After the beautiful adaptation of “Cinderella” earlier this year from Oscar-nominated director Kenneth Branagh (“Henry V”), one might’ve started to think recreating animated Disney classics into live-action films could end up being a fantastic experience for children and adults alike. With a handful of these kinds of films currently in some stage of production, including “The Jungle Book” and “Beauty and the Beast,” one could only hope these stories are also going to get the same sort of royal treatment Branagh and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”) were able to deliver.
Don’t hold you’re breath just yet. Swooping in like a fairy on angel dust to muck that idea up is a prequel to the story of author J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. In “Pan,” a directionless and pitiful excuse for children’s entertainment, director Joe Wright (“Atonement”) and screenwriter Jason Fuchs (“Ice Age: Continental Drift”) try to do some off-the-wall things with the storytelling, but fall deep into a creative rut when making decisions on exactly what this prequel should actually be about.
Plenty of those decisions are terrible ones. We won’t even get into the fact that the film includes a musical interlude where Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard the Pirate sings Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (something the film “Moulin Rouge!” gets away with because the rendition is so insane and interesting) and pretends it’s not the most foolish thing he’s done since donning a prosthetic scrotum in “Movie 43.”
In “Pan,” Peter’s story pre-Neverland is laid out from his childhood in a London orphanage to his first encounter with his future arch-nemesis Captain Hook (Garret Hedlund). Both start off as friends with a common enemy in Blackbeard. Swashbuckling their way through action sequences, the CGI-heavy scenes start to droll on and on like a sequel to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise.
There’s really no reason for “Pan” to exist. With the satisfactory 2003 adaption “Peter Pan” from director P.J. Hogan and the original 1953 animation (we’ll pretend “Hook” never happened), do we really need to know how Peter Pan learned to fly? Some backstories – especially when they’re told this thoughtlessly – should be left to the imagination. What’s next? A movie about how the Genie actually got into the lamp? Let’s hope not.