Page to Screen is a new original feature I’m experimenting with where I talk about film adaptations of YA books
Pan is a Peter Pan and Wendy prequel of sorts, and although it details how Peter came to Neverland, how he can fly, his relationship with the fairies and Natives and where the Lost Boys come from, it also left a lot to be desired.
Despite a wonderful cast (except for whitewashing Tiger Lily – fine actress, but I’d prefer a real Native American to play the Indian princess), a stellar soundtrack and wonderful direction and cinematography, my biggest issue with Pan was the plot.
The plot, and the fact that Levi Miller is perhaps too mature to play selfish, spoiled, brutal, heartless Peter Pan.
I don’t mean mature in a physical way – although sometimes he looked to be about ten years old, and sometimes as grown up as fifteen – I mean mentally and emotionally mature. His Peter Pan was a lot more grown-up than the Pan from JM Barrie’s original play/book.
I didn’t even mind the post-modern Baz Luhrman-inspired crowd chants of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, but what I did have a problem with is the use of James Hook as Pan’s ally.
First of all, James Hook doesn’t lie. Peter Pan doesn’t think twice about lying. That’s why Peter is a spoiled child and Hook is the charming, seductive bad guy. Yet a recurring themes around this version of Hook is that ‘sometimes adults lie.’
Another issue I had with the use of James Hook was that there was absolutely no hint as to his and Pan’s future antagonism. They are firm friends and allies! Which is fine for a random character, but there was nothing to even hint that Pan might turn on his friend and cut off his hand and feed it to a crocodile.
Which, in some cases, wouldn’t be a problem, but it begs the question of why even write in Hook and his sexually-charged tension with (a significantly older) Tiger Lily if there’s nothing of future-Hook there at all. He may as well have been another character – and with his American accent and hat, I was more inclined to think he was a cowboy rather than a future pirate captain.
The other issue I had was the time setting being changed to the 1940s instead of turn-of-the-century. I’m not sure what adding planes and bombings in the England part added to the story, but it only made it more unbelievable as a flying pirate ship navigated German fighter pilots.
Overall, despite being a beautiful film, I would much rather have seen a Peter Pan prequel more like Brianna Shum’s Never Never, which I reviewed here.