This year’s Jupiter Ascending?

by Steve Pulaski

Hollywood’s longtime fascination with the story of Peter Pan has been a perplexing one, being that, outside of Walt Disney’s adaptation, no other retelling or reimagining of the classic fairytale has every managed to assert itself, especially in financial terms. The last reboot of the story was in 2003 to miserable earnings, making me stunned to see that Warner Bros. would even want to risk yet another adaptation that, from the looks of it, will now gross even less than the aforementioned film.

Despite being a visual wonder and an imaginative film all around, Pan is a disappointingly flat film that fails to give us any reason to sympathize with or care about the characters on-screen, let alone justify why we should show up to watch them. Director Joe Wright, famous for both Atonement and Hanna, two sleeper hits, seems to have had his project monopolized by controlling studio heads that wanted a marketable product rather than a film including limitless visuals and narrative structure, so the result is a film robbed of any kind of identity whatsoever.

The Peter Pan story is one that has been told, retold, and rewritten enough to warrant its own documentary about its history, so extensive plot detail is unnecessary. The story concerns Peter (Levi Miller), a young orphan who lives at an orphanage run by miserable, controlling nuns, who hopes that one day he’ll be able to reunite with his mother. Out of nowhere, however, upon being told by a nun that he is a boy who isn’t special nor is his mother ever going to return, Peter and his fellow orphan friends are kidnapped and boarded on a flying pirate ship helmed by Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), the feared and respected ruler of Neverland. Upon being ostracized because of his unintentionally rabble-rousing nature, Peter teams up with James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), a lifelong passenger on Blackbeard’s ship, and the colorful Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) to take down Blackbeard after he has been told that he is the sacred, special child (or “Pan”) the land has been looking for.

Directed by
Joe Wright
Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund
Release Date
9 October 2015
Steve’s Grade: C-

Pan is incredibly similar to Jupiter Ascending in terms of its release, its circumstances, and its probable fate. For one, both films were due to come out right in the middle of the summer blockbuster season (Pan in July 2015, Jupiter in July 2014), but were subsequently delayed because both films reportedly had a multitude of special effects work that needed to be completed. In addition, both films were predicted to be large bombs for their respective studio, Warner Bros., and now it’s looking like both films’ huge budgets will be the bane of their inability to recoup the finances necessary to break even.

Pan, however, isn’t as murky in terms of its story as Jupiter Ascending, though it is surprisingly bland. Wright and writer Jason Fuchs feel like they’ve concocted a checklist of events from the beloved story of “Peter Pan,” so instead of spending time on each, they rush through them in order to make a film that isn’t too long, but also isn’t too developed either. As a result, Fuchs rushes through the perfunctory elements of the “Peter Pan” story in order to get to the film’s main attraction, the wide variety of special effects, fairy dust, and chase sequences, all while forgetting that these characters’ human traits are what attracted us to them in the first place.

The significance of the Peter Pan story has attributed to several things, but largely because of its underdog idea of a young orphan, stuck in an ostensibly hopeless situation, actually being more special than the boys and girls his age that have parents. Similar to Cinderella and other classic stories, Peter proving the mean nuns wrong and teaming up with other societal misfits in order to do something extraordinary is the fundamental idea of his story and why he has remained so relevant and memorable to this day. While Pan is never boring for long stretches of time, it fails to give us a reason to really recognize the story’s significance or real imaginative qualities on a narrative scale when our eyes are so bombarded by pretty colors.

Wright and Fuchs don’t seem to realize that, or have been steered in the opposite direction by studio-heads, and as a result, aside from some really miraculous sequences involving a flying pirate ship and some very attractive costume-work, Pan is a cruelly unmemorable endeavor that is destined for the pits of despair.