Movie reviews weren’t kind to the boy who never grew up.
Pan, a 2015 origin story directed by Joe Wright, promised a look at how Neverland came to be the magical place to where the titular character would fly Wendy, John, and Michael. But it wasn’t all about Pan; well-known characters like Captain Hook (who’s a young adult and not the main villain) and Tiger Lily are also introduced.
Despite promises of a magical night for families, apparently Pan failed to deliver. Movie reviews have been bad to the point of downright scathing. The film holds an embarrassing 22 percent on movie rating site Rotten Tomatoes. It earned only 23 “fresh” ratings out of 103 counted reviews.
Audiences weren’t sold on the prequel, either. About half Rotten Tomatoes audience members enjoyed the movie; it’s safe to say that Pan got panned.
But what was it about Pan that movie critics were so disillusioned with? Well, there were quite a few problems. One of them was a major complaint before the children’s film even hit theaters.
It’s no secret that the Pan story has some issues with racism, particularly its treatment of Native Americans. This problem continued in the Disney take on the J. M. Barrie story. In fact, Hook remains pretty much the only version of the Peter Pan story that avoided issues of racism by omitting Native American caricatures while racially diversifying the Lost Boys.
Sadly, Pan didn’t go that route. While the movie didn’t take the typical approach to racism against Native Americans, it still has major issues. For starters, it opted to keep the character of Tiger Lily and yet decided to “white-wash” her. Lily is played by an adult Rooney Mara, who is inexplicably the only white member of a tribe of non-white people. This seems to be a combination of the white savior trope and the “let’s make the main cast white and background characters not-white” trope.
It’s an ugly combination that raised quite a few eyebrows.
While this would be a strong enough mark against Pan on its own, movie reviews raised other issues. For instance, Rolling Stone reviewer Peter Travers complained about the use of modern music in a film set during WWII. Now, it’s not as though movies and shows haven’t used modern music in period pieces before. Travers just found “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Blitzkrieg Bop” severely misused, adding nothing to the film.
“I’m usually game to follow Wright anywhere, from his literary adaptations, [but] this is too much, or too little, or not enough.
“Wright is defeated by a DOA script by Jason Fuchs, cruddy CGI and 3-D special effects that crash and burn at liftoff. This joyless, juiceless Pan is a theme-park ride from hell.”
Deadspin reviewer Will Leitch was outright harsh, suggesting the movie “ought to flight straight into the toilet.” Leitch noted that Hook is introduced as a prisoner working the mines with Peter Pan “for reasons the movie never bothers to explain.” So if you were hoping this movie served as an origin movie for Captain James T. Hook, sorry. Maybe next time.
The movie also doesn’t go into a few details you’d expect from an origin story about Pan such as (Spoiler) how Hook and Pan came to be enemies in the first place. That’s rather shocking since their rivalry is a major part of the Peter Pan story. That this is left unaddressed might strongly suggest that movie runners left it alone, assuming they’d get another chance to further establish the history of Neverland.
It was a bad assumption to make if true; brutal movie reviews and a disinterested public may mean that such a chance never comes. When a sequel to a project like this gets shelved, there’s no amount of clapping that can bring it back to life.
What did you think of Pan? Were movie reviews for the film too harsh? Share your thoughts below!
[Image Credit: Screen Grab from YouTube via MovieClips Trailer]