“Pan” is Baz Luhrmann’s idea of what a Terry Gilliam fantasy might look like. Directed by Joe Wright.
And there, alas, is the rub. The guys who gave us “Brazil” and “Time Bandits,” of “The Great Gatsby” and “Moulin Rouge” might have been able to pull off a Peter Pan prequel with re-purposed pop hits, shot on sets and locations left over from “Mad Max.”
But Wright? Based on his solid, earthbound filmography (“Atonement”,”Hanna,” “The Soloist”), he was a good choice for a “Pan” with adult emotions and darkness. But this film is all about the eye candy, all razzle dazzle. At some point, he lost his nerve.
This Peter (Levi Miller) is a World War II orphan, unhappily under the thumb of cruel nuns until that night when pirates swoop in from a flying galleon and kidnap him and many of his mates. Once they’ve escaped Battle of Britain air defenses, they arrive in Neverland, on the island where Blackbeard, their pal, presides.
Hugh Jackman makes this preening, bewigged villain his own, storming into the movie leading a chorus of kid pixie dust miners as they sing “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Wow.
“I have sprung you from life’s cruel dungeon,” Blackbeard insists. To put them to work, with legions of others, in those mines, where the pixie dust that keeps Blackbeard young (ish) dwells.
Garrett Hedlund is a veteran miner, reluctant to befriend the new kid. But his name, “Hook,” tells us they’re connected for life. Or soon to be. Peter, dropped off at the orphanage by a nimble gymnast (Amanda Seyfried), can fly. Just a bit.
Might he be the boy of prophecy, the one who will show up and shake things up?
An expressionless Rooney Mara is Tiger Lily, warrior princess among the natives who fight the pirates, and capture and test the boy and his mentor, Hook.
The CGI sets dazzle, the pre-historic “Never-birds” (skeletal dinosaurs) are kid-friendly, in a scary sort of way. The makeup and costumes point to a lighter romp than this manages to be. There are mermaids and fairies, and even death (characters poof in a cloud of colorful smoke) is dazzling.
This might have made a decent eye-candy musical for kids. But aside from Nirvana and a choral “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the miner kids, there is no music. And the filmmakers quickly run out of jaw-dropping things to show us or sing to us, allowing “Pan” to settle into a dull, generic “chosen one” tale, that staple of “Let’s all feel special” kiddie literature and film.
MPAA Rating: PG for fantasy action violence, language and some thematic material
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Levi Miller, Rooney Mara, Garrett Hedlund, Amanda Seyfried
Credits: Directed by Joe Wright, script by Jason Fuchs. A Warner Brothers release.
Running time: 1:51