Pushed from its initially planned summer release, and now set to open in just a couple of weeks, the buzz around Joe Wright‘s big screen blockbuster “Pan” hasn’t been great. And now that the first reviews have rolled in, delivering a mixed consensus, it won’t help the perception that the Warner Bros. picture might be a disappointment. That said, there are some who enjoyed the film, and given that Wright knows his way around framing a shot, there should be plenty of visual pleasures to behold. Here’s what the critics had to say:
Variety: “The director displays his typical formal virtuosity and keen eye for young talent here (Aussie newcomer Levi Miller is assured in the title role), but it’s not enough to enliven the depressing dourness of the film’s worldview. Positioned as a prequel to J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan stories, “Pan” swaps puckish mischief and innocence for doses of Steampunk design, anachronistic music, a stock “chosen one” narrative and themes of child labor, warfare and unsustainable mineral mining…the bubble for these joyless fairy-tale revisions cannot pop quickly enough.”
THR: ” ‘Pan’ hatches an entirely unnecessary origins story for a wonderful tale that has already been held up to the light from many different angles. Oddly repositioning Peter Pan’s emergence to the World War II era and employing a barrage of sophisticated special effects to produce no magic nearly as enchanting as Tinkerbell flickering back to life in the musical stage version, this strenuous undertaking was obviously made in the hope that the global audience has an unending appetite for anything set in Neverland.”
The Telegraph: “Occasionally things get a little overcrowded, particularly during a sticky final act, but ‘Pan’ has a certain timeless buoyancy that keeps it bouncing back. It’s a tale full of trapdoors, hidden switches and secret passageways, where flashbacks are told through animated wood carvings, and fairy dust is buried in its bedrock. The phrase ‘an eight-year-old could have thought of it’ sounds like it should be an insult. But it isn’t here.”
The Wrap: ” ‘Pan’ is, for the most part, ugly to look at, shrill to listen to, and performed by actors who have been encouraged to camp it up madly in the style usually favored by aging British sitcom stars playing storybook characters in Christmas panto productions. Even worse, it’s a prequel-slash-origin-story, which means that plot-wise, the compass can point in only one direction.”
Digital Spy: “There are so many great creative flourishes on show – such as characters exploding in puffs of vivid color and the detailed CGI landscapes of Neverland – it’s just a shame the whole feels less than the sum of its parts. All that considered, when ‘Pan’ is firing on all cylinders it’s a fun and exhilarating ride that’ll likely hit home with kids who’ve never experienced Barrie’s world before.”
Screen Daily: “Beyond the contemporary music and continual acknowledgements, this is a standard youth-centric, self-empowerment-focused fantasy-adventure.”
Overall, it sounds like an ambitious take on the material, one that perhaps can’t always grasp what it’s reaching for. But if you want a taste before you see the film for yourself, eight clips have landed online, plus a featurette and behind-the-scenes material — that should be more than enough before you visit Neverland.
“Pan” arrives on October 9th.