Friday, October 9, 2015

A pirate and a fairy walk into a bar…


So, last night I took the kids to see Pan.  The buzz for this film (negative buzz, at that) has been insane since the film was announced.  Between the feeling of ‘fairy tale live action fatigue’ and the issue with ‘white washing’ and that terrifying (and quite alarming) Instagram post by Hugh Jackman to the idea of an origin story to a beloved classic to the feeling that Joe Wright is a gimmick of a director (a sentiment I do not share, but have heard many times), it felt like Pan was plagued with ill intent.

In other words; no one was going to like this.

And, much as I suspected, the initial reviews were quite savage, with critics armed with knives they’ve been holding for half a year tearing into this flick like it was the worst film ever made (and using puns that, like, made them sound seven years old).  I don’t care much for critics, to be honest.  Following the movie/Oscar game for quite a few years now, it’s become evident that once you get ‘paid’ to write a review, you start coming at things from a different perspective.  You start to suck. 

 Sitting in the theater last night, my little ones spread out around me in those really cool recliner seats that literally made me feel like I was watching this in bed, I started to wonder just why this was getting panned so severely.  It is flawed, I won’t deny that…but it’s also really good.  Like, it has so much going for it, which is also a tinge of a flaw (‘too many ideas’ syndrome) and yet those things it has going for it are so intriguing that even in the moments were I felt like someone probably should have yelled, “EDIT!”, I’m really glad they didn’t.

I’d rather take a messy film with too many ideas than an elegant film with none at all.



Joe Wright’s Pan sets out to tell the story of how orphan Peter Pan became the beloved boy who never grew up.  These origin stories are popular (VERY popular), but the story of Peter Pan in its original form is so iconic and so interesting that I’ve never even conceptualized his origin.  But, I can also see why Wright wanted to go in this direction.  The Disney film from 1953 is classic, beloved and perfect.  The 2003 live-action adaptation is considered by so many to be a perfect adaptation that even attempting to take that on would seem silly, especially this soon.  So, we have this, a completely fabricated and original story conceived from the beloved classic but meant to stand on its own.  In my eyes, it does.

Peter, living in a London orphanage during war time, is like most orphans; seemingly delusional.  Confident that his mother will come back for him, and rebellious against the disgustingly savage nuns that run the place, Peter seems like a troublemaker, but a very likable one (at least to the audience).  Before long, Peter discovers that something strange is happening to the boys in the orphanage.  It appears that the nuns are selling them, and it is revealed (during a visually stunning sequence) that they are being sold to pirates in a flying ship…and ship that flies straight to a magical (and visually dazzling) place called Neverland.


In case you haven’t guessed it yet, Pan is, above all other things, a visual marvel.

Once in Neverland, Peter finds himself working the mines alongside thousands of orphans looking for pixie-dust for the ruler of Neverland, Blackbeard.  Blackbeard’s only goal is to live forever, and the pixie-dust (which he inhales like a drug) preserves his youth.  After a series of events sends Peter to the plank, it is discovered the Peter can…fly…and this sends Blackbeard into a bit of a frenzy because, legend has it, that a human/fairy hybrid is destined to come to Neverland to lead an uprising against him. 

Throw in fellow miner, James Hook, and a group of ‘savages’ led by Steam-punk Princess Tiger Lily and you have the makings of a grand adventure.

So…where does Pan go wrong?


Let’s just address the Rooney Mara casting first and foremost since pretty much ALL of the negative notions pre-release were wrapped up in the fact that they cast a Caucasian in the role iconically portrayed by a Native American.  I agree with the outrage over this.  There was absolutely NO reason to cast Mara.  She doesn’t add anything to this role that no one else could have (in fact, she doesn’t do anything of note, at all) and so casting her was foolish, truly foolish, and merely a way for Wright to work with an actress he probably had a desire to work with.  The fact that she’s the only white person in her ‘tribe’ is also rather insulting.  Like, every other member is of another ethnicity and so…their ruler has to be white?  No.  I get it and I am not happy about it.

Honestly though, other than Garrett Hedlund’s ridiculous performance (think a cartoon version of Indiana Jones on hallucinogens), I don’t really see any other flaws here.

The rest of the cast is really well suited to the material.  Even Hugh Jackman, bizarre makeup and wig included, works.  His ham is appropriately timed, giving a larger than life persona with deep-rooted emotions that surface at the right times in the best ways (his initial conversation with Peter, about his destiny, is remarkably played).  Levi Miller is such a find.  He was a pitch-perfect Peter, filled with childlike innocence tampered by a hard life and a confused future and his boyish charm was so well used.  It doesn’t hurt that he’s adorable and has this infectious smile that just makes you happy to watch him have fun with this.  The world Wright creates is so rich, visually, and has so many layers.  The richness of the skylines, the lush forests, the intricate machinery to the ‘evil’ places (even war-torn London is such a work of art) all the way down to the secret Fairy Kingdom, which is so magical in its simplicity.  I even take no issue with the gaudy, colorful attire worn by everyone from the pirates to the savages, because they feel so fun and spirited.


It’s funny because, given Wright’s elegantly conceived previous films (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice and Anna Karenina mostly), I would have expected something more refined in nature from Wright.  In fact, Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella carries with it the properness and fantastical elegance that feels more in line with how Wright has constructed his epics in the past.  Instead, there is almost a wild abandon that flourishes in Pan, a film that feels like a product of Baz Lurhmann’s School of MTV Filmmaking with an ode to the swashbuckling classics of the past in toe.  It works though, for this tale, and is something that Wright effortlessly pulls off.  

I’ll tell you, it seems odd on paper, but the choral production of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ actually gave me LIFE last night.

But all of this visual grandeur means nothing unless the story is good.

Wright’s take on Peter Pan involves an evil pirate, Blackbeard, set on domination over a magical land, in love with a human who he keeps prisoner.  That human, Mary, falls in love with a Fairy Prince who, in an attempt to save her from the evil pirate, takes human form.  Fairies can only live a single day in this form, and so with their few hours together, they conceive a child, Peter, who the savages help Mary hide in the human world until the time is right for him to return and save Neverland from Blackbeard.  The fairies are secluded in a secret place so that Blackbeard cannot harm him in Peter’s absence.  An obvious allegory about Jesus Christ and the battle over God’s creation as well as a deeply conceptualized exploration of the afterlife, Wright’s story is so rich with subtext.  Not every note comes together right, true, but the notes are there and so many of them are played beautifully.  The story of Peter Pan has always been a favorite of mine, and while Pan is perfect, I’m very satisfied with the result.


A few things on my mind, though…there are two ‘notes’ that I really wanted to be played longer.  First, those who were stunned by the moment in the trailer showing the mermaids and the croc…what you saw in the trailer is what you get in the film.  The mermaids, played by model turned actress turned star of a viral interview video Cara Delevigne, are only in the film for about 30 seconds.  They say nothing and only swim Peter to the surface and then that’s it.  They do this mere moments after we see the iconic croc lunge from the water (such a MOMENT) and then drag Peter to the watery depths.  This scene is so stunning and yet far too short.

Next, there’s the Hook/Peter rivalry.  If you’re like me, you’d assume that this origin is going to explore how they became enemies.  It’s hinted at a few times and yet, this never takes fruition.  By the film’s end (spoiler, I guess), they are still friends.  Now, this normally wouldn’t bother me, but with all the negative press this has gotten there is absolutely no way there will be a sequel to this and so we’re never going to get that blossoming feud, and I want it (preferably not with Hedlund in the role, and then again, maybe he’ll grow on me).


So there you have it.  Possibly the only positive review you’ll read for this film, and yet I don’t regret a single word.

B+

36 comments:

  1. Cara Delevingne is in it for only about thirty seconds? :( Too bad, I really quite love her in general and I thought she was very good in Paper Towns.

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    1. Yup, 30 seconds (maybe even less, honestly). She just pouts her lips and Hook and hugs herself (because there are three of her), glows and then swims away.

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  2. Hi Drew! I haven't got around to reviewing this. I didn't hate it but I don't think it was good either.

    "...all of this visual grandeur means nothing unless the story is good" very true and I don't think the story is compelling enough. Perhaps I'm just not getting the subtext, as I find the whole thing rather um, shallow? But hey, at least it's not as terrible as some critics made it to be.

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    1. Aww, I'm sad you didn't like this. I saw so much depth here under the surface. If doesn't always come together as strongly as it could, but it has so much to say (which is probably half the problem).

      But you're right, it's not as bad as the critics make it sound!

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    2. Well, my review is up now. I didn't hate it, just wish it could've been better.

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    3. Awesome! I can't wait to read it. I'm swamped with some packing today, but I'll try and find the time either this afternoon or tomorrow!

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  3. Haven't got time to watch this. But, it's interesting that you defy contemporary reviews... and I like how you praise the visual. And about the subtext? I gotta check though. Nice review!

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    1. Yeah, the subject is even stronger the more I think about it. Comparisons to Christ and the Devil and the battle of God's creation run much deeper than the mere "chosen one" angle. From the child born of human and supernatural means to the sacrifice of one's self to save a people to the execution (Peter is made to walk the plank at one point) to his rise (he's even given THREE DAYS to prove he can 'fly', which mirrors the prophesy that Christ would die and then be raised from the grave in three days) to his betrayal from a friend...it's all there.

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  4. I have heard the negative banter on this film. There is always one film critics centre on to slam down. Later on, after a few years, the film usually is seen in a better light. This is a wonderful review but you got me wondering about my dreamboat man, Hugh Jackman and what he said on Instagram (which I have no idea what that is actually). Oh and another blogger is requesting people to pick 25 of their favourite films, not films that we have been told are great, but 25 films you, yourself, love. He wants the first 10 and the the next 15. They don't have to be in any order. He would like it by October 31st. You can find the rules at his blog here-http://stmccpresentsbattleofthebands.blogspot.ca/2015/10/botb-results-david-and-david-vs-red-hot.html#comment-form
    I hope you will participate...I will of course:)

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    1. It wasn't something Jackman said:
      http://afistfuloffilms.blogspot.com/2014/06/yeah-this-just-happened.html

      But, yeah...he's great here.

      As far as the blogathon is concerned...I can't. I'm literally moving out of this house and will be unable to blog come the end of this week so I have no time to really do anything else...BUT, I have a very special post scheduled for Friday (my last post for the year) which is kind of along those lines.

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  5. I'm glad you didn't hate it. My son has been bugging me about it too, but I'm reluctant to take him to the theater for a non cartoon. I don't think it would hold his attention, even if he loves Peter Pan.

    But that Nirvana thing sounds so ridiculous. lol

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    1. The Nirvana thing IS ridiculous, but I still LOVED IT!

      And your son will LOVE this. All of my kids loved this, even my two year old. My youngest daughter was terrified of Hugh Jackman though :-P

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  6. I'm aware of the negative buzz surrounding this one, but everytime the trailer plays on TV, I find myself saying "I want to see that." Glad to hear it's not as bad as some are making it out to be.

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  7. Eh, I didn't like this one at all. Each to their own :)

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    1. Yeah, I knew you didn't like this one. Different strokes for different folks!

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  8. I'm glad you liked this but I, personally had a terrible time with this.

    I thought the movie suffered from an overdose of CGI in which basically everything was just...CGI and it gave the film a really fake feel for me. I didn't like the performances, Rooney Mara brought nothing really, Garrett Hedlund seemed to be there just to talk with his teeth and Hugh Jackman was too gimmicky and over the top. The story felt really rushed. And that Smells Like Teen Spirit was just plain weird. Not to mention completely out of place. And then for some reason, they did The Ramones's Blitzkrieg Bop as well which was, in every sense of the word, horrid.

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    1. I loved the CGI here, which I felt was expertly used, and I loved Jackman, but I get you on Hedlund and Mara.

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  9. I don't know, man. I'm glad you liked it, but I have always felt that something seemed off about this whole production (and I don't give a shit about anything other than what's on screen). The preview has consistently concerned/baffled me.

    That said, I've seen great trailers for shit movies, and shit trailers for great ones. I'll probably check this one out eventually...but, I'm not in any hurry.

    Besides, I'm totally gonna go take some hallucinogens and act like Indiana Jones. That sounds fantastic.

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    1. Dude, I read your reviews...so I know the crap you watch. You took your son to see Pixels, so you owe him this. TAKE HIM TO SEE THIS MOVIE!!!

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  10. This is like when Alice in Wonderland came out and I was the only one who said something positive about it. I mean it's not perfect but it is not that bad.
    I might check out Pan on DVD or when it's on TV.

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    1. Pan is better than Alice in Wonderland :-D

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  11. i'm enjoyed the movie and there are some many amazing scenes in this movie. if you want to watch the movie the visit my website. here you can easily watch the pan movie online free in high quality. Watch Pan 2015 Online

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    1. OMG! Emma Stone is talking to me!!!

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  12. YAY! I kinda loved it, flaws and all. I thought it was a little rushed, and - Mara aside - I liked the entire cast, especially Miller. Ugh, this a visual wonder of a film, and so entertaining. I'm probably going to see it again soon. B+ for now, but I could see it growing on me. :) #CriticsSuck

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    1. YAY!!!! I was hoping you'd love this! The visuals...MY GOD...the flying ships...that whole scene...the whole world...just so much eye candy but never in a gaudy and gross way.

      Yes, critics SUCK.

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  13. Fine review and a higher score than expected. I haven't been able to get excited for this one but I still may gibe it a look on DVD.

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    1. It's much better than the critics would have you believe. I know many who didn't connect with this (as you can see in the comments above), but I really did...and I hope you do too!

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  14. Well that movie looks terrible, also what the hell Cara is in it for less than a minute? I may stay away from this but I'm glad you have a good time at this with your kids!

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    1. I actually mentioned Cara just for you, since I remember you mentioning wanting to see this for her only.

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  15. Great review, Andrew. We disagree, but you make some great points and I am really happy that the film has some support. I really hope this is the end of Peter Pan for a while though.

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    1. I'll be more than fine with Peter Pan going into retirement for a few years. For me, nothing will come close to topping the book, which was just brilliant, but Disney's take is a personal favorite and so I hold it close to my heart.

      Thanks for stopping by :-D

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  16. Rooney Mara's casting was the tip of the iceberg in this film. I just didn't even have the heart to review this film. It's so terrible. I think you hit the highlights as to why it's bad. I would also say it very male-centric and doesn't appeal to a female audience. A male centric film is perfectly understandable in a film like 'Saving Private Ryan,' or most recently 'Sicario,' but I don't understand why they did this with Pan? As Pan should appeal to all children. Wendy Darling and Tiger Lily was the female connection missing. Since it's a prequel and Wendy Darling can't be in the film, then they should have dramatically increased Tiger Lily's role and also Tinker Bell. Why wasn't there more Tinker Bell? This made no sense. It's sad because I love Peter Pan. My little girl's first birthday party was Peter Pan themed.

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    1. I was very shocked by the lack of Tinker Bell, to be honest. My daughter even missed that she was in there...you know...all three seconds.

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  17. Replies
    1. You're welcome! Thanks for the spam!

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