Joe Wright is at the helm of this misjudged prequel, starring Hugh Jackman
Messy is not a word one normally associates with Joe Wright, the British director behind such pristine literary adaptations as Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. But this origin story inspired by JM Barrie's classic children's tale Peter Pan is an undisciplined affair full of incongruous ideas. Scripted by Jason Fuchs, Wright's film takes Barrie's characters and graffitis all over them, as it sets out to show how Peter became the boy who never grew up.
Because Pan is a prequel don't expect Wendy or the rest of the Darlings. Here, Peter (played by Australian newcomer Levi Miller) is a 12-year-old orphan living in London during the Blitz, when he is snatched away to the magical Neverland by pirates (on bungee ropes, no less) acting on the orders of the fearsome Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Only briefly mentioned in Barrie's book, Jackman's menacing seafarer is kidnapping boys to help mine for 'Pixum' – fairy dust that bestows eternal youth.
The visuals are impressive but the tone is strictly pantomime, set when Peter arrives in Neverland and sees Blackbeard leading his workers in a rendition of Nirvana's angry anthem 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'. If this suggests Pan has a snotty-nosed, punky attitude, it never quite transpires. Garrett Hedlund – as a more kindly, pre-croc-attack Hook – is a non-event, while the casting of the Caucasian Rooney Mara as Native American princess Tiger Lily was, frankly, a mistake.
If Wright does get one thing spot-on, it's choosing his Peter. Spirited and likeable, Miller is a real find, up there with his inspired casting of Saoirse Ronan in Atonement. Amid all the camp craziness of Wright's vision, with Jackman twirling his moustache as if his life depends on it, Miller is the one truly watchable element of the film. The rest could have done with drastic pruning.
General release from Fri 16 Oct.