Being that the story of Peter Pan has been done many times, most famously by Disney and the late Robin Williams, so comes the question of should there have been another interpretation? Which is something I asked myself when I saw the first trailer, but then I realized that between white Native Americans, and this seemingly being an origin story, that this movie likely is just not for me. Question is, though: were looks deceiving and could this have very well been something I should have seen in theaters? Well…
Characters & Story (with Commentary)
When things begin, honestly it is hard to tell if this is supposed to be a Peter Pan origin story or Oliver Twist. This is mostly due to us meeting Peter (Levi Miller) in an orphanage, with a slew of mean nuns, and the child seeming like the perfect casting for the eventual remake of that movie. Alas, what begins as an Oliver Twist type story becomes sort of like Pinocchio as Blackbeard’s (Hugh Jackman) men kidnap the kids and bring them to Neverland.
Now, while Miller as Pan is alright, unfortunately, Jackman sort of sucks as Blackbeard. First off, for some reason he is introduced with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana and being that this movie is during World War II times, it made absolutely no sense. Though the character in general doesn’t. Mostly because it seems Jackman is trying so hard to tap into his inner Johnny Depp that it is sad.
The disappointment and comparisons don’t end there, though. Hook (Garret Hedlund) we also meet in the film, when him and Peter were on good terms, and he pretty much comes off like Dick Van Dyke did in Mary Poppins. Silly, with an accent which cannot be taken seriously at all, and pair this with him attempting to romance Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) and you get multiple eye rolls.
Which leads to what perhaps the biggest issue for many: A white woman playing a Native American girl. Well, unfortunately, Mara makes Tiger Lily into such a loveable badass that even as politically incorrect it was for her to be casted, it is hard to not fall for the character. She is Peter’s guide toward discovering his parentage, fights alongside him, and even without the magic Peter has, she bounces around and takes on Blackbeard like a boss. Perhaps making it 2x as frustrating someone indigenous wasn’t casted. Especially since, for those called “savages” in the movie, she seemingly is the sole white person among them. Like, literally, there are Black, Asian, and likely pacific islanders making up the tribe’s warriors, and their king, and then there is this random, pale, white woman who is their princess.
That issue aside, though, from orphan to prince of fairies, the movie was better than expected. Almost to the point of wanting to see a sequel to see when Hook went from friend to enemy.
Miller is well casted as Peter and has all the whimsical personality you’d expect of Peter Pan.
The fight scenes, whether using trampolines, or swords and axes, were all sights to behold.
Despite how rather simple the movie is, I still got a little teary eyed as Pan got to discover himself, his parentage, and discovered who he is after basically being told he was nothing by the nuns all his life.
I sort of like how they crafted Blackbeard’s quest, in terms of him wanting fairy dust for it brings him eternal youth. That perhaps was one of the few spins, or creative license taken, that I was digging.
Jackman and Hedlund both played their characters in a campy way which, for my taste, took away from what was overall a decent movie. Jackman seemed to be trying to compete with Johnny Depp, and failed, and Hedlund seemed like he was trying to channel Dick Van Dyke circa 1964.
I didn’t understand at all the point of the rock music used, and sung, during the film, twice. It is like there was once thoughts about doing a Moulin Rouge type of spin with Pan, but then that idea was canned. But, since the rights were already paid for, they decided to throw them into the film.
You aren’t given much, or actually anything really, about Hook’s background. He is just some miner who uses Peter to escape the mines, and from there they don’t really bond or anything. Pretty much their bond is about survival, and not Hook becoming like a father figure, or older brother, but someone just using the kid since he is going places and Hook is tired of feeling trapped.
I didn’t fully understand the beginning dealing with a nun having some sort of deal with Blackbird in which she would sell orphans to him. That seemed so weird and, unfortunately, it isn’t explained at all.
On The Fence
Though the main cast pretty much is solid white, with Sam Smiegel (Adeel Akhtar) perhaps being the closest thing to being part of the main group and seen throughout the movie, the background characters/ actors are well diverse. Be it the “savages” which are Black, Asian, or pacific islanders, or the mining camp which has them less sprinkled about, but still noticeable. It should be noted, though, because of the overwhelming amount of People of Color casted as the savages, some of Blackbeard’s men, the one who are actually on his ship and not, for a lack of a better term, slaving down in the mines, are People of Color. Well, at least one is. (Maybe this should be a low point…)
Arguably, despite it being racial bend casting, Mara does quite well as Tiger Lily. She possesses a girlish charm which you see allures Hook, which perhaps should be considered creepy considering how old Tiger Lily is supposed to be; but then you have this badass who can fight as good as any man in her tribe. Yet, no matter how good Mara is in this role, there is the constant nag that a white woman was casted to be her. Which not only becomes a problem in terms of casting, but because there really didn’t seem to be anyone in her tribe, but her, who was white.
Final Thought(s): TV Viewing
Pan isn’t as bad as I thought it would have been, but I am glad I didn’t see it in theaters. If only because the performances of Jackman and Hedlund would have made me check my watch. For as much as I loved Peter’s journey, and even Mara as Tiger Lily, those two men did absolutely nothing for me. Jackman’s version of Blackbeard was campy, and while I get this is a kid’s movie, at the same time I wonder why that means the villains can’t be truly scary? Then, when it comes to Hook, I’m left almost feeling like he should have been pushed off for a potential sequel. One in which he is someone of Blackbeard’s crew who goes for revenge vs. is Peter’s sort of friend who eventually, for reasons I can’t remember, ends up losing his hand due to the boy.
Overall, though, Peter’s journey will give you some giggles, one or two tears, and surely will be more entertaining for a child than an adult. Thus leading to a TV Viewing rating.
Things To Note
With Peter Pan being the prince of the fairies, it does make me wonder if maybe Tinkerbell, who makes a very short appearance, is princess of the fairies? This would explain her jealousy of Wendy, and others, in the future to me, since, likely, Peter would be her destined betrothed. Someone she perhaps was waiting on for, in Neverland time, centuries.