Just what we need — a Peter Pan origin story. And one, to go by the trailer, that seems to be all about kids, climaxes, whee!, knock your CG socks off. The bummer, in a manner of speaking, is that the director is the great Joe Wright. I’ve been kicking this notion around that Wright decided to direct Pan (Warner Bros., 10.9) to prove to Hollywood that he could play the game — i.e., make a eye-popping, family-friendly blockbuster that’ll make loads of dough — after people started murmuring at parties (and I heard this talk all over the place two and a half years ago) that Anna Karenina was proof that he’d burrowed too far into his precious imaginings, that his tastes were too rarified.
That’s bunk, of course — Anna Karenina may have performed modestly at the box-office but it was a bold stylistic triumph. On 9.2.12 I called it “the first truly breathtaking high-style film of the year, a non-musical successor to Moulin Rouge and a spawn of the great ’70s films of Ken Russell (and by that I mean pre-Mahler Russell, which means The Music Lovers and Women In Love) as well as Powell-Pressburger’s The Red Shoes.” And now Wright, an auteur-level helmer of four stirring films over the last decade — Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, Hanna and Anna Karenina (let’s put aside The Soloist for the time being) — has made a film that’s looking to out-Spielberg Hook?
I’ll be glad for Wright if Pan makes big money. The trailer, to be fair, does indicate that a huge surge of imagination went into it. It’s tiresome, yes, to entertain the idea of yet another spin on the Peter Pan legend, but there’s nothing wrong with having a go at it, I suppose. But this is still not “my” Joe Wright — this is Joe The Slummer, Joe the Atoner, Joe looking to prove he can deliver a Harry Potter-like cashbox fantasia.