Pan is a British-American-Australian 3D fantasy adventure family film directed by Joe Wright and written by Jason Fuchs. The film is a prequel to Scottish author J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, first staged in 1904, and is an invented origin story about how Peter Pan met Captain Hook.
The villain Captain Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) is just as ruthless this time but more likeable somehow in his search for ‘pixum’ fairy dust, while 12 year old Peter (Levi Miller) is wide eyed, dyslexic, innocent and bravely searches for his mother who was forced to leave him at birth at the door of a not so nice orphanage run by stereotypically bad, large, pale and hairy Mother Barnabas with an origami style head dress.
Under cover of a World War Two German air raid Peter finds himself whisked away by abseiling pirates to the fantastical world of Neverland in a magic ship, doing battle on the way with the Luftwaffe and RAF over London, cannons blazing against machine guns. In fact there is whole fleet of these airborne pirate ships that only seem to touch the sea by accident in relentless pitched battles as Blackbeard launches spectacular assaults against Peter and his friends the Piccaninnies who guard the fairy kingdom.
As they all tirelessly hack, slash and thrust with cutlasses, soar in cable cars, fly and fall through trap doors, perform double flips and skid their ships sideways like juggernauts it feels a lot like an over stimulated James Bond movie. If you are looking for the fairy Tinkerbell, she only appears once in a sprinkle of star dust, Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) is no longer cast as a Native American but a European tribal warrior princess, the crocodile slides past unnoticed in a trance and the Piccaninnies have had their ethnicity altered too. And instead we have James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) no longer Blackbeard’s bo ‘sun but an all-American good looking escaped prisoner of the mines who charmingly leads the adult opposition with plenty time to spare to woo the hard-to-get Tiger Lily.
But it’s all good rollicking fun, the kids in the cinema loved the tribal drum rhythms and waved their arms with the beat, and even the teenagers in the row behind me were caught up in the fast and furious chases, close combat and heart stopping near misses over chasms endlessly deep. I am sure there were some lumps in throats when the story all came together at the end and Peter’s dispatch of the baddies resulted in his gathering all the lost boys for tearful reunions with the goodies – none of whom, you will be pleased to see, really actually died - and they all fade into the sunset, in a magical pirate ship.
Pan is no longer showing at FACT but we have lots of family movies coming up this season on the big screen, from Tim Burton's Frankenweenie, to everyone's childhood favourite, Matilda.