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Before Neverland

Pan: Peter’s prequel

What's up, Tiger Lily?
What's up, Tiger Lily?

If the names Mary Martin and Walt Disney top the Peter Pan pantheon, and if Hook — Spielberg’s nadir — remains forever anchored at the bottom of Mermaid Lagoon, then Joe Wright’s Pan ranks somewhere between P.J. Hogan’s passable 2003 telling and NBC’s laughable Peter Pan Live!

Movie

Pan **

thumbnail

You know there’s trouble ahead when the pixels begin outnumbering the pixies. For the first 30 minutes of <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=joe+wright">Joe Wright</a>'s (<em><a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/anna-karenina-2/">Anna Karenina</a></em>) prequel to the J. M. Barrie classic, we follow Peter (Levi Miller) as he progresses from orphanage doorstep to flying pirate ship. Peter’s inevitable arrival at Neverland is greeted by a society of orphans singing "Smells Like Teen Spirit." It's a testament to song and dance man <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=hugh+jackman">Hugh Jackman</a>, whose mere presence in the role of Blackbeard calls for a musical number, no matter how ridiculously out of context the placement. Not without its spectacular moments — a pirate ship mixed up in a WWII air raid was sublime — but Wright’s third acts continue to go wrong, most notably in the case of <em><a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/hanna/">Hanna</a></em>. True to form, Pan’s densely pixielated final battle is busy to the point of indecipherability. With <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=rooney+mara">Rooney Mara</a>, transforming every one of Tiger Lily’s moves into an exercise in exotica, and a paltry 60 seconds of <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=cara+delevingne">Cara Delevingne</a> in mermaid attire.

Find showtimes

For the first 30 minutes of this prequel to the J.M. Barrie classic, we follow Peter (Levi Miller) through war-torn London as he progresses from orphanage doorstep to Blackbeard’s (Hugh Jackman, pouring on the camp) flying pirate ship. Breaking into the office of Mother Barnabas (played with gruesomely fearful gusto by Kathy Burke), Peter finds not only a food hoarder, but a profiteer selling children into a life of piratical servitude. This nun’s got nothing on Planned Parenthood.

Before making it to Neverland, Peter and Blackbeard’s assembly of fresh recruits — plucked from their sleep by bungeed buccaneers — must first pass through a excitingly staged WWII bombing raid. Their arrival is greeted by a society of orphans singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and later “Blitzkreig Bop.” Song-and-dance man Jackman apparently had a clause in his contract that calls for musical numbers, no matter how ridiculously out of context the placement is.

Kids die — a sure indication this is not a product of the Disney factory. (A plank-walking plummet, spurred by Blackbeard’s boot, may be too intense for toddlers.) Killing pixies doesn’t present as much of a challenge, particularly when their demise results in various shades of Technicolor dust the second the bullet hits.

Miller does more than just look the part of a young DiCaprio, bringing to the character the right combination of pluck and leadership to make it fly. Garrett Hedlund’s Hook — he gets to keep his hand for the inevitable sequel — owes much to Indy, while Rooney Mara transforms every one of Tiger Lily’s moves into an exercise in exotica.

Wright refuses to follow one dominant color scheme, which helps stimulate the visuals, but you know there’s trouble ahead when the pixels begin to outnumber the pixies. If Atonement, Wright’s neatest work to date, is a master class on CGI restraint, Pan’s densely pixielated final battle is busy to the point of indecipherability.

Wright’s third acts continue to go wrong, most notably in the case of Hanna. Unable to pan Pan, my sincerest wish is still that the director put aside the fairy tales and return his attention to romantic melodrama.

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What's up, Tiger Lily?
What's up, Tiger Lily?

If the names Mary Martin and Walt Disney top the Peter Pan pantheon, and if Hook — Spielberg’s nadir — remains forever anchored at the bottom of Mermaid Lagoon, then Joe Wright’s Pan ranks somewhere between P.J. Hogan’s passable 2003 telling and NBC’s laughable Peter Pan Live!

Movie

Pan **

thumbnail

You know there’s trouble ahead when the pixels begin outnumbering the pixies. For the first 30 minutes of <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=joe+wright">Joe Wright</a>'s (<em><a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/anna-karenina-2/">Anna Karenina</a></em>) prequel to the J. M. Barrie classic, we follow Peter (Levi Miller) as he progresses from orphanage doorstep to flying pirate ship. Peter’s inevitable arrival at Neverland is greeted by a society of orphans singing "Smells Like Teen Spirit." It's a testament to song and dance man <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=hugh+jackman">Hugh Jackman</a>, whose mere presence in the role of Blackbeard calls for a musical number, no matter how ridiculously out of context the placement. Not without its spectacular moments — a pirate ship mixed up in a WWII air raid was sublime — but Wright’s third acts continue to go wrong, most notably in the case of <em><a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/hanna/">Hanna</a></em>. True to form, Pan’s densely pixielated final battle is busy to the point of indecipherability. With <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=rooney+mara">Rooney Mara</a>, transforming every one of Tiger Lily’s moves into an exercise in exotica, and a paltry 60 seconds of <a href="http://www.sandiegoreader.com/movies/archives/?q=cara+delevingne">Cara Delevingne</a> in mermaid attire.

Find showtimes

For the first 30 minutes of this prequel to the J.M. Barrie classic, we follow Peter (Levi Miller) through war-torn London as he progresses from orphanage doorstep to Blackbeard’s (Hugh Jackman, pouring on the camp) flying pirate ship. Breaking into the office of Mother Barnabas (played with gruesomely fearful gusto by Kathy Burke), Peter finds not only a food hoarder, but a profiteer selling children into a life of piratical servitude. This nun’s got nothing on Planned Parenthood.

Before making it to Neverland, Peter and Blackbeard’s assembly of fresh recruits — plucked from their sleep by bungeed buccaneers — must first pass through a excitingly staged WWII bombing raid. Their arrival is greeted by a society of orphans singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and later “Blitzkreig Bop.” Song-and-dance man Jackman apparently had a clause in his contract that calls for musical numbers, no matter how ridiculously out of context the placement is.

Kids die — a sure indication this is not a product of the Disney factory. (A plank-walking plummet, spurred by Blackbeard’s boot, may be too intense for toddlers.) Killing pixies doesn’t present as much of a challenge, particularly when their demise results in various shades of Technicolor dust the second the bullet hits.

Miller does more than just look the part of a young DiCaprio, bringing to the character the right combination of pluck and leadership to make it fly. Garrett Hedlund’s Hook — he gets to keep his hand for the inevitable sequel — owes much to Indy, while Rooney Mara transforms every one of Tiger Lily’s moves into an exercise in exotica.

Wright refuses to follow one dominant color scheme, which helps stimulate the visuals, but you know there’s trouble ahead when the pixels begin to outnumber the pixies. If Atonement, Wright’s neatest work to date, is a master class on CGI restraint, Pan’s densely pixielated final battle is busy to the point of indecipherability.

Wright’s third acts continue to go wrong, most notably in the case of Hanna. Unable to pan Pan, my sincerest wish is still that the director put aside the fairy tales and return his attention to romantic melodrama.

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Comments
1

I enjoyed Peter Pan Live on NBC, especially due to Christopher Walken's fun romp as Captain Hook. The "lost boys" were long in the tooth, though, looking like dancers from West Side Story. Christian Borle was also excellent, in a dual role. And Finding Neverland was a brilliant movie, one of Johnny Depp's best. But just from seeing the trailer, Pan looks like an overblown mess.

Oct. 20, 2015

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