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Pan: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Pan (2015) movie poster Pan

Theatrical Release: October 9, 2015 / Running Time: 112 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Joe Wright / Writers: Jason Fuchs (screenplay), J.M. Barrie (characters)

Cast: Hugh Jackman (Blackbeard), Levi Miller (Peter), Garrett Hedlund (James Hook), Rooney Mara (Tiger Lily), Adeel Akhtar (Sam "Smee" Smiegel), Nonso Anozie (Bishop), Amanda Seyfried (Mary), Kathy Burke (Mother Barnabas), Lewis MacDougall (Nibs), Cara Delevingne (Mermaids), Taejoo Na (Kwahu), Jack Charles (Chief), Bronson Webb (Steps), Mike Shepherd (Fernley Trebilcock), Brian Boyell (Long John Standing), Kurt Egyiawan (Murray)

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People keep wanting to revisit and retool J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. This young century alone has seen Finding Neverland dramatizing the play's creation, no fewer than nine stage adaptations, NBC's live television special, Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson's Starcatchers series of bestselling prequel novels, the major 2003 filming, and the Syfy miniseries Neverland.
And that's not even touching on Disney, the company most identified with Barrie's tale for their 1953 animated classic, which has in recent years spawned a theatrical sequel, a Disney Junior television series, and the loosely related Disney Fairies franchise starring a vocal Tinker Bell and her sassy fairy friends. Now, determined to outdo all of that is Pan, a big budget 3D family adventure that arrived in theaters right between Hollywood's two busy seasons and sank.

Pan is an original origin story that looks to put its own stamp on Barrie's characters and enduring fantasy tale. Opening narration claims we must go back to the beginning to a time when enemies once were friends. In this version, Peter Pan is not played by a diminutive woman, a middle-aged comedian, or even an adolescent, but by Levi Miller, an Australian who just turned 13 and looks significantly younger in this 2014 shoot. As an infant, Peter is dropped off by a loving mother (a brief and barely identifiable Amanda Seyfried) at a boys' orphanage in London. There during World War II (for some reason), he is mistreated, underfed, and worked hard by a pack of sadistic nuns.

Peter (Levi Miller) gives Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) a lift in the climax of "Pan."

Fortunately for the boys, one night, a flying pirate ship comes and whisks them away. Unfortunately for them, their new home makes the orphanage look relaxing. Peter joins hordes of young males assigned to dig for Pixum (fairy dust) in mines. This Never Land resembles the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Mad Max, although there is more pageantry to it, as the pirate in command,
one felt-wigged baggy-eyed Blackbeard (a barely recognizable Hugh Jackman) leads his young slaves in spirited sing-alongs of Nirvana and The Ramones. Despite his musicality, Blackbeard is a bad man and one who swiftly sentences Peter to die when he truthfully claims someone else is taking credit for a bit of Pixum he discovered.

Peter's life is saved when his plank walk ends not in death but in a display of flight. He uses this heretofore unknown gift to bust out of his cell with help from one James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), a cynical hero in waiting with an escape plan.

Much more plot unfolds. Peter may or may not be the messiah to Never Land's natives foretold in ancient prophecy. At the very least, he'll get his chance to find out, when Princess Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) approves a plan to test his flying abilities in three days. Of course, the test is forgotten when the wicked Blackbeard and his angry pirates show up looking for Peter.

Hugh Jackman undergoes a dramatic makeover to play the villain Blackbeard, a feared pirate kept young by Pixum.

Noisy and short on charm, Pan does nothing to enhance or comment upon the universe of Barrie, who is given credit for introducing these characters. The grim opening puts you off and only gives way to more dirty, grating scenery and obnoxious conflict. Peter is driven by a quest to find his mother, a generic hero's mission that we know will not end as he hopes. That tiny thread of relatable humanity is not enough to keep us engaged in this adventure or buying into the derivative whimsy.

It's often clear that a lot of money has been sunk into this production (reportedly $150 million before marketing), but we never understand why. There is very little that compels us about this vision that is chiefly attributed to screenwriter Jason Fuchs (a contributor to Ice Age: Continental Drift) and director Joe Wright, a Brit who comes to this project having primarily made costume dramas like Atonement, 2012's Anna Karenina, and 2005's Pride & Prejudice. Wright has never before steered such a big budget undertaking and his performance here makes you question whether he ever should again.

The cast that sounds at least interesting on paper also fails to pay dividends. Clearly modeling his performance after Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones, Hedlund seems no more destined for the star status that he's flirted with since TRON: Legacy. Mara, trying to unearth a lighter side she's previously hidden, does not look very at ease in this midriff-baring, eyeshadow-heavy part, even ignoring the concerns over her evidently colorblind casting. In the casually dyslexic title role, Miller does not really stand out, good or bad, an acceptable (but not ideal) outcome for any widespread child casting search. Despite his top billing and prominent placement in marketing, Jackman has a relatively small and uncomplicated role it was hardly worth going bald and goateed several months for. Though Jackman has his fans and followers, it seems like Mackenzie Crook of the Pirates of the Caribbean series and the UK's "The Office" could have played Blackbeard with less dramatic make-up.

By channeling Harrison Ford, Garrett Hedlund as the heroic James Hook shows us he's ready to play Indiana Jones... in Disney World's Stunt Spectacular.

Pan, whose title read as an appropriate invitation to critics, does not have an obvious audience to appeal to. Revisionist fairy tales like Maleficent and Snow White and the Huntsman have done well at the box office, but this movie lacks the purpose of even those mediocre works as it attempts to plug aspects of Barrie's world into tired formulas like chases, journeys, and action-packed set pieces. An encounter with "Never Birds", giant skeletal birds mentioned in Barrie's text but rarely touched since, seems like an obligatory foray into visual effects.
The 3D photography adds little discernible value, even when the movie is utilizing it to swoop up to rooftops and float past clouds. By the time the action climax arrives and essentially puts an end to dialogue, you are quite ready to be done and to quickly acquire aspirin for the headache the dizzying visuals and mind-numbing soundtrack have brought on.

Pan does not even impress enough on a technical level to overlook its giant narrative faults. The Academy has been willing to overlook such faults when nominating films for below-the-line categories (see Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland), but there's just too much wrong here to notice any right.

2015 has been a rough year for Warner Bros., with a number of big budget (Jupiter Ascending) and mid-sized (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) films disappointing at the box office. Pan stands as one of the year's biggest flops, grossing just $35 million domestically and $126 M worldwide on a production budget of $150 M. While the movie now seems destined to fail, it grossed considerably less than Peter Pan and Finding Neverland did more than ten years ago, even ignoring inflation, premium tickets, a significantly higher theater count, and very little in the way of competition.

Counting its losses, Warner rushed Pan to home video, getting it in stores a mere two and a half months after its theatrical debut, just in time for some last-minute, uninformed impulse Christmas gift buys.

Pan Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Descriptive Video Service)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Descriptive Service, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD-only: Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled
Release Date: December 22, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Blu-ray 3D Combo ($44.95 SRP), standalone DVD ($28.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video


The faults you have with the film are more likely to be dramatic in nature than technical. Pan looks great on Blu-ray, its 2.40:1 visuals being sharp and vibrant. The default 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mix is suitably immersive and active, but also loud per the film's intended sensory assault.

Levi Miller excitedly recalls the phone call that informed him he'd be the new Pan. "Wonderous Realms" offers a tour of Neverland's sights.


The Blu-ray's bonus features begin with an audio commentary by director Joe Wright.
Confessing he doesn't know who would listen to the track, he keeps it filmmaking-oriented and a technical how-to. Or perhaps how not-to, should you ever find yourself in the director's chair of a big budget, effects-heavy reimagining. Wright leaves plenty of gaps, which the movie's soundtrack fills in. When he talks, his reveals are far from remarkable. There's really no reason to give the movie another two hours, let alone to hear Wright comment over just a fraction of it.

On the video side, where all is encoded in HD, we start with "Never Grow Up: The Legend of Pan" (10:50), which gathers cast and crew's thoughts on the universe and in this interpretation of it. Everyone seems so confident that these ideas will work.

"The Boy Who Would Be Pan" (6:07) focuses on the film's young protagonist and on the actor who plays him, with co-stars all speaking highly of him.

"The Scoundrels of Neverland" (5:49) turns our attention to Blackbeard (a character Jason Fuchs claims he wrote for Hugh Jackman but never thought he'd get) and his pirate cronies.

"Wonderous Realms" (5:01) offers a tour of the film's diverse settings and fantastical inhabitants, both of which are brought to life with awestruck British narration and somewhat animated concept art.

The DVD's only extra is "The Boy Who Would Be Pan."

The DVD opens with ads for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Intern, In the Heart of the Sea, LEGO Dimensions, The Iron Giant: Signature Edition, and Digital HD movies. The Blu-ray only promotes the last two upon insertion.

The plainly-labeled black discs share a slipcovered eco-friendly keepcase with an insert which both supplies your Digital HD with UltraViolet code and advertises the companion book The Art of Pan.

Each disc uses a scored poster design as menu, which has been the Warner standard for some time.

A Never Bird sneaks up on Peter (Levi Miller), Hook (Garrett Hedlund), and Smee (Adeel Akhtar).


Pan is one of those rare films to unite audiences in apathy and disdain. You can certainly understand the allure of putting a new twist on J.M. Barrie's still compelling universe, but nothing director Joe Wright and his cast do really makes sense or proves to be enjoyable in any way.

Warner's Blu-ray combo pack offers a dynamite feature presentation and a pretty unremarkable commentary and half-hour of making-of shorts. Do not feel bad passing on it again, as you most likely did in theaters.

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Reviewed December 27, 2015.

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