dir Joe Wright
scr Jason Fuchs
prd Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, Paul Webster
with Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Rooney Mara, Garrett Hedlund, Adeel Akhtar, Nonso Anozie, Kathy Burke, Amanda Seyfried, Cara Delevingne, Lewis MacDougall, Bronson Webb, Paul Kaye
release US 9.Oct.15, UK 16.Oct.15
15/UK Warner 1h51
It's curtains: Miller and Jackman

mara hedlund anozie
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Pan With a colourfully cartoonish visual sensibility, this live-action Peter Pan origin story is aimed at young children. Although it indulges in some rather grisly violence, it's packed with thrilling action sequences and larger-than-life swashbuckling characters that will amaze youngsters. Parents might not be quite so enthralled.

Peter (Miller) has grown up in a grey London orphanage overseen by Mother Barnabas (Burke), who sells misbehaving boys to airborne pirates during the Blitz. Peter is taken to work in a mine in Neverland, a fantastical island ruled by Blackbeard (Jackman). The miner Hook (Hedlund) takes him under his wing and, when Peter discovers he can fly, they escape into the woods to find native princess Tiger Lily (Mara) and learn more about Peter's parents, as well as whether he is actually the child in a local prophecy. But Blackbeard is on their trail.

Wright directs this as an old-style children's fantasy souped up with whizzy digital trickery. With first-rate costumes and settings, the scenes explode with colour and music, and set-pieces propel the characters into exciting flights of fancy. Many sequences also have an emotional undercurrent that makes them exhilarating. And the way the script plays with JM Barrie's iconic characters is witty without ever being too clever or gimmicky. The fact that Hook is a good guy (with two hands) hints that more prequels are up the filmmakers' sleeve, as it were.

The lively young Miller nicely holds the story together, and his personal journey (orphan seeks parents) is endearing. Thankfully, the script underplays his messianic position in the plot, letting him be a boy who discovers himself even as everyone around him has great expectations. Oddly, Peter is the only truly sympathetic character in the movie, and liking him depends on how much you can stomach sparky urchins. Jackman and Mara are having a lot of fun in their lightly textured roles, while Hedlund hams it up mercilessly.

This is the kind of adventure movie that 8-year-olds will think is the best thing they've ever seen, while adults will sigh at the exhausting pace and over-egged wackiness. But there's enough intrigue in the plot to hold the interest, and the busy aesthetic makes sure there's never a dull moment, with plenty of detail to discover in each scene. In the end, everything is clearly lined up for a sequel, so hopefully the franchise will grow up along with its audience.

cert pg themes, violence, language 19.Sep.15

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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall