In the end, “Pan” is a beautiful little film that deserved to have done better and deserves a greater audience. It feels like essential holiday viewing material that spurs wonder and magic, and I’m happy to have seen it more than once.
The special features for the standard “Pan” Blu-ray have some nice tidbits, but are still rather basic. There is a director’s commentary for those who want to hear Joe Wright wax poetic about the process of filmmaking and his inspirations for the story. Personally as someone who prefers a more magical version of Peter Pan, I’d skip this because of how Wright planned and framed this movie as taking place in Peter’s imagination.
The rest of the bonus content includes four featurettes, ranging from five to ten minutes in length each. “Never Grow Up: The Legend of Pan” takes a general look at the conception of the film. “The Boy Who Would Be Pan” examines the search for and casting of Levi Miller as the main character. “The Scoundrels of Neverland” features the evolution of the supporting antagonist characters as well as Blackbeard himself. Finally, “Wondrous Realms” plays as a bit of a travelogue to Neverland, featuring concept art, clips and digital images to show the different locations in the world of “Pan.”