Joe Wright's 'Pan' Early Buzz: Does The New Fairytale Adaptation Fly High?

The new version of J.M. Barrie's classic fairytale doesn't hit theaters until October 9th, pushed back from an original summer release earlier this year, but the premiere of Pan from director Joe Wright just had its premiere across the pond this weekend, and the first reviews are pouring in.

The trailers for the film starring Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara and newcomer Levi Miller have painted quite the visual spectacle with energetic adventure and a live-action take on the familiar tale that takes to the skies in a way that we haven't really seen before, complete with flying pirate ships and an origin story of Peter Pan where he begins as a friend of James Hook, only later to become sworn enemies.

So how does the movie fare? Get the Pan early buzz after the jump!

It's still a little early following the premiere to get a wide variety of reactions, but here's what some of the reviews have to say, mostly saying that the film never quite comes together, despite commending the boldness of this new approach and loving the dazzling visuals.

Robbie Collin for The Telegraph:

"For all its eye-popping action scenes and stylish design, Joe Wright's Peter Pan prequel feels wonderfully old-fashioned.

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."

Simon Reynolds for Digital Spy

"There are nods to Barrie's more traditional Pan tale Peter and Wendy, such as a fleeting glimpse of Tinkerbell and a giant croc getting a little too close for comfort, but by the time Pan's all over there's still some way to go before Peter lands in the Darlings' bedroom. There's something to be said for Pan's bold, fresh approach to well-worn material, but part of you still has a hankering to see that classic story all over again.

Wright's flair behind the camera is out in full force here, his classical style well-suited to telling a story that's more than a century old. But as the film kicks on, things slowly begin to sag under the weight of expositional guff about Peter embracing his destiny, big narrative and emotional beats are cribbed from Potter and Star Wars and a hurried pirate battle messily tries to give all the major players something to do.

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."

Todd McCarthy for The Hollywood Reporter:

"...the film becomes a seriously extended chase that possesses hefty CGI-propelled dynamics but absolutely no suspense and a very limited sense of fun. The shots of pirate-era sailing ships careening through the air like so many outer space vehicles become repetitive and are made worse for lack of defining purpose. Meanwhile, the invented threats to the heroes (assorted brigands, ferocious big birds, the inevitable crocodile) come and go like momentary distractions in a theme park ride."

The effects and production values are high-end, and there's a bit of fun provided by Jackman incongruously breaking into song with the likes of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Blitzkrieg Bop." After a certain point, one is thankful for small favors in such a bloated affair."

Alonso Duraide for 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.

What works in Pan? Well, Miller is bright-eyed, engaging and empathetic, eschewing kid-actor cuteness for genuine camera presence; I was reminded more than once of Christian Bale's youthful debut in "Empire of the Sun." Mara, although miscast, is one of the film's few adult performers resisting the temptation to play to the third balcony, and there are a handful of interesting visuals, from giant flying crocodiles to a school of mermaids who all happen to look like Cara Delevingne.

But oh brother, what this movie gets wrong: Jackman never finds an appropriate balance between humor and menace; his villain is just annoying and creepy, while Hedlund seems to be channeling the most overbearing moments of James Coburn and Jack Nicholson. The film's visual palette is also grotesque, operating in two modes: Sickly and Washed-Out (during which it resembles one of those grim period pieces where all the characters have syphilis) or Blindingly Prismatic (with rainbows shooting helter-skelter all over the screen)."

Andrew Barker for Variety:

"Of all the recent big-budget studio films to re-imagine beloved children's tales as garish, CGI-choked sensory overloads stripped of all whimsy or childlike wonder, Joe Wright's "Pan" is certainly the most technically sophisticated. 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. Worldwide box office will likely be strong, especially overseas, but the bubble for these joyless fairy-tale revisions cannot pop quickly enough."


Sounds like there's some interesting new/old ideas to make Pan feel fresh again, but none of them come together as a whole to make the film really work. While I like the the weirdness of Blackbeard breaking into grunge and punk rock songs, it does feel like quite the obvious imitation of something Baz Luhrmann would do.

Perhaps the tale of Peter Pan is one of those stories that has been done and redone so much that it's going to take something even more drastic to make it stand out.