It occurs to me, that the most intoxicating set piece I’ve witnessed in the last year, is the incredible image of hundreds of “lost boys” singing Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at the top of their lungs, while standing at the bottom of a canyon. When Hugh Jackman finally enters the scene, as Blackbeard the malevolent pirate, walking to the end of the plank on a flying masted ship, gently crooning the same song under his breath, the infectious mood is complete. How to explain such things? I can’t…it just works. Boy, did “Pan” get a raw deal when it was released in theaters last autumn, to mostly negative reviews. It’s actually quite good. Highly unusual, occasionally disturbing, but overall quite good. Here’s hoping “Pan” is eventually in line for a critical reevaluation.
It’s a Peter Pan origin story. The capable Levi Miller, plays the grade school age orphan Peter, who was left on the steps of a London orphanage as a baby, by his troubled mother, Mary (Amanda Seyfried). Now a preteen during WW II, under the sardonic rule of Mother Barnabas (the versatile Kathy Burke), Peter and some of his friends, are snatched from their beds one night, by pirates aboard a flying vessel. The boys are then whisked off to Neverland, where they are put to work as mining slave laborers, under the rule of the ruthless Blackbeard (the always wonderful, Mr. Jackman). Peter soon teams up with a young adult prisoner named James Hook (an “Indiana” Jonesish, Garrett Hedlund), and his accomplice Sam “Smee” Smiegel (the fine, Adeel Akhtar), and escapes into the forest. Vibrant colors, and bizarre characters quickly rule the day there. And before long…you’ll believe a boy can fly!
To state it plainly…mob rule sucks. “Pan” was a very expensive, highly troubled production, so the knives were out before it even opened. The majority of critics pounced on it, just like they did for the underrated “The Lone Ranger”, a couple of years back. You know, while most of you weren’t paying attention, 1980’s “Heaven’s Gate” has been rechristened a lost classic. And 1987’s “Ishtar” has been defended by heavyweights like Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. Even 1990’s much-maligned “The Bonfire of the Vanities” has its champions. “Pan” is audacious and eccentric and highly entertaining. Oh, some of the casting is off (maybe Rooney Mara can’t do everything), but no one outright embarrasses themselves. Director Joe Wright is a risk taker. I thought his 2012 “Anna Karenina” was awesome. I like him. And I like “Pan”. It deserves a second chance on home video.