Posted by Joel Copling on October 9, 2015

Making its chief protagonist a passive observer in his own story is just one of many mistakes in judgment made by Jason Fuchs's screenplay for "Pan" (After all, the film shares said protagonist's surname, which is also the moniker of a MacGuffin that does something or other of vague importance within the narrative, although don't ask me to explain it). This is a film that wants to be odd enough to deflect from the fact that it's just a routine origin story for four of author J.M. Barrie's characters, here seen in at least their sixth iteration in some form. Unfortunately, it is depressingly, unendingly, painfully routine--and also boring, brainless, and existent solely to cash in on the need for a new version of the story.

Here, Peter (Levi Miller) is an orphan left on the doorstep of an orphanage by his mother Mary (Amanda Seyfried). The orphanage, of course, is a dreadful place, and we know this because all the tenants are vicious and cruel in that cartoonish way that makes them only cartoonish. Off to Neverland a great number of them go, and the world where children never age (unless the screenplay devises a scenario wherein one of them--a genuine surprise and not the good kind--definitely has aged) is just a world of garish CGI that does no favors to whatever creative cinematography Seamus McGarvey might have managed.

All the expected characters are here, starting with Miller as a Peter asked solely to look surprised, eyes all agog, at everything surrounding him (The young actor's performance is stripped of its naturalism as a result, and this is a film that could have spared some) and Seyfried as the mother in only three short scenes (two of which relegate the actress to a blob of those visual effects that so grate on the nerves in their chintziness). James Hook, who will one day find his surname the obvious stand-in for an artificial appendage that it is, merely resembles Han Solo with a cowboy drawl, and Garrett Hedlund's bizarre performance that more reminds of Frankenstein's assistant does the character no favors. Adeel Akhtar plays Sam "Smee" Smiegel as the bumbling idiot he is with bold, underlined italics, and Rooney Mara looks as if she wants to be anywhere else as Tiger Lily, a native of the surrounding lands whose only characteristic is "female warrior."

The plot is a non-starter, circling exclusively around Peter's plan to find his mother, whom he believes to be alive. Along the way, he discovers that he was once the subject of a prophecy that meant he would defeat Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), the foppish, tyrannical ruler of all the children. He's mining for pixie dust that he snorts like cocaine, doling out brutal punishments with ease and relish. If he sounds like a devilish villain for the ages, Jackman's oddball performance undermines that sensation, reminding more of an impression of Jackman by Jim Carrey or Johnny Depp. Any and all attempts at menace fall flat, and the poodle-like toupee that the actor is forced to wear on his head is the icing on the cake.

The actors do a lot of the leg work of undoing any potential this story might have in the hands of director Joe Wright, whose usual sense of spectacle is lost here in spite of the barrage of visual noise, but the filmmaker is far from guiltless. Design elements are impressive in a general, rudimentary sort of way, but even the sight of flying pirate ships pales in comparison to the use of the same in 2011's far superior "The Three Musketeers." Action sequences don't really suffer from a lack of rhythm on their own accord as much as they feel entirely obligatory (the less said about the climactic showdown between good and evil forces and how it is set against a backdrop of indistinctive rock formations with a bland, blue-gray sheen, the better). "Pan" is, from top to bottom and scene by scene, a hideous failure.

Film Information

Hugh Jackman (Blackbeard), Garrett Hedlund (Hook), Rooney Mara (Tiger Lily), Levi Miller (Peter), Amanda Seyfried (Mary), Adeel Akhtar (Sam Smiegel).

Directed by Joe Wright and written by Jason Fuchs.

Rated PG (fantasy action violence, language, thematic material).

111 minutes.

Released on October 9, 2015.