By Kayla Whittle
Everyone knows the story of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. In theaters now is the proclaimed prequel to that story. “Pan” is a compelling and surreal movie, filled with fantastical effects and anything else a child could hope for in a film. While it may be enjoyed by all ages, it leaves something to be desired by adult viewers.
Young Peter, played by Levi Miller, is an orphaned lad living in World War II London in a boys home where the children are steadily disappearing. One night he and his friend wake to find pirates infiltrating the building through the ceiling. Peter is spirited away to Neverland by a malicious crew of pirates and conscripted into Blackbeard’s (Hugh Jackman) crew. This isn’t the pirate anyone would expect to find in this magical place. In fact, Hook (Garrett Hedlund) has also been forced to work for Blackbeard and becomes Peter’s ally.
Without favorite villain Captain Hook to act as antagonist against Peter Pan, Jackman’s version of Blackbeard is wonderfully sinister and creepy. His urgency to keep himself young and immortal through Neverland’s resources leads him and Peter to become enemies, though the two have a strange connection to one another. While Blackbeard is undoubtedly cruel, both a murderer and enslaver of hundreds of children, there’s a twinge of sympathy for him and his failed chance at happiness that makes him an overwhelmingly interesting character.
Peter, on the other hand, is nothing but predictable. Young, arrogant and surprisingly adept at not getting himself killed in his new environment, Peter is as brutal in his righteous attitude as he is in the most familiar versions of this story.
Every element of the plot and setting seem cute, fun and whimsical. It’s almost as if the directors decided to recruit children to the team and asked them what would make their dreams into reality. From Blackbeard’s corrupted sing-a-longs and flying pirate ships to ancient prophecies to pools of water that tell the past, everything typically found in a storybook is given a subtle twist in this film to show how the real world, rather Peter’s world, has transformed the magic of Neverland.
While watching, it’s also fun to note the various references made to the original story of Peter Pan and to guess at how this film will be connected to the next one to come. “Pan” is currently playing in theatres everywhere. Children will be wholeheartedly captivated by this retelling, though it’s uncertain if the film will withstand the test of time. The film’s conclusion leaves something to be desired, although this may have been an intentional ploy to set the stage for a sequel.