When an origin story, conceived as a prequel to J.M. Barrie’s beloved “Peter Pan,” fails miserably, becoming a maudlin mess, it’s kind of ghoulishly fascinating to try to figure out what went wrong. Read on…
It begins as a distraught young mother (Amanda Seyfried) places a basket containing her infant son in front of a Dickensian-like London orphanage. His name is Peter and around his neck is a pendant, a tiny pan flute.
Bright-eyed Peter (Levi Miller) grows into a rambunctious lad who, during a W.W. II bombing raid, is sold off with other boys and loaded aboard a flying pirate ship that manages to evade both the German Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force’s Spitfires.
Under the command of ferocious Captain Blackbeard (hideously costumed/made-up Hugh Jackman), they sail off into an alternate universe, known as Neverland, where Peter hopes he can find his mother.
Landing in huge, open mining pit, Peter’s forced to dig for Pixite – a.k.a. crystalized fairy dust, which Blackbeard uses to fight old age – while his filthy slaves sing Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Befriended by a grown-up miner, James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), wearing an Indiana Jones’ish fedora, Peter is soon forced to walk the plank. Instead of falling – EGAD! – he flies!
Peter and Hook are then captured by Princess Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) and her band of Indians. (Ms. Mara appears to be the only Caucasian in her brightly bedecked Asian tribe.)
While Hook flirts with Tiger Lily, Peter’s intent on finding his mother, as Tinkerbell leads them into a crystal cave where Blackbeard attacks fluttering fairies with a blowtorch!
Amid an armada of flying frigates, there’s also a huge crocodile and a trio of identical mermaids (Cara Delevingnes).
Hampered with a ludicrous script by Jason Fuchs (“Ice Age: Continental Drift”), director Joe Wright (“Anna Karenina,” “Atonement”) fills the screen with swashbuckling sound and campy, chaotic CGI fury. None of it makes much sense, except for heavy-handed Chosen One and Believing in Yourself lessons.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Pan” is grotesque 2, a fantasy-adventure flop