Conceived by author J.M. Barrie in 1904 as a play, and later converted into a novel in 1911, the tale of Peter Pan is a work of pure wonder, vivid imagination, and juvenile spirit. The idea of a young boy who refuses to grow up is a concept we can all relate to on some level. The fear of losing your innocence, the thought of forgetting what it means to have fun. Growing colder, more bitter and cynical as the years go by, until the person you thought you were is completely gone or unrecognisable. It’s something we all contemplate on as we go through life, trying to hold onto that curious, youthful vigour and jolly, adventurous optimism that makes us so human. It’s all about realising that there is a distinct difference between growing up and growing old. Growing old is only natural for us, it’s just the way life is. Growing up, however, is something we choose to do. Something we think we have to do. But what exactly defines a grown-up? No one can really tell. It’s such an individual process, yet we constantly like to tell each other what that means.
In Pan we meet the young orphan Peter, who is left on the doorstep of an orphanage when he is just an infant. We never really get any reasonable explanation as to why, but as with all prequels these days, we of course need some sort of life-altering tragedy that changes the life of our hero forever, so that he can eventually become the man he was meant to be. The chosen one, if you will. Anyways, one day the boy finds out that his mother has left him a letter, telling him to meet her in another world. He is then kidnapped by flying pirates and flown to Neverland, where kids are being forced to work in pixie dust mines by the evil Blackbeard. But all Peter wants is to be reunited with his mom, so he can finally know what it means to have a family that loves him.
Contrary to many other fairy tales, the film adaptations of Peter Pan have pretty much been consistently good over the years. From the 1953 Disney classic, to Steven Spielberg’s highly underrated Hook from 1991, and the 2003 re-imagining. They each had their own charm and clever take on the original source material. Pan sadly does not continue that trend. In fact, I think J.M. Barrie would be ashamed of what Hollywood has turned his baby into; a soulless, shrill, and nonsensical pile of artificial CGI-ugliness. Everything that makes the character so interesting and fun has been completely buried and forgotten in Joe Wright’s disastrous attempt to cater to the lowest common denominator of blockbuster entertainment. This movie doesn’t have a single original bone in its body. It’s NEVER funny, it’s NEVER exciting, and quite frankly it has absolutely nothing to do with the name nor the ideas of the play. Change the title of the film, call Neverland something else, and I bet no one would even know this is supposed to be a movie about Peter Pan. I’m not even joking, this has nothing to do with the original mythos. It is the very definition of a self-centred studio cash-grab, made solely with the purpose of pulling money out of your pockets.
I can only really describe it as a pretty package with nothing inside. Imagine being a 5-year old kid unwrapping his largest present under the Christmas tree, only to find out that there’s more gift-wrapping inside of it. Nothing to learn from, nothing to play with, nothing to appreciate. That’s what Pan was to me; a promise that was never kept. The characters are so exaggerated and overplayed , it feels like you’re watching a cheesy stage-play on autopilot. Lots of fireworks and effects, no substance and development. The screenplay is so one-note and directionless, even the actors seem like they know something is off. Our flying main-attraction has no arc whatsoever, Tiger Lilly has been reduced to a vending machine of exposition, and Hook is now an absurdly attractive YA pretty boy with sparkly white teeth. If Steve the Pirate from Dodgeball had a baby with Edward Cullen from Twilight, you would get Garrett Hedlund’s captain Hook. Scary thought, isn’t it? Whoever allowed this decision to be had should be fired from filmmaking forever.
Ironically enough, the movie is everything Peter Pan is afraid of. It’s the kind of lifeless lawyer Robin Williams was portraying in Hook; dead on the inside, dry on the outside. It’s so self-serious and calculated, like a strictly disciplined child that no one ever loved or cared about. Only drooling idiots will find any amusement in this empty clusterfuck excuse for a cinematic experience. I had an entire 5th grade sitting right behind me during the premiere, and by the 20-minute mark they were all so bored, they literally started screaming, kicking my chair, and yelling about how they wanted Peter Pan to die. That’s just wrong! I couldn’t believe how empty and shallow this film was. I simply cannot rate it, because that would require something worth rating. Joe Wright and his writers have gang-raped this property so hard, it might never be able to walk properly again. If this was my child, I would file for a restraining order immediately!