Movie review: Joe Wright’s Pan

This dark Peter Pan origin story both captivated and divided audiences

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Joe Wright is a well-known British director whose best film, the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Kiera Knightly, is well regarded as a modern classic. Since then he’s been known for stylistically imaginative if not always critically acclaimed films like Atonement, Anna Karenina and Hanna.

Pan is a perfect addition to his canon as one of the weirdest and certainly most controversial films of 2015.

Pan is a Peter Pan origin story where we learn about his parents, his initial trip to Neverland, his meeting Tinkerbell, Captain James Hook, Smee and Tiger Lily, and of course how he learned to fly. The story is hard to describe without entering spoiler territory, but these questions could help give you a sense of the tone Joe Wright went for.

How would you feel hearing The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in a movie that ostensibly takes place during World War II? How would you like to see Hugh Jackman playing a pixie dust-huffing slave driving pirate looking for immortality? Could the origin story of Peter Pan really be a fantastical rehashing of James Cameron’s Avatar? These questions should provide a good barometer of whether this movie is for you.

The production values of this film are stunningly beautiful. With four major distinct set pieces, Wright managed to take an enormous mining pit, a wild jungle, a mystical fairy crystal land and a World War II era British orphanage right out of Oliver Twist and make a world that feels fresh and original.

Every shot feels perfectly crafted with Wright using his signature long takes to maneuver around Neverland, adding to the magic of the experience.

The cast is universally extravagant. Levi Miller has intense chemistry as the young Peter and Garrett Hedlund mugs Harrison Ford circa 1981 in the role of Captain James Hook. While the casting was rightly controversial, Rooney Mara’s performance as Tiger Lily was very solid and Adeel Akhtar shows off his comedy chops in the role of Mr. Smee.

The performance that will determine how you feel about the movie as a whole though, is Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard. He is swinging for the rafters in every shot and the intensity with which he plays the role is truly shocking. Pan really rests on his shoulders and it is not surprising that many were not positive on the film given how divisive his performance is.

Pan is a movie that kids will love, and adults who love gorgeous and audacious filmmaking will appreciate. But if you are expecting the Peter Pan you grew up with as a kid, get ready for something new.

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