Peter Pan Prequel Inventive but Filled with Flaws

One of my favorite stories is Peter Pan. I even wrote an original stage adaptation called Neverland. Sadly, the manuscript was destroyed in my divorce, but I hold out hope that I will find time to recreate the script one day.

As it is, I try to see all the various film adaptations of Peter Pan. Just recently I had the chance to watch Pan – a 2015 prequel to the Peter Pan story that we all know and love.

Levi Miller plays a 12-year-old orphan named Peter, who is kidnapped from a London orphanage by pirates and taken to Neverland. There, he, and hundreds of other poor souls are forced to work in the mines searching for crystallized pixie dust known as Pixum. Those that find pixie dust are bestowed with confectionary treats by their benefactor Captain Blackbeard (artfully played by the always great Hugh Jackman). Those that do not produce pixie dust from the mines do not fare well.

The movie is filled with references to the original Peter Pan story by J.M. Barrie. There are pirates and fairies and natives and mermaids galore. There is even a sinister crocodile.

No Peter Pan story would be complete without Captain Hook, and director Joe Wright provides his version of the character as a young Indian Jones-type good guy. Yes, he is a good guy. In fact, he’s Peter’s main ally. And, oh yes, he has two hands.

Hook is played by Garrett Hedlund to much disappointment. He seems a likeable enough fellow, a decent actor I would say. But he never embodies anything to suggest he will one day be Captain Hook. Outside of his character’s name, there is nothing “Hook” about Hedlund’s performance.

I once took an acting class from a well-known soap opera casting director (Gwen Hillier). She had me do a scene as a young doctor talking to his girlfriend. When I was done with the scene, she praised my acting, but pointed out one fatal flaw – I didn’t do anything to make the audience know I was a doctor. Just because the dialog does not include the words “I’m a doctor” you are still responsible for translating that character fact to the audience. It was the best piece of acting advice I ever received.

Hedlund needs to take that class. At no point in the movie did he do anything to suggest that he is Hook. Instead we a treated to a lackluster performance in which Hedlund reminds us of the late Jon Erik Hexum. I was a fan of Hexum, but there was nothing Hook about him either.

All in all, it is not a bad movie. There are flaws. But there are also some ingenious moments created by screenwriter Jason Fuchs. Instead of Indians we have multicultural “natives”. Further adding to the magic of Neverland, Fuchs has made it a dumping ground for kidnapped children from every decade in modern history. This adds a nice touch and opens up the film to use modern music.

The story leaves room for a sequel to provide the how and why Peter Pan and Captain Hook become enemies, but it is doubtful such a film will ever be made. Worldwide gross receipts for Pan were only $128,388,320, far shy of the $150,000,000 budget.

It is a cute movie. You will probably enjoy it despite its flaws. But if you skip it, you are not missing much.

Peace. Love. Trust.

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