(PG) Hugh Jackman, Levi Miller, Garrett Hedlund

Do you know the story of Peter Pan, the legendary tale from J.M. Barrie about Wendy, Tinkerbell, Captain Hook, Neverland and the boy who could fly? His story must have a beginning. So, where did he come from and how did he get introduced to all of those iconic characters on a magical island?

Directed by Joe Wright (Atonement), Pan offers an origins viewpoint of the boy who is perpetually 12-years-old and the defender of fairies and orphans. Peter (young Australian actor Levi Milleris an orphan during World War II, who lives with the hope that his mother will come back to retrieve him. While living in the confines of a nightmarish orphanage, Peter and a multitude of other boys are inexplicably kidnapped by pirates and taken to the island controlled by the dreaded Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Peter must come to terms with a prophecy that has him at the heart of the deliverance of Neverland from this tyrannical pirate. He also must partner with the local inhabitants and a strange ally named James T. Hook (Garrett Hedlund), to determine if Peter is really the saviour of this magical land.

Pan is a lesson in trying to do too much in a short period of time. The story is placed against a visually stunning backdrop of childhood dreams. Wright provides the magical land that would be expected of the J.M. Barrie story but, like Peter and James Hook in the film, the director seems to get lost along the way. There are so many elements and characters to take in and retro-fit into the familiar children’s fairy tale, Pan becomes muddled in the delivery. The actors convey confusion as to what type of film they are participating in and their performances do not capitalise on the talent that they represent. Also, with all that Wright is attempting to do with the film, its pacing struggles under the weight of expectation and causes it to drag for the first half. Then, Wright seems to attempt to make up for lost time and the journey comes in a rapid-fire delivery that adds to audience confusion. Even though the visual cinematic experience is pleasurable, the overall experience is inevitably perplexing, which will lead to a multitude of questions from little ones during or after the film.

Children and parents can enjoy the film together, but an explanatory discussion will be in order afterwards.

That said, what is clear in Pan is who Peter Pan represents in Neverland. See if any of this storyline sounds familiar: a prophecy says that the son of Mary will one day come and be the messiah for the people of this land. Once Peter is fully aware of his role, he will have three days to rise to the challenge and save Neverland.

Even though the overall story is a bit confusing at times, Pan paves the way for many discussions about who Peter is meant to represent and who the true Saviour of the world is for all of us.

What are the bigger questions to consider from this film? 

  1. What does the Bible say about orphans?(Isaiah 1:17, John 14:18)
  2. Why is family important? (Matthew 22:36-40, Romans 15:2)
  3. Who is the real Messiah? (The Gospel of Luke)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger


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