Jaunty Jack­man, tal­ented new­comer star in pre­quel pul­sat­ing with ac­tion

Chicago Sun-Times - - MOVIES - BY BIL­LZWECKER Colum­nist Email: bzwecker@sun­ Twit­ter: @bil­lzwecker

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.”

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