FROM BOY TO ‘PAN’
Jaunty Jackman, talented newcomer star in prequel pulsating with action
Full of nonstop action, an intriguing new take on J.M. Barrie’s classic “Peter Pan” tale and some old-fashioned, swashbuckling mischief led by Hugh Jackman, director Joe Wright’s “Pan” is one heck of a charming romp.
In this prequel to the Peter Pan legend, we first meet the baby Peter being left by his obviously distraught mother on the steps of an orphanage in London. In short order, we meet the pre-teen Peter (still wearing a pan flute necklace from his mom) as the kid constantly targeted by the evil head nun who runs the orphanage. Meanwhile, the Nazis bombard the city during the Blitz.
In the midst of Peter’s miserable existence he is whisked out of the orphanage dormitory in a middle-of-the-night raid by pirates who maneuver their airborne ship the Jolly Roger through the night skies — off to Neverland, the fantasy world above the clouds.
This is where this solid familyfriendly film really takes off and becomes such a visual treat, thanks to wonderful special effects and the deliciously devilish performance by Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard the pirate. It’s fun to see the Aussie actor, usually known for his good-guy roles, playing a character who balances vicious sadism with an almost-charming charisma that few other actors could have delivered with equal aplomb.
The obsession of Blackbeard is the search for eternal youth — something he chases by forcing his young orphan “Lost Boys” to dig unendingly in a monstrous mine, in a quest to capture a rare mineral called Pixium (the solidified form of pixie dust).
Front and center for all of this, of course, is young Peter, who evolves into Peter Pan after he unexpectedly learns he has the ability to fly. Special mention must be made of newcomer Levi Miller, the young actor who makes his big-screen debut in the title role — and is a truly wonderful cinematic discovery.
The kid’s natural acting chops are ever-present, and he amazingly can hold his own in scenes with not only Jackman, but Rooney Mara (as Tiger Lily) and Garrett Hedlund (as Peter’s pal Hook, before he becomes Peter’s nemesis Captain Hook and has lost his arm to that crocodile).
“Pan” is chock-full with thrilling action sequences, vivid costumes and well-executed special effects as Peter continues his quest to find both his mother and the rea- son she abandoned him so many years before.
My only major criticism centers on the fact the well-known enmity between the Barrie-version Peter Pan and Captain Hook is not well-explained in this prequel. While the prologue for the movie notes that “sometimes friends begin as enemies, and enemies begin as friends,” we never are given a clue to how the Pan-Hook hatred will come about.
It feels like that is being saved for a sequel, and the movie just sort of wimps out before the credits roll.
That said, this is a good film that will be enjoyed both by pre-teen children and the parents who likely will join them at the multiplexes around the country.
Peter Pan (Levi Miller, left) hides from Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) in “Pan.”