The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Own Pan on Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack or DVD on December 22

My theory on “origin” movies is this: If the origin of a popular character was really all that interesting, it would have been the subject in the first place. We don't need to know how Hannibal Lecter became a psychopath, or what Romy and Michelle were like as teenagers, or how Katie from Paranormal Activity got possessed in the first place. The same could be said of Peter Pan – at least based on Pan, which hits DVD, 3D Blu-Ray, and Blu-Ray combo pack on December 22. The movie, directed by Joe Wright (Hanna), takes a character whose appeal rests in his simplicity and meaning, and drops him into a soulless special effects extravaganza.

Levi Miller plays Peter, a young boy who is left at an orphanage by his mother (Amanda Seyfried). After several incidents of rebelliousness, the surly nun in charge summons pirates to kidnap Peter. He is whisked away to Neverland and forced to become a slave to the evil Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), a pirate who enjoys singing Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” despite the fact that the movie takes place during WWII. Peter befriends another slave, Hook (Garrett Hedlund), with whom he escapes. A Neverland native named Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) encounters the boy, coming to think that he may be the long-prophesied hero everyone believes will deliver them from Blackbeard's reign. The necklace he wears, left with him by his mother, suggests this.

Pan is one of the most chaotic movies of the last few years. It was clearly designed to be a big-ticket thrill ride, the kind of thing that spawns sequels. Virtually every single scene has some sort of fight, chase, or special effect at its core. The pace is certainly never slow, and there are some highly inventive visuals, but these things occur at the expense of a compelling plot. Pan is so concerned with plunking Peter into an epic adventure – and trying to be hipper than Peter Pan typically is – that it never achieves anything even remotely resembling the appeal of its source material. It's all so loud and frantic and messy, with no heart and none of the “enduring innocence” theme that has made Peter Pan resonate as a character for decades. Rarely does one get to see a film that so vastly fails to comprehend the magic of the thing it's adapting.

An origin story such as this also, by nature, has a certain predictability. We sit there waiting for certain milestones to be touched upon. For example, we know that Tinkerbell is going to make an appearance at some point. He know that Peter will learn to fly. The film, to that degree, is stuck with having to introduce or explain things that we already know about Peter Pan. That robs it of real surprise. The plot consequently meanders from one thing to another in an obligatory fashion that quickly begins to feel sluggish.

Wright allows most of his cast members to overact wildly. Granted, hamming it up is totally in sync with the overblown style of the film, but it's also one more irritating distraction. Jackman chews the scenery in a manner that would cause Tommy Wiseau to advise him to tone it down, while Hedlund tries a little too hard to suggest the evil figure that Hook will eventually become. The only person who comes off relatively unscathed is Rooney Mara, who wisely takes a more subtle approach in portraying Tiger Lily. Or maybe she just seems restrained in comparison to everyone else.

Again, the visual effects in Pan are eye-popping. They're really the only plus here. The film's desperation to be a thrilling, action-packed joyride is all too apparent in every second of its running time. The appealing thing about Peter Pan is not where he came from, it's what he did and how he impacted the lives of the Darling family. Pan apparently thinks that the character isn't cool enough, so it surrounds him with a lot of bombastic CGI visuals and frantic mayhem. What it comes up with is quite possibly the least pleasurable Peter Pan story in any format, ever.

( 1/2 out of four)

Blu-Ray Features:

Pan hits DVD, 3D Blu-Ray, and Blu-Ray combo pack on December 22. The audio and visual quality of the Blu-Ray is exemplary. If nothing else, this is the kind of disc you could use to show off the capabilities of your home theater system.

The bonus features begin with audio commentary from Joe Wright. While Pan is not a great movie, Wright is an interesting filmmaker, and the commentary allows you to hear what his intentions were, regardless of whether or not he pulled them off.

Afterward, there are four featurettes. “Never Grow Up: The Legend of Peter Pan” runs eleven minutes, exploring J.M. Barrie's creation and the way it has been adapted over the years. “The Boy Who Would Be Pan” runs six minutes and focuses on Levi Miller, who was chosen following an extensive casting process. “The Scoundrels of Neverland,” spanning six minutes, is all about Blackbeard and his pirates, while “Wondrous Realms” (5 minutes) looks at both the practical and the digital elements of Neverland.

A digital HD copy of the movie also comes in the pack.

Pan is rated PG for fantasy action violence, language and some thematic material. The running time is 1 hour and 51 minutes.

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