Peter Pan, JM Barrie’s beloved story about the boy who never grows up, is being reimagined once more in the form of upcoming action-adventure film Pan, which promises to explore the origin story of Barrie’s iconic hero. This week the international teaser trailer for this highly-anticipated movie dropped online, offering audiences their first glimpse at this intriguing film, which mixes gorgeous visuals, bonafide Hollywood stars, and direction by highly acclaimed, Golden Globe nominated Atonement director Joe Wright.
The trailer opens with the sound of a ticking clock, appropriate for a story inherently preoccupied with the idea of time. Levi Miller is Peter, a young boy whom we first glimpse in an Oliver Twist style orphanage, complete with unsatisfactory plates of gruel and uncaring overseers. One night, Peter discovers a letter from his long-lost mother, Mary, (played by Amanda Seyfried, with an impressive English accent). In the letter, Mary promises she will be reunited with her son “in this world, or another.”
The fantastical element of the story kicks in when Peter and the other boys are kidnapped at night by eerie men dressed as clowns and swept off on a flying pirate ship, finding themselves working for the terrifying pirate Blackbeard (an almost-unrecognisable Hugh Jackman, revelling in the role). As this colourful, beautifully filmed trailer unfolds, it is revealed this land is Neverland, but not as we know it: Blackbeard appears to be the villain of the piece, whereas Hook (Garrett Hedlund) is Peter’s ally: a young, handsome, Indiana Jones-type rogue who gets the biggest laugh of the trailer.
Much has been made of the controversial decision to cast Caucasian actress Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Tiger Lily, a Native American princess in the original novel. The filmmakers defended the decision by explaining that they did not set out to cast an actress of any particular race and the film depicts a “world that [is] very international and multi-racial, effectively challenging audiences’ preconceived notions of Neverland and re-imagining the environment.”
Certainly the stereotypical depiction of Native Americans in the original story is problematic and it makes sense that the filmmakers would seek to distance themselves from this part of the original story. Equally, it seems a shame that they missed out on an opportunity to showcase the talents of a Native American actress in the role.
The film remains promising and intriguing, despite this controversy. Joe Wright is best known for his work on Golden-Globe nominated Atonement, the acclaimed fairy-tale-esque action movie Hanna and Oscar-nominated Pride and Prejudice. Pan is a departure from Wright’s usual oeuvre, but he has proven himself adept at adapting novels and his stellar reputation will be enough to entice many moviegoers.
The trailer also indicates the film will have a similar feel to 2007 fantasy-adventure hit Stardust: no doubt the filmmakers are hoping Pan will have a similar cross-generational appeal. The film’s CGI work looks remarkable, with Neverland’s landscapes and seas beautifully rendered, but the highlight of the Peter Pan story is the way the magic and fantasy is intermixed with realistic human emotion. Here’s hoping Pan can capture that spirit upon its release in July 2015.