Joe Wright’s “Pan” is an Unacceptable Movie, No Excuses

9 Oct

Pan movie

Pan just dropped today. So far I can only look at this movie and shake my head from left to right. What exactly were the producers thinking when they brought this movie into fruition?

Sure, as a regular old movie, it was pretty decent. Decent graphics, consistent story, and the pacing was alright. But as far as telling us a Peter Pan story, it was no good. All of the magic, complexity, and charms surrounding the story of Peter Pan was washed away in this adaptation.

People who just happened to remember Disney’s Peter Pan movie or just happened to watch the play, may find this movie to be interesting. If there are individuals out here who never read the books written by J.M. Barrie himself, they may think this movie answers their most curious question: “How did Peter Pan get to Neverland?” They may not even notice what is really wrong with this movie. Since so many directors and producers are unoriginal, it’s becoming acceptable for already-perfect stories to be twisted around into trashy stories full of plot holes and lifeless characters. It’s also becoming acceptable for producers and directors to take an author’s life work and do things their way. As a writer, I would be furious if some screenwriter took my original work, never cared to understand the real meaning behind it, and never cared to make an adaptation that honored it. It’s seriously offensive. J.M. Barrie would literally be digging a second grave if he saw this out-right disrespect.

The producers and director behind this movie somehow thought it would be a good idea to take a beloved story, Peter Pan, butcher it up, and pass it off as a “prequel”. After even watching this movie, one would question to themselves: Did these people EVER read the original book?

If we want to talk about prequels, we should really go back to The Little White Bird and Adventures in Kensington Gardens or Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. Last I heard, a prequel is supposed to lead into the source material. Those novels reveal the “beginning” of Peter Pan. This movie fails to give so much as a nod to any of those stories. The worst part is the fact that trailers are advertising this movie as if it’s the REAL prequel (“The Story about how Peter got to Neverland” is what the trailer narrator said. This movie is NOT how Peter got to Neverland in any way), when basically this is a re-telling of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens…and not even that!

Any real fan of Peter Pan would definitely tell you that this movie gives no honor to the original Peter Pan prequels or any Peter Pan story-telling whatsoever. These people haven’t done their research, they haven’t read the books or the prequels. What really inspired this story exactly?

Let me just ramble the list of everything wrong with this movie, things apparently the producers and director “forgot” to notice. There was already a near-perfect Peter Pan movie adaptation released by Universal in 2003. The only reason it bombed in box office is because it came out the same weekend as The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, the sequel to the already-popular franchise. It’s a shame because the movie did a good job of highlighting the meaning behind the story, which was looking at a boy who would never experience what other little children experienced. That experience was growing up.

Most of the other Peter Pan movies were a bust and took away from the original story, and now this horrible, butchered “prequel”. I’m sad that I even gave this movie any attention at all.

All the things wrong with this movie:

1)Peter Pan

Levi Miller is a cute, charming kid that acted well in the movie, especially considering the direction this movie took. Levi Miller brought out Peter’s mischief and imagination. Still, he was a little more serious than the way Peter is usually described. Peter Pan never knew much about the real world. Peter Pan imagined his way through life.

It’s hard to believe that Peter Pan would go from being this knowledgeable kid straight from London, as implied in the movie Pan, to being a boy who couldn’t even tell the difference between a kiss and a thimble.

Since this story took a poop on the original prequels, Peter in this movie enters Neverland as a 12 year old boy, so he remembers life in London…in some random orphanage…which adds to this child’s more “real” and “mature” tone. Last I remember, Peter Pan left home when he was an infant and he left home when his parents began talking about his future. In this case, he forgot most of his life in London and only cared to know of his life with the fairies of Kensington Gardens and/or Neverland.

Sure, the fairies raised him. But his birth father and mother were clearly regular old human beings, according to the actual story.

In this movie, he seems like a kid who was hired with an important job to do, as the “chosen one”, rather than a kid captured by the imagination of the land and just wanted to have fun his whole life, as a child who never grew up.

I feel that making him into such a serious boy and re-writing his original backstory took away his charm and alluring complexity. The backstory is what made him who he was. It just made him less fascinating.

Really, all the magic and alluring complexities surrounding the whole story was lost in this version. What charms are left?

2)Tiger Lily is PALE White and an Adult

When questioned about why the producer went for a white girl when trying to find a character that has been so often depicted as Native American or from one of the indigenous tribes, he says, “Well, it was never said that Tiger Lily was from an actual Native American tribe. Besides, Neverland is not said to be in America, so she’s a native of Neverland.” Wow. It’s clear that NONE of these producers bothered to pick up a Peter Pan book, let alone the prequels. This is why I respect the 2003 movie best. The producers, writers, and director had the whole cast READ the BOOK.

No, Tiger Lily was never said to be Native American or American Indian or described as being from any indigenous tribe. In fact, Tiger Lily was described by J.M. Barrie to be “pickaninny”. What is “pickaninny” you ask?

If the producers had done their homework on the subject of Peter Pan at all, they would know that pickaninny was a word once used to describe a small black child. Usually, one of African descent.

This means that Tiger Lily is really BLACK, darker skinned. She could be Arabic, Iranian, Egyptian, Nigerian, anyone dark-skinned. She could’ve even been a white girl with a tan. But this Tiger Lily was the palest woman to walk the face of the earth.

So, no I’m not mad about the fact that she’s not Native American. I’m mad she’s not dark-skinned. Like so many other Peter Pan movies, they failed to portray the characters as Barrie envisioned them.

People have said that many modern Peter Pan movies avoided using the word “Pickaninny” because of its racist undertones, and maybe the producers wanted to avoid this by avoiding adding a “black” character. Using the word produced quite a bit of stereotypes about black people, and as a black person, I wouldn’t be comfortable being called Pickaninny. However, the word was not used as a racial slur at one time. It was no different from calling the indigenous people of America “Indians” or those in eastern Asia “Oriental”. Yes, it’s culturally incorrect, but it was a Portuguese word used to describe certain individuals of African descent back then. This also shouldn’t be an excuse as to why they couldn’t execute this movie as a proper nod to J.M. Barrie’s original work by making her darker-skinned. NO EXCUSES.

Tiger Lily was also described as being around Wendy’s age in the original story. She wasn’t some older tribal leader She was a little girl who was also infatuated with Peter Pan. How can this movie even be called a prequel when Tiger Lily isn’t even a child? So she became an adult before she became a child? Is that some new Neverland magic or something?

I also just want to say that what they did to the Chief in Pan makes no sense if this is supposed to be a prequel.

3)A Strange Black Beard and Captain Hook

Blackbeard is a real historical figure. I understand that Captain Hook once sailed with Blackbeard as his boatswain, so having him in the movie seemed convenient. They were using Blackbeard to flesh out Hook’s past as well. But Hugh Jackman could hardly pass as the original pirate. He didn’t look anything like Blackbeard.

Further, from my understanding, in regards to Blackbeard, Hook seemed to be referring to his time before he entered Neverland. Considering Blackbeard was a real historical figure, I’m not sure it would’ve been accurate to have him in Neverland. The book points to the fact Captain Hook had a life before Neverland in many respects, so it may have been more accurate not to even have Blackbeard in the story at all. Captain Hook was heavily associated with the Eton College, and considered himself Etonian. His dying words were “Floreat Etona”, a motto from the school. In a lecture, J.M. Barrie revealed that Hook attended college there. This is a college outside of Neverland. This shows that Hook had a life before he entered Neverland. It seemed a bit of a stretch to add the historical figure in this Neverland story.

To continue, Captain Hook’s real name was not James HOOK. Disney gave him the name James, but J.M. Barrie never said his name. Captain Hook received this nickname after he lost his hand to the alligator and gained his hook. Chapter 14 of the Peter Pan book implies that his real name was never said because it would “set the country in a blaze”. If this movie was really a prequel, his name would not be James Hook. This also is an indication that the producers never read the book.

I would usually let this slide if I didn’t feel Blackbeard seemed to take away Hook’s charm, playing the role of what is classically “Hook”. Hook was considered a good guy in this film. That irritated me. I’m so tired of these production companies trying to make villains “lovable”. It completely destroys these stories. Furthermore, it completely felt like they re-imagined his character. He wasn’t really Hook. Hook was supposed to be even feared by Long John Silver. He was never “nice” to anyone. His sinister description was completely downplayed in this movie.

I also really hated the costuming of the pirates. Considering the pirate fantasy of Edwardian-period children, they would’ve looked like pirates of the 1700s and possibly spoke much in “olden” English, with a slight British or Irish or Scottish accent. I doubt Captain James Hook would’ve sounded like some western cowboy. I doubt he would’ve been the bum they made him out to be in the movie. Captain Hook was once well-off, coming from a highly regarded college, well-dressed, and a charming Englishmen. This rugged, slow-witted, cowboy in this movie was the exact opposite. Captain Hook was originally supposed to look like a female (because the original Hook was supposed to be a female).

Finally, Garrett Hedlund really didn’t give his best acting performance in this role.

Overall, I was really disappointed in the movie. I didn’t have high expectations, but it just really made me cringe to watch one of my favorite bedtime stories move into such a horrible direction. I can’t even wrap my mind around how this movie even made it to pre-screening. I’d rather watch Disney’s Tinkerbell series.

What are your thoughts? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!


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