When you were a child watching the Disney version of Peter Pan and you saw him fly through the window of the Darling household, all chilly in his tights and green tunic, did you ever think, “Who ARE you, Peter? Where do you COME from?” Me neither. No one cares. But for some unfathomable reason this film assumes we do and decides to tell us. It takes two hours.
Even JM Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, didn’t care enough about where he came from to write an origin story. So studio bigwigs, with their sights on a franchise, have invented one that employs all the tired cliches: orphans, prophecies, chosen ones, etcetera, etcetera. Young Aussie Levi Miller plays Peter with a wobbly Cockney accent, but otherwise turns in as solid a shift as possible under the circumstances.
The same can’t be said for Hugh Jackman, playing Blackbeard, whose performance is so hammy I hear his next role is as David Cameron’s university girlfriend in the film adaptation of Call Me Dave. He looks ridiculous, like an 18th century French aristocrat got busy with an ostrich. The dramatic tension, such as it is, comes from Blackbeard’s relentless mining of Neverland’s fairy light – or “pixum” – and the associated oppression of the natives.
Peter is sent to save Tiger Lily’s (Rooney Mara) tribe, who look no better than Blackbeard in costumes made from pipe cleaners and felt pom poms, as if they were dressed by Blue Peter presenters. Cara Delevigne also puts in a borderline offensive appearance as a trio of mute mermaids included purely for the “phwoar” factor.
When the scenery isn’t being chomped upon by Jackman it’s put to good use explaining major plot points. “This is memory wood,” explains Mara’s Tiger Lily, at which point tiny figures spring from the bark to act out parts of the narrative. Want to know what happened to your mother, Peter?
And the worst thing about Pan? It’s really boring. Packed with uninspired, overlong action sequences from beginning to end and utterly charmless characters. A few more films like this and it’ll be director Joe Wright’s career down the pan.