Pan (2015)
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 Pan (2015)

It seems that I can no longer open studio press release heralding a new motion picture blockbuster without it being yet another retread of the familiar story. The marketing department may conceal a lack of originality which such euphemisms as ‘Reimagining’ or ‘Reboot’ but about the same thing, taking a story that had been told many times before quite often better made than anything likely to be produced today. The one exception I’ve always held for this is that there certain stories that are so intimately woven the fabric of humanity that each generation deserves its opportunity to build their version of the story spoke to their perceptions and sensibilities. Many of the plays of Shakespeare fall into this category as too many novels of exceptional literary merit, but now many studios are reaching out to some of our childhood memories turning them from heartwarming stories into a mere scaffolding coming at special effects and techniques. There is a greater amount of gambling at exceptionally high stakes routinely occurring in the offices of the film studio than in any casino in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. The budget for a big-ticket modern film can range from almost $100 million-$300 million betting that the audiences will flock to the theaters to make the movie profitable. One of the latest bond childhood memories that have been subjected to retooling to make another bet on success is ‘Pan.' Since this whimsical story of a boy that refused to grow up first premiered on New York stage in 1904 this creation of J. M. Barrie magic, pirates and fairies have been entrancing audiences for many generations. It is altogether possible that your great-great-grandparents attended the first performance. A story such as this has transcended normal cultural awareness has become an integral part of our collective zeitgeist. Unfortunately, this latest rendition has followed the latest movie trend placing sizzle over steak they are taken many of the most memorable features of the story cramming it into an action for action’s sake 3-D extravaganza.

When he was just an infant, Peter (Levi Miller) was abandoned by his mother, Mary (Amanda Seyfried), who tearfully placed some of the steps of an orphanage was placed under the care of Mother Barnabas (Kathy Burke). A few years passed in London is besieged by World War II. Peter discovers that Mother Barnabas is skimming food the Russians intended for the children and hoarding it for personal use. Peter devises a plan to appropriate the food and distributed among the children. With the assistance of his best friend, Nibs (Lewis MacDougall) the plan is placed in motion, but unfortunately, they were caught. However, Peter did find something up for greater personal importance to him than food, the letter from his mother explaining that she loves him greatly it will be with him again, "if not in this world than another." As if Mother Barnabas wasn’t already a despicable excuse for a human being by stealing food from children, the punishment she inflicts for the attempted robbery was to call for pirates to abduct the young perpetrators. There placed in the custody of Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), plans to take them off to his magical home of Neverland where they will be put to work as slaves, mining pixie dust, the essence of youth longevity. Nibs manages to jump ship and get away leaving Peter behind to his dismal fate. Once they arrive at the destination and Peter is pressed into service is befriended by one of the other laborers in the mine, James Hook (Garrett Hedlund). Captivity and for servitude has done little to curb Peter’s rebellious spirit, insults the Captain and his sentence to walk the plank. Instead of plunging into the depths Peter flies above the water. Blackbeard tells the boy about a prophecy from long ago, but a flying boy would be the agent of his death. Peter refuses to believe that he is such a murderous person.

At this point, most of the layers are present on stage, and the new incarnations of most of our favorite characters have been introduced. All that is left is for the remaining major players to take their place. Along with one of the henchmen, Sam "Smee" Smiegel (Adeel Akhtar), they still one of Blackbeard’s making the rate deep into the forest. They happen upon a native tribe led by Chief Great Little Panther (Jack Charles) was about to have them executed until his beautiful daughter, Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), notices that Peter is wearing a pendant of a pan flute, the only remembrance he has of his mother, Mary. Tiger Lily explained that this is something that belonged to their greatest legendary hero, Pan. The native Princess explains that his mother Mary rebuked the advances of Captain Blackbeard and was forced to abandon her child in the real world. Peter’s father was a prince, loyalty among the fairies. Peter has inherited the ability to fly but is a contingent on the strength of his belief.

For a movie that ostensibly is a family-oriented one, there are some themes and explicit scenarios that are more than just potentially upsetting to younger viewers and those of decidedly sensitive sensibilities. We all fully expect that James Hook will be left closer to personifying is surname due to an unfortunate interlude with a crocodile, but that is arguably the least troublesome misdeed contained within the screenplay. A powerful and idealistic leader is assassinated, Pan’s prince's friendlies to him "for his good, " and he has a mystical vision of his mother’s brutal murder as she attempted to help fend off an attack against the peaceful fae folk. Some plot points do fall into the traditional level of thrills for an action/adventure flick as Peter is rescued at the last moment from becoming crocodile dinner by the fortuitous appearance of mermaids including one portrayed by a currently exceptionally popular fashion model with cinematic aspirations, Cara Delevingne. When combined with the high profile actors filing the principle roles affording absolutely nothing worthy of showcasing their talents.

The one aspect of the film that could be listed as working was the use of 3D. This lies more with the contribution of the Cinematographers the with the directorial style of Joe Wright. He does visually stunning projects under his belt;’ Hanna,' The Soloist’ and ‘Pride & Prejudice.' The qualitative differences between dramatic material heavily dependent on character development and one where the majority of the story is to establish some rationale for the action are quite evident here. The film is rescued at least to the degree of being considered an adequate popcorn flick by the pair of cinematographers. John Mathieson has served as Director of Photography for such action intensive films as ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’, ‘Gladiator ‘and ‘X-Men: First Class’s well as dramatic fare including ‘Hannibal’ and ‘Matchstick Men.' Also working on that aspect of production is Seamus McGarvey who had some 3D experience with a little movie called ‘The Avengers.' Between the talents of this pair of the innovative artist, the movie is great to watch.

bulletDirector's Commentary
bulletNever Grow Up: The Legend of Pan
bulletThe Boy Who Would Be Pan
bulletThe Scoundrels of Neverland
bulletWonderous Realms

Posted     12/20/2015                10/01/2017

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