Arts movie review

An eye-catching trip to Neverland

Hugh Jackman and Levi Miller star in the Peter Pan prequel, Pan

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Levi Miller as Peter in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and RatPac-Dune Entertainment’s action adventure Pan, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures



Directed by Joe Wright

Starring Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara

Rated PG

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The story of Peter Pan is as ageless as Peter himself — what began as a 1904 play by J.M. Barrie is still culturally relevant a century later. There are musicals, movies, video games, and an entire Disney franchise based on the boy who wouldn’t grow up. Maybe it’s because we’ll always cherish the idea of eternal youth, or maybe we just really like pirates.

Pan is the latest film to take on the legend of Peter Pan. But instead of retelling the story that audiences know, the film goes back in time to World War II in London, and reveals the story of how Peter Pan came to be. Levi Miller stars as Peter, and we follow him as he is whisked away from his orphanage by pirates and forced to mine for fairy dust in Neverland. As Peter learns more about his mother and the past, he teams up with a tribe of warriors, including Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), and sets out to defeat the leader of the pirates, Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman).

With beautiful special effects, and a colorful set, the film is certainly pleasing to the eye. As Tigerlily discloses the past events of Neverland to Peter, animated wooden figures emerge from a tree in a fluid sequence to complement Tigerlily’s narrative. In the war scenes between the pirates and the warriors, a burst of color erupts from the muzzle every time a gun is shot (making it the first time I’ll ever describe a war scene as “gorgeous”). I’ll have to admit that it gave me slight anxiety, though, since it reminded me of the ever-so-popular Color Run, in which people throw packets of colored cornstarch at you while you trudge along a 5K course.

Jackman does a fine job in his role of the ruthless pirate leader, Blackbeard. Commanding attention in all of his scenes, his charisma and hearty laugh are ever-present in Neverland. However, the characterization of Blackbeard as a steampunk pirate seems out of place — the pirates sing rock songs while mining, and Blackbeard is outfitted with feathery jackets, a carefully sculpted mustache, and a few too many ruffles.

The plot is straightforward with substantial fast-paced action, but lacks inventiveness. For being a prequel to a story as celebrated as Peter Pan, I expected more than a cliche story of an orphan boy who loses his mother and finds his destiny. The film does not have a confusing storyline, and there are no gaping plot holes, but it felt rather bland, making me wish that the screenwriters borrowed some creativity from the special effects department.

Nevertheless, Pan brought me back to my elementary school days, when I had adored the Disney-animated version of Peter Pan, aspiring to be a pixie-dust wielding fairy one day. While the film wasn’t the ultimate prequel that I was hoping for, it was still a fun, hour-and-a-half escape to Neverland.