Monday, October 19, 2015

Movie Review #327: "Pan" (2015)

Director: Joe Wright
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 51 minutes
Image Source
A young orphan named Peter (Levi Miller) is kidnapped by the pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) and taken to Neverland with his fellow orphans and the like, including a young James Hook (Garrett Hedlund). Peter is forced to work in the mines of Neverland until he and Hook can formulate a plan to escape. It is in these mines Peter discovers his destiny as the chosen one to defeat Blackbeard and save the fairy kingdom.  

When we first saw the trailer for "Pan" earlier this year, we had high hopes. Maybe it was just the song that played over the trailer or the fantastical look of its inception that intrigued us, but whatever it was, we were pretty stoked. We were even upset when we found out the movie had been pushed back from its original summer 2015 release date to October 2015, though we now know this was an early warning sign of things to come. When a film gets pushed back, it's often not a good sign, or an indication that maybe something wasn't going all too well for the production. Now that we've seen it, we can say are wholly disappointed in the final product.

"Pan" has been pitched as a prequel and origin story of the Peter Pan character. As the film begins, we find the majority of the movie outside of Neverland takes place during WWII, which is odd as Peter Pan takes place in the early 1900's. Not a huge deal, but an odd one at that. Moving on. Peter was dropped at an orphanage by his mother when he was just a baby, so he has grown up there and has made several friends. When other orphans begin disappearing, Peter wants to know why. The nuns at this orphanage are no help and often treat the kids very cruelly, even going as far as physically hurting them in some abusive ways which could be seen as borderline disturbing for younger kids in the audience. Some of the best, weirdest, coolest scenes happen in the first 15 minutes as weird clown pirates drop from their sky ship on ropes to snatch the orphans from their beds. Peter and the other boys, after a bizarre and out of place 3D-pandering space scene with obvious and horrendously rendered CGI images, finally arrive in Neverland, but not the majestic, imaginative, colorful land you might have thought of as a child. No no, the Neverland these orphans are taken to consists of dingy, poop brown mines where all the orphans are instructed to mine for Pixum, or fairy dust, which is apparently used as a rejuvenation tactic for Captain Blackbeard, though this never gets mentioned again. The pirates and all those working in the mines, headed by Blackbeard, all of sudden, without warning, start singing a very familiar song which turns out Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." BigJ and I were left with our mouths agog, our eyes narrowed in disbelief, our noses pinched in an strange repulsion. WHAT???! This whole sequence is very jarring and took us completely out of the fantasy of Neverland. We don't even want to know why they are singing Nirvana, and even if Nirvana existed in the world of Neverland as well as the world of the world, Kurt Cobain was probably rolling over in his grave knowing that the only reason his song was being used in this movie was so Hugh Jackman should showcase his singing abilities. A short time later, these very same pirates start singing The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Pop," and again, we were left scratching our heads in clashing amazement that these songs made the final cut to be in the movie at all. Mind you, this is not a musical, so it's not an ongoing thing. The singing only happens these two times, which makes it all the more out of place. This is a kids films, and barring any bitchin' parents who bring their kids up on good music, "Pan" has characters singing songs that came out at least decade or more before the oldest members of its target audience were even born. Maybe these songs are there for people like us, people our age, and the parents of kids forced to take their children to the movies, but as we said, we were very taken back by it, didn't think it was necessary, and thought these songs reminded us we were watching a movie, stripping away the imagination of the scene in lieu of a big, fat ticket back to reality.

Another huge problem we had with this film as a whole was its CGI. Sure, some of it looked alright, and though it is clear a lot of imagination went into the visuals, the execution of said visuals wound up being a very lopsided mixed bag. It's overly apparent when things are CGI here, and a good movie will make every possible effort to conceal its fakeness. We understand part of the magic of Peter Pan's story could leave some leeway for imaginative types of imagery, but this is not the type of CGI we were given. Instead, though some of it is passable, more often than not, it's so cartoonish, unnatural, and quite frankly, laughable, we found ourselves waiting and wanting something more, even though it was all very colorful. This is also part of the movie's downfall. It's not enough to have a movie be colorful. Without any substance behind it, when objects moving in weird ways and clearly intended for a 3D-going crowd are flying at your face, it's just graphics floating around the screen in peculiar manners. While there are some great looking costumes, some decent set pieces, and some okay makeup work that is mostly reminiscent of the style and look found in Steven Spielberg's "Hook," it's different enough to set it apart, but not necessarily in a good way.

Apart from the uneven visuals, the story itself is quite disjointed and it really has no natural flow. None of the scenes seem to have a natural connection. Plot points are often dropped and never mentioned again, locations move without explanation, hell, there were even weird, preemptive scene changes from one scene to the next without any warning. The best, most compelling parts of the Peter Pan/Captain Hook story are left on the cutting room floor in the hopes that there would be a sequel, but with its poor box office performance, there's no way in hell this movie will get a sequel. We would have rather seen how Hook got his hand taken off than hear Nirvana for the fun of its inclusion.

Of course, we can't talk about "Pan" without mentioning the elephant in the room that has created an endless controversy, and that's the casting of Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily, which continues the perpetual white-washing trend in Hollywood. There are more problems with her character than simply her race, including her age, the random choice to make her the love interest of the James Hook, and the glaring fact that the makers of the movie could have cast anyone in the role and it would have been the exact same product. The filmmakers claimed their desire to make "Pan" multicultural, but every main character in the movie is white, while the people of color are, unfortunately, relegated to do what it standard in Hollywood: filling out the background cast. We're honestly so sick and tired of this. There is absolutely no reason why Mara needed to be cast as Tiger Lily, and she's really not famous enough to be a draw on her own. She doesn't do anything remotely noteworthy with the Tiger Lily role, and to go as boldly as they did to cast her, she really needed to blow her part out of the water, which she didn't. We're not saying the movie would be without its flaws if someone else had been cast in this role, but Mara did nothing to make her white-washed casting necessary in the slightest. We are fine with re-imaginings of previously made works and untold origin stories, but they should still stay somewhat true to the characters in the source material.

Though there is the occasional entertaining moment here, we never got fully swept away in the fantasy of it all. There are plenty of movies critics hate that we love. We just happen to agree with the majority of critics this time around because "Pan" pretty much sucks. This will be a movie people quickly forget exists when there are already a bevy of other excellent Peter Pan films out there at the public's disposal.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 4.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 25%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

No comments:

Post a Comment