Mister Cinecal

Mister Cinecal

Monday, 19 October 2015

Pan-Whatever The Opposite Of Bangarang Is, This Movie Is It

'Who is this movie for?' is one of the most overplayed cards in the critics deck but it's there for a reason. It's possible to hate a movie personally while still acknowledging that it's enjoyable to other people, if you come away from a movie thinking that not only did you not like it, but nobody liked it and you can't even imagine who on Earth was supposed to like it, well, that movie was probably a bit crap. There were plenty of families at the showing of Pan that I attended, but the children were restless and confused and the parents were taking any excuse to nip out of the room. I think I was the only person in the room who didn't get up at some point, meaning that I got the full baffling brunt of Pan. Ask anyone who watched this film to clap their hands if they believe in fairies and you're going to end up with a lot of dead fairies.

It would be nice if Pan came into existence because somebody involved had a genuine affection for classic British literature, and tales of imagination and boyish innocence. That Peter Pan is just close enough to the action adventure that the young people like so much and just so happens to be in the public domain, making it ripe to be hammered into the shape of a blockbuster franchise is probably just a big coincidence. Tasked with answering all the burning questions about Peter Pan's origins that we've all had is Joe Wright, director of Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina and the like. A dab hand at period pieces with creative flourishes, Wright's name on the director's chair is an optical illusion, seeming like a great fit but making less sense the longer you look at it.

Not used to making broad crowd-pleasers, Wright cribs from everybody in an attempt to cobble one together-there's a heap of Luhrmann, a large scoop of Gilliam, a dash of Burton and a sprinkling of Spielberg-but even though it's occasionally interesting to look at, nothing's nothing new to see, and what's inside this concoction is flavourless and undercooked. It would come across as hackery if Wright didn't already have a track record of his own. The disparate, garish aesthetic has no purpose, other than perhaps to act as a distraction, because beneath all the bright colours, bells and whistles lies the exact same tired Chosen One+Fantasy War story Hollywood has been knocking out since the Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings one-two punch at the turn of the century. J.M. Barrie be damned, here Peter Pan is pegged as the Chosen One that The Prophecy foretells will end the long running war between Blackbeard's pirates and the Natives. And also the fairies.

You might be wondering why Blackbeard is the leader of the pirates here and not Captain Hook, but the confusion doesn't end there. Hugh Jackman's Blackbeard and his merry crew aren't much like pirates at all, you'd be more likely to see their silly costumes in the background of a Katy Perry music video than sailing the seven seas. Jackman is dressed more like a conquistador than a pirate and he hunts not for treasure, bur fairy dust, which is actually 'Pixum', a rare mineral that Blackbeard hunts down and uses to live forever. Turning 'never growing up' into the dark motivation of the villain is the clearest sign the film can give that it has no interest in the classic Peter Pan story whatsoever, which is compounded even further by slotting Captain Hook out of the villain role and into an ill-fitting Han Solo archetype, played distressingly badly by Garrett Hedlund.

As far as the cast goes, Levi Miller is about as good as he can be as young Peter, if Jackman was going to mug he probably should have mugged a little more to be honest, and Rooney Mara looks pretty embarrassed to be playing Tiger Lily. But God only know what is going on with Hedlund as Hook. The campy pirate is replaced with a rugged, cynical action man. He sounds like Harrison Ford eating rocks crossed with John Cleese's consciously bad yeehaw southern drawl. It is one of the worst America accents I have ever heard on film. Hedlund is from Minnesota. It's been said by many that recent roles by Chris Pratt have served as a very public audition for the next Indiana Jones. The only explanation for Hedlund's performance is that he is deliberately trying to act his way out of the running for that part, in which case: mission accomplished.

The baffling decisions in planning this film are almost unending. People explode into brightly coloured dust when killed,  coy references to the source material invariably lead to the worst lines ("You've lost him then?" "Yes sir, he is a Lost Boy." Eh? Eh?) and the film flies through a succession of hollow set pieces. 'Origin stories' are ill-advised enough as it is, but Pan doesn't even work as one, barely addressing most of the classic Peter Pan bits and pieces. Blackbeard and the pirate miner minors sing 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' and 'Blitzkrieg Bop' for fucking fuck's sake. The contemporary music wouldn't be that bad, as long as a) there was an actual reason they were happening and b) they didn't happen in quick succession in the first twenty minutes and then get dropped completely. The mish mash of these elements might make for a nifty Nikon advertisement but make for a dreadful film, incapable of fulfilling whatever it is it's supposed to accomplish. Is Joe Wright just a Moulin Rouge fan with a gullible studio behind him and a few million dollars to kill? Who is Pan for? The film doesn't have any answer and, other than a few very brief sparks. never seems to have considered the question.

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