A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pan is an action-fantasy retelling of the Peter Pan story, focusing on how the legendary character went from being a London orphan to the Boy Who Could Fly. Young Peter is kidnapped from an orphanage and taken to Neverland to work for the pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Expect some intense scenes of brawls, sword fights, shootings, and explosions -- some of which lead to off-camera/implied deaths -- as well as a menacing crocodile. The body count, while notable, may go over the head of young viewers, since at least some of the departed turn into rainbow-colored chalk dust when they're dispatched. Language includes insults and exclamations like "daft," "imbeciles," "bloody hell," etc., and the romance is limited to a kissing scene shown in silhouette and some longing looks between Hook and Tiger Lily, who's a strong female character. The movie promotes teamwork and friendship and has a strong message about believing in yourself and your capability for greatness.
What's the story?
PAN is a retelling of the Peter Pan story that focuses on Peter's transformation from a London orphan into the iconic savior of Neverland. Instead of the tale's traditional Edwardian, turn-of-the-century England setting, the movie takes place a few decades later, during WWII. Stuck in a strict orphanage, 12-year-old Peter (Levi Miller) is among a group of boys kidnapped in the night by a pirate's crew and taken via flying ship to a far-off land where the pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) forces them to mine for pixum, a magical crystal that serves as an elixir of youth. After Peter flies for the first time, Blackbeard jails both him and an American named Hook (Garrett Hedlund). The pair breaks out and encounters Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) and her tribe, who believe Peter could be Neverland's savior from Blackbeard's tyranny. But first, Peter has to believe in himself -- a difficult feat when there are pirates out to kill him.
Is it any good?
Despite Jackman's expert theatricality as Blackbeard and a few thrilling 3D scenes, Joe Wright's interpretation of how Peter becomes Pan is an uneven mess that may impress kids but not parents. Hedlund does an almost note-for-note impression of John Huston-meets-Harrison Ford (as both Indiana Jones and Han Solo) to play the reimagined Hook, an American miner with a good sense of humor. He's the cast's standout, and Jackman also looks like he's enjoying hamming it up as the Big Bad Blackbeard. So, yes, the acting is fine -- but the script and the direction are confusing and off the mark. At a few points, it seems like Wright is trying to channel Baz Luhrmann with eyebrow-raising sing-alongs to Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (which Luhrmann memorably used in Moulin Rouge) and the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop." These songs don't fit in either thematically or plot-wise; they're simply bizarre.
At least there aren't any insensitive depictions of "Indians" in this installment; instead, Wright goes for a pan-ethnic group of indigenous people from around the globe (with Mara presumably playing Tiger Lily as an indigenous Hiberno-Saxon with a posh English accent). Mara is quite luminous, but none of the actors can save Pan from the bland characterization and occasionally boring story line that may leave audiences uninterested instead of actively engaged in what happens to Peter and his friends. That's not to say young audiences won't find it entertaining, but teens and adults will likely leave theaters underwhelmed.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Pan's action violence. How does it compare to what you've seen in other action/fantasy movies? Do different types of media violence have a different impact on kids?
Why do you think origin stories are so popular? How does Pan address questions about Peter and Hook that weren't answered in the original story? How does the movie make you rethink the story of Peter Pan?
What is the film trying to say about the idea of enemies and villains? Are people all good or all evil? How does Pan explore the idea that enemies sometimes start out as friends, and friends sometimes start out as enemies?
For fans of the book and the animated movie, what do you think of this version? Do you like the changes between the source material and this story? What do you miss? Why do you think filmmakers might choose to look at a classic story in a different way, rather than make a straightforward adaptation?
- In theaters: October 9, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: December 22, 2015
- Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rooney Mara, Amanda Seyfried
- Director: Joe Wright
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Book characters
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: fantasy action violence, language and some thematic material
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.