What grabbed me first about Pan was what they were marketing. The film was heavily reliant on selling the concept of Peter, Hook, and Tiger Lily being friends, with the three of them teaming up to fight Blackbeard the Pirate. The opening monologue even states, “Sometimes friends start out as enemies, and enemies start out as friends…” Okay, so Peter and Hook are friends - I AM IN! Who isn't at least a little bit curious as to what will happen there? Being a big fan of Neverland mythology, I really wanted to see this relationship play out. How does it go sour? How does that dashing Indiana Jones-esque figure in the trailer become the dreaded Captain of the Jolly Roger?
Really big spoiler alert (are you ready?) – you NEVER find out. Keeping with the current trend of universe-building and trying to keep enough plot points for a sequel, the film leaves this important part of the narrative open. When the film ends, Pan and Hook are still on the same side (with the brilliant Smee) and ready for the next adventure. When the film's biggest point of difference doesn’t end up happening, and when your popcorn bucket full of questions is left unanswered, you can't help but feel a little betrayed.
This bad aftertaste aside, there are also some good things about Pan. The production design and costumes are reason enough to take the trip to Neverland, and some of the unique characters are fresh takes on old favorites. The version of Smee is particularly fun to watch. I saw many complaints about how Rooney Mara playing Tiger Lily was whitewashing the part, but I actually felt it worked. In this version of Neverland, Tiger Lily's tribe is a multicultural society. They are the outcasts, the ones who don't want to be pirates, the ones that still believe in fairies. It is a smorgasbord of race, color, and culture (again great production design and costuming), bringing a different take on what a 'tribe' is.
One thing worth mentioning is the odd soundtrack. Taking a page from A Knight’s Tale perhaps, there are two moments in the film when Hugh Jackman's rock star pirate Blackbeard leads a chorus in singing famous songs. So, if you want to see pirates singing Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or The Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop”, then this film is for you.
While I walked out of Pan feeling a little disappointed, it was still enjoyable. The third act starts to introduce more familiar parts of the tale — fairies, mermaids, and even a little bit of flying. I am now hoping that the film does enough business to warrant a sequel so that all of the questions I have are answered.
What do you think?
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