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Entertainment Film & TV Reviews

Film review: Pan ****

By Alexia Evripidou

Pan, simply put, is a wonderfully old fashioned fantasy adventure for the whole family to enjoy. A cinematic experience that transports you to a magical world where vintage cinematography meets the brand spanking new; where Avatar converges with Pirates of the Caribbean and invites Oliver Twist and Charlie with his chocolate factory to come along and play. It’s an exciting visual journey with a superb, almost theatrical musical score supporting the enchantment of Peter Pan during his humble beginnings.

For generations, the story of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn’t grow up, has been passed down from parent to child. This prequel marks the events that occurred before Peter Pan and Captain Hook became the characters we’ve grown to know and cherish. So it is setting itself up to fail by potentially disappointing ardent fans. On the whole, Pan has not been broadly accepted, and it has been criticised for not capturing the essence of Peter Pan. This may be true but Pan is a film that can stand pretty well on its own. It is unusual and refreshing as far as prequels go, as it does not put the onus on established plots, motifs and typical Peter Pan symbolism. It’s original both in terms of the pre-story plot and the modern/old style in which it’s being presented.

Pan opens with a voiceover “sometimes friends begin as enemies and enemies begin as friends”, suggesting a potential friendship between 12-year-old Peter (Levi Miller) and evil Captain Hook.

After the infant Peter is left in a blitz torn London orphanage to be raised by nuns, the film continues darkly in a typical Oliver Twist fashion. The embittered Mother Barnabas (played by the talented Kathy Burke) secretly hoards the orphans’ food rations while the boys are forced to eat sloppy porridge. Hungry and in search of food, Peter and his friend raid Barnabas’ chambers where they discover a booby trapped door leading to the food stash, gold coins and more importantly their personal files. Here Peter discovers a letter from his mother stating that she will return to find him whether in this life or another.

Filled with hope and dreams of finding his mother, Peter attempts to sleep, however Blackbeard (an almost unrecognisable Hugh Jackman) and his pirates have other plans, as they drop down from the sky in their flying ship to kidnap the sleeping orphans. The boys are taken to Neverland, where they’re forced to work in a mine collecting fairy dust to keep Blackbeard alive.

And so the fantastical journey begins, full of adventure, excellent CGI animation, energy and huge splashes of colour. Here, the film transitions from Oliver Twist to a hammed up Pirates of the Caribbean come (1971) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Peter’s journey proceeds busily and excitingly, seeing him fight pirates and befriend fairies. He discovers his parentage, confidence and ability to fly. And it’s all in dazzling colour, colour and more colour, which serves to heighten the adventure and the enchantment of the film without making it farcical. Yes, it is far fetched, but it works well and draws you in.

Peter faces Blackbeard’s hatred and develops a tender friendship with the currently two handed ‘Mr. nice guy’ but future arch enemy; Captain Hook. On a side note, Jackman’s Blackbeard is magnificently played; an intense, dangerous, charismatic, baddie.
Over all, the visuals are phenomenal. The inventive camera work and animation are often taken from unusual angles making the whole experience more alluring, while simultaneously creating exciting 3D effects. Pirate ships fly through London’s dreary skies then shoot horizontally upwards into earth’s stratosphere, while we watch from bottom up. It’s fast and often busy, followed by absolute stillness, intertwining music and abrupt silence, taking the viewer on a visual and auditory rollercoaster ride.

The pirates are fun, encapsulating a perfect balance of evil and campness. The costumes are fabulously loud and colourful while evoking fear, without the predicable harshness of today’s usual baddies. There’s innocence to both the pirate costumes and characters reminiscent of yesteryear films.

Pan is wonderfully ‘uncool’ and that’s what makes it so utterly enjoyable. It deviates from the predicted prequel methodologies giving way to an enjoyable fusion using today’s technology with old story telling and visual styles, therefore clasping the attention of old and young viewers alike.
DIRECTED BY Joe Wright
STARRING Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund
US 2015 111min

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