There are pastiches of beloved fantasy action blockbusters, and then there’s Pan, which is a pastiche of every beloved fantasy action blockbuster ever, with a few favorite musicals thrown in for variety, perhaps. Previously actually inventive director Joe Wright (Anna Karenina, Hanna) decided, for reasons unknown, that his best bet for telling a Peter Pan origin story was to toss bits of Return of the Jedi, the Indiana Jones trilogy, Oliver!, Pirates of the Caribbean, Moulin Rouge!, Jurassic Park, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Matrix, and many other films you already love into a blender and hit Crush. Shockingly, this does not translate into a movie to love. Poor Garret Hedlund (Unbroken, Inside Llewyn Davis) as a pre-Captain Hook has been forced to channel Han Solo+Indiana Jones Harrison Ford, which is never anything other than a dreadful reminder of the better movies you could be watching.
Pan isn’t so much a movie, in fact, as it is a showreel for production design, and it’s not much of that either, unless frenetic action and soulless mishmashes of fantasy imagery count. You might wonder how Blackbeard’s (Hugh Jackman [Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Chappie], embarrassing himself) flying pirate ship could find itself in the midst of the London Blitz as he is kidnapping orphan Peter (newcomer Levi Miller), seeing as how J.M. Barrie wrote his original play long before World War II and Peter Pan was already supposed to have been eternally youthful way back then, but never mind: there’s no reason this Peter couldn’t have been a 21st-century boy, because this tale of his adventures in Neverland seeking out his heritage (he’s the son of an otherworldly prince, because what else would he be? *yawn*) has absolutely no grounding in anything real, not historically, and much more importantly when it comes to fantasy, not emotionally. The height of emotional detachment might come during the arrival in Blackbeard’s Neverland fairy-dust mines, where his kidnapped slave boys are belting out “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” No, I don’t know either how this is meant to work.
This is the sort of cinematic humiliation in which what passes for cleverness is this exchange of dialogue: “Is he lost?” / “Yes, he is a Lost Boy”… with the emphasis on the capital letters and the nudge-nudge in your ribs. Screenwriter Jason Fuchs’s only prior major credit is Ice Age: Continental Drift, which is like a 50s sitcom set in prehistoric times, so he is almost certainly as much to blame as Wright for the jumble of Pan’s seen-it, been-there vibe, and its yawning emptiness and lack of anything that might be deemed spirit, fancy, or magic. Pan is a disaster of such epic proportions, in every possible way that it can be a disaster, that it’s difficult to fathom that no one foresaw this in advance. Like, from the moment someone first said, “Kidnapped slave children sing Nirvana!” as if it were a good thing.