Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pan: A Fantasy Voyage of the Imagination

Movie Review: Pan (2015)

I'm tired of movie retreads. But I wasn't tired of the Pan remake of the classic Peter Pan story. It was imaginative, colorful, fluent, evocative, and most of all, it was fun. For all ages.

This version of the classic Peter Pan tale tells the story of Peter's origins. He is an orphan, left as a baby on the doorstep of a nunnery in World War II London. The nunnery runs an orphanage, and the orphanage sells the young boys to pirates, who arrive in the night to drop down from sailing ships in the sky to take them away to Neverland. In Neverland the boys are "freed" to mine for "pixem" (fairy dust) on behalf of the most famous and fearsome pirate of all time, Blackbeard. But when Peter's mother left him at the nunnery, she left him with a small token around his neck: a tiny pan or flute that proves that he is no ordinary boy. He's a foretold boy who can fly, who will save the inhabitants of the island.

Lifted up to Neverland with other boys one night, Peter is taken to Neverland to toil away on Blackbeard's behalf. And the battle to save Neverland and kill Blackbeard begins. Along the way, Peter meets Hook, an adventurer who befriends the young lad, and Tiger Lily, who protects the fairies from the pirates. When it is discovered that Peter can fly, the conflict between Peter and Blackbeard is set up and the battle between them begins, with Hook and Tiger Lily at his side against Blackbeard and his band of merry pirates.

The acting in this film is superb. Hugh Jackman is barely recognizable but brilliant as Blackbeard. The film introduces Levi Miller as Peter, commanding in the role for one so young. Garrett Hedlund is Hook, surprisingly likable for the scourge of a character he is usually portrayed. And Rooney Mara is Tiger Lily, a beautiful but fearsome tribal princess sworn to protect the fairies.

The staging, the set decoration, the visuals, the color, the effects are all wonderful. Even the flying sequences are accomplished effortlessly. One example of the brilliance of this film is that gunshots are seen not simply as gun flashes with shot flying but as bursts of powdery color. The fairies are winged sparkles of color. The tribe's encampment is a concoction of colorful wigwams and tents and tree houses, almost carnival like. The Neverland island is an amazing amalgam of jungle-like rain forests and caves. Mermaids are beautiful swimming creatures with shimmers in their tails. And the crocodiles are giants that can leap through the air. Neverland and the trip there are a fantasy voyage of the imagination.

In Neverland mythology, the boy who can fly comes to kill Blackbeard. And Blackbeard is intent on mining the entire island of pixem, which rejuvenates him, the last part of the island not yet mined being where the fairies live, hidden. And so the final epic battle is between Blackbeard and Peter, who doesn't believe he can really fly. But when all of Neverland is at stake, Peter's faith in himself is put to the test. Ships fly, fairies fly, crocodiles fly - oh why, oh why, can't I?

I've seen a lot of the Peter Pan films and I think this is one of the best. For sheer fun and imagination it tops all the others. Pan makes for a great evening of family entertainment. Watch it on DVD.

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