Special effects are really the essence of this prequel version of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Here, Pan is left by his mother on the steps of an orphanage run by an evil conniving Mother Barnabas (Kathy Burke) when he was a newborn child. Twelve years elapse, but Peter continues to wonder about his origins and question the motives of the nun who is still in charge of the orphanage. When he notices that boys frequently disappear during the night, he takes notice and begins to investigate with his friend Nibs (Lewis MacDougall), first in the apartment of Mother Barnabas where he finds many treasures that confirm his suspicions. But her chest of coins is a puzzlement.
Soon after, he finds himself captive on a pirate ship owned by the infamous Blackbeard (Jackman) that sails through the sky as well as the ocean. Their destination is Blackbeard’s mines in Neverland where he conscripts hundreds of boys to hammer through the rock looking for the fairy dust that will keep him forever young. There, Peter meets Hook (Headlund), who is older but not wiser—more of an operator who takes every opportunity he can to forge an exit from the mines.
Through a series of misadventures, Peter comes to the attention of Blackbeard who learns enough about him to determine that Peter is the one to fulfill the prophecy of his own demise. Of course, that puts Peter’s life in danger, and the rest of the story is his alliance with not only Hook, but also Tiger Lily (Mara), a fairy who has much to fear from Blackbeard as well, because the fairies could be Blackbeard’s undoing in alliance with Peter.
To be a children’s movie, Pan has complex relationships and plot story lines that will go far beyond their comprehension. Joe Wright is an accomplished director (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina, Hanna, The Soloist), but this film falls far short of his previous work, which could be attributed to a confusing screen play (Jason Fuchs) and special effects that essentially take over and obscure the essence of the story. Case in point and major flaw is Blackbeard’s and Tiger Lily’s physical bouts that seem to go on forever.
Alas, connections to the original story and its principles are nowhere to be found in this modern rendition that looks more like a video game than an enlightening film for children.
Pan is sacrificed to special effects in this traditionally beloved story of Peter Pan.