There are few movies that exist in this world that disappointed me as much as Fantastic 4 (2015). The film was chalked full of missed opportunities, misplaced action sequences and overall…just… crap production. It was a film that I wanted to be good and that had a lot going for it (like cast and budget) and it took those potentials, dragged them through the mud and the muck and then tied a pretty bow around it and called it a movie. I am not usually harsh toward films as I tend to be able to see the good side to most of them, but I couldn’t with FF4 and I can’t with Pan.
But I am not alone, i’m fairly certain with the abysmal opening weekend the movie had that almost no one went to go see the movie. And those of us who did, do not have many positive things to say about it. Like FF4, Pan was full of missed opportunities! It chose to focus on a weak main character rather than focusing on some of the more interesting characters found within the movie (like Hook or Blackbeard). What you’re left with is a movie that jumps from plot point to plot point using a christ-like character who felt more like a spoiled brat that gets lucky and discovers his “fairy powers”.
This movie starts the way you might think, with a mysterious mother dropping off her baby boy in an orphanage simultaneously proclaiming her deep love for him while also…abandoning him. The kid grows up to be mischievous, hyper and overly curious with a crazy imagination to boot. He notices that kids in the orphanage keep going missing and when he finds a treasure trove of jewels, art and food underneath the head nuns office he realizes there is something suspicious going on. With the help of his friend… who I think was called Nips? They set up a plan to figure out the mystery of the missing orphans.
What they find, however, was entirely unexpected. The children are being kidnapped, or technically sold, but by pirates who whisk them away in the night and take them to Neverland where a ruthless pirate, Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), used them as a slave-mining force. They have to work in grueling conditions every day mining for fairy dust which is a talk that has grown increasingly more difficult due to the fact that Blackbeard viciously destroyed all of the fairies years ago.
After allegedly stealing from the mines, on his first day, Pan(Levi Miller) is subjected to a sort of trial in which the mine workers get to decide his fate. they decide that he should be put to death because its fun to see kids die apparently. After Blackbeard kicks him off a plank to his death, everyone including Pan is astonished to find out that he can fly. After this event Blackbeard tells the young boy of a prophecy foretold by the natives that one day a boy who could also fly would come to Neverland and destroy Blackbeard. With the help of James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), Pan escapes captivity and seeks out the natives to fulfill his destiny and possibly meet his mother.
A couple of big oversights right off the bat…Look… I am not saying I could do a better job of running a pirate community than Blackbeard but… seriously… If you need fairy dust to keep yourself young, why would you actively go out of your way to destroy the very thing that creates the substance? To make matters worse– when faced with a prophecy that states that a child would be his destroyer, he decides to set up a business model that is reliant on KIDS! Why bring them into your workforce? Who does that, Blackbeard?
Also, when we are first introduced to Blackbeard, his entire slave-crew is happily singing rock songs like they’re in some trippy rock-opera version of Hook. I could have bought into this if they were consistent with it, but they literally only do it twice in the movie and never, ever, do it again. So the two times that it happened in the movie were sort of neat but ultimately out-of-place compared to the rest of the film.
But Blackbeard could have been a cool character if he was done right, but alas he was not. There is one scene of his that stands out to me in particular and that is when he reveals to Pan that he might be the “child of prophecy”. In the conversation he talks to Pan about how death is like a dream in which you never wake up– in this scene is seems as if BB is welcoming death rather than avoiding it. This would arguable have set up for an interesting character. Here are my thoughts: I would have liked to see Blackbeard as a menacing figure whose only real purpose in life, after losing the love of his life (in his mind anyways) during his war with the fairies, is to stay alive and wait for his worth opponent, Pan, to kill him. He welcomes death rather than run from it, but also chooses not to make it easy for Pan. This might have been a more interesting dynamic as it would have made Blackbeard way more sympathetic of a character and he wouldn’t have been so cliché.
Another disappointment was James Hook, played by Garrett Hedlund, for a number of reasons but in part because of his cartoon-ish and over-the-top nature of the character. The Hook we see in the film is not the Hook of old where he is bitter and old. He is clumsy, childish and essentially an ass the entire film. And this was detrimental to the character throughout the movie because he could have been an extremely likable character, and it was needed as nearly every other character in the movie lacked any likable qualities. Most of the time he was acting like a crazed classic pirate that has spent way too much time out in the sun. Constantly leaning in, crazy-eyed and talking with a pirate-y accent even though no one else is. To make matters worse, he isn’t even a pirate at this point in his life– so the way he talks makes even less sense. And to top it all off, with his contact leaning, crazy talking, wide-eyed insane eye contact, he came off rather creepy when making advances to his sort of pseudo love interest in the film, Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara).
And honestly, that didn’t even bother me for the most of the film. I can deal with the way he talks and chalk it up to a weird character trait that he may or may not have learned from his “ma and pa” back home. My biggest issue with Hook, overall, is the simple fact that they could have made him a really cool character but chose, instead, to use him as a laughing prop. When you first meet him he feels like a strong supporting character that can help Pan, he seemed like he had a lot of “know-how” and knew the lay-of-the-land well enough to be the wise character of the film. They even gave him an Indiana Jones-y feel and I thought, “Hey, here is a pretty cool and potentially bad ass character I can get behind!” And Hedlund even seemed like he was enjoying playing the role– I just get the feeling like he had a lot of fun. But the character we get, instead of being helpful or awesome, is someone who constantly trips over himself and comes off as a weak and bumbling idiot the entire film. They take a character that will be menacing in the future and constantly poke him with a stick so the audience can laugh at him. I hated what they did with his character and I wanted Hook to be some much cooler.
I read another online review of the film prior to seeing the movie, and said review refers to Pan and “Pan-Jesus” throughout his criticism. And, that is basically spot on in the whole film. If you watch anime, this is a constant flaw with male protagonists where the character is basically the “chosen one” and is super special for no real reason other than…well… he was born. Peter Pan, in this film, is constantly touted throughout the film as the boy who will save Neverland from the iron fist of Blackbeard. Everyone treats him like a savior and expects him to do great things, and Pan has to struggle with the idea of whether or not he is “truly special” throughout the movie. And, I will tell you right now, he is not special. He is whinny, unlikable, a brat and, for a “boy who never grows up”, certainly deals with a crap ton of self-doubt you usually don’t see from hyper-active children.
He spends half the film being depressed about his mother who, by the way, I have always had issues buying into. I do not get the whole “I abandoned my child for the greater good but my love still shines through somehow and I am the best parent in the world”-thing you see in movies and books every so often. I don’t buy the idea of love transcending space and time– it is something that is learned and earned through the bonds of parenthood and I have always felt that depictions of parental abandonment for the “greater good” sort of unintentionally puts not being a good parent in a positive light? Who needs parents around when you have “destiny”! But honestly, that is my own bias– take it for what it is worth.
But seriously, by making Pan “Pan-Jesus” you take away the ability for the audience to relate to his character. He is the “chosen one” so kids (or parents) inherently cannot be him…. AND WHO DIDN’T WANT TO BE PAN AT SOME POINT IN THEIR LIVES? To make matters worse, he struggles with his title of “PAN” throughout the movie– not sure if he can be the person everyone wants him to be, but then the movie sort of takes that decision away from him by not allowing him to really learn how to use his powers. Basically he decides to finally take a leap of faith and believe he can fly– jumps of a floating boat and voila! He has super powers now. But that isn’t really any sort of revelation or anything learned when this happens… it just does. And then, after learning to fly, he suddenly becomes the next Avatar and learns his fairy powers where he has dominion over all fairies and can bend them to his will. Seriously… I am waiting for a new show to be called Pan: The Fairy-Bender.
Overall, his character was weak, both physically and mentally, he came off as spoiled and annoying most of the time as well. He ended up being a character that you were either unsympathetic towards when he was sad or annoyed with when he was happy-ish. He wasn’t relatable in the slightest and was rather special only by birthright rather than by any will of his own.
Part of what made me thoroughly excited to see this film was the trailers and seemed to promise an extremely colorful and amazing world. I think one of their taglines for the movie was “Discover Neverland”? Everything about it seemed imaginative and inspired and I was really excited to see the movie. But honestly, we do not spend much time looking around Neverland throughout the movie. You spend most of the film either in the dusty orphanage or the dusty mines. We get to see a bit of beauty, in the film, during the scenes where Hook, Pan and Tiger Lily travel through Mermaid Lagoon, but that is a fairly small scene and we get to see a bit more when they are back at the camp-natives but that’s about it. The most visually stunning part of this movie was probably the fairies and Pan’s fairy-powers, but most of the CGI in the movie seemed cartoony and cheap. The mermaids looked fake and they end up fighting these weird mega-skeleton-dodo-birds of some kinds that looked horrible. I imagined Neverland to be an amazing place of wonder– but instead we get a small world with some forests, some floating boats and a mine….
Also, what gives the floating boats their powers to float? There were a couple of instances where a boat would crash and it would cease to be able to float in the air… but they can also float upsidedown….I’m curious as the where the cut-off is? Like how much would a boat have to be intact to float in Neverland.
The plot of the movie was not bad, except for the fact that they used Pan-Jesus as a plot device to move the story forward. Other than that it felt like a solid job of world-building and I honestly just wanted to see MORE of Neverland as a whole and less of the dingy mines. I would have rather that they developed some of the main characters more as well. (10/20)
This film had a lot of potentially amazing characters, but they all failed to deliver. Pan aside, Blackbeard and Hook could have battled to steal the show had their characters been written better. Blackbeard most of all was a missed opportunity, but I could have looked passed that if Hook was stellar– but they instead chose him to be the comic relief in the film rather than unveil any sort of the characters potential. Add that to the lackluster Tiger Lily and the unlikable Pan and you have a disappointing movie. (5/20)
When I think of “acting” in this film– I initially think of Garrett Hedlund as Hook. And it is hard to tell how much of it is bad acting or how much of it was due the director. Hedlund is not a poor actor, and he can definitely pull off the strong-silent type, which makes me think Hook was more a product of how he was TOLD to act rather than the acting itself? Same goes for most of the characters– I don’t think they were poorly acted, just poorly written and directed. (5/20)
I hated how the story was told, the characters were not likable, the direction they took with Blackbeard could have been so much better, and you get the idea that the movie would have been better if it focused more on Pan’s parents rather than Pan. Also making Pan a mesiah rather and a relatable character was used too much as a plot-device. (5/30)
When I tell most people that I hated this movie, they usually say something like “Whaaaat but the trailers looked so good… dang…. I was hoping it would be better!” So the trailers seemed like the best part of the movie. (10/10)