Anna Karenina director Joe Wright delves into the world of J.M. Barrie’s Neverland with the “it’s not the story you’ve heard before” origin tale, Pan, starring Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara and Levi Miller.
Before Captain Hook was the villainous pirate our inner 10-year-old loved to hate, and before Peter was, erm, Pan, there was Blackbeard (Jackman) and his thousands of ‘lost boy’ slaves mining for fairy dust. 12-year-old cockney orphan Peter (Miller) finds himself as part of Neverland’s greatest legend – the young boy who can fly – who, with the help of Tiger Lily’s (Mara, controversially) tribal folk and a mischievous James Hook (Hedlund), rise against Blackbeard to save their land from destruction.
It’s Pirates of the Caribbean meets Harry Potter; Pan feels very much like a proper 21st century spectacle with its fabulous décor and big set pieces. Scene chewer Hugh Jackman ramps up the volume as he introduces himself as the “original nightmare”, Blackbeard, with a thunderous rallying cry of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. An atmospheric and surprisingly film-stealing sequence, the X-Men star – who plays the infamous pirate like his life depends on it – epitomises Wright’s impressively over-the-top vision.
Competing with the sheer size of Wright’s creation, it’d have been easy for Miller to have gotten lost amongst the flying ships and Jackman’s impressively groomed beard, yet – despite some moments of eye-rolling dialogue – it appeared the newcomer was having a hell of a lot of fun playing this iconic role.
After a captivating first half, this new-age re-telling does lose its way as we’re left watching our protagonists run aimlessly through exotic forests and perving on Cara Delevingne mermaids whilst frantically pondering over one key question: what accent is Garrett Hedlund trying to pull off? The Atonement helmer’s efforts are not without fault but it’s certainly commendable; in shakier hands, this could have been a total shipwreck headed by off-putting performances and over-bearing action scenes. Pan’s an original-ish Neverland tale with a sleek, modern feel that’s big on looks and heavy on Jackman, with plenty for the family to enjoy.