PAN And The Problem With Origin Stories


This article contains spoilers for Pan, but that shouldn’t matter because you should never see this movie because it’s fucking terrible.

Origin stories are almost universally bad. If the most important part of a character’s story was its origin, that is where the story would start. Did you really care about how Darth Vader became Darth Vader? What’s interesting is what happens next. How many times do we need to see the Waynes shot behind a theater? We get it Batman, you’re insane. And why the hell would we ever need to know why Peter Pan became Peter Pan?

Joe Wright’s new film Pan attempts to answer this question, despite no one ever actually asking it. The result is one of the most boring, generic stories that manages to ruin everything cool about Peter Pan, while happily referencing it about five thousand times (A young Captain Hook is afraid of crocodiles! DO YOU GET IT?). The one thing Pan does well is prove once and for all that these types of origin stories are bad and we just need to stop doing them.

When you think about the character of Peter Pan, you think of a boy who ran away from home to Neverland because he never wanted to grow up. He wanted to be a kid forever and have fun and go on adventures. It’s a key part of the character, and the origin of all the conflict in the story. It’s also completely wrong. According to Pan, Peter is the ‘chosen one’, the result of the love between the Fairy Prince and a native woman Mary (Pan doesn’t deal in subtext), who is prophesied to return to Neverland to unite the fairy and native inhabitants against the evil Captain Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Peter can fly because he’s half fairy; it has nothing to do with fairy dust or happy thoughts. Although Blackbeard does tell Peter to think happy thoughts as he makes him walk the plank because references!

In Pan after he was born, Peter was hidden in an orphanage in England because his mother thought he’d be safer in London during World War II than on the magical island filled with natives that would love and protect him. He returns to Neverland a slave of Blackbeard, who is using orphaned children to mine Fairy Dust out of mountains. Which makes sense because small underfed children are known for their upper body strength. He does this because the fairy dust keeps his face looking young. And by “young” I mean like a guy pushing 50. Fairy dust is weirdly specific that way. Also, this plot point apparently doesn’t matter at all and will never be mentioned again.


We’re introduced to Blackbeard after all of the pirates randomly start singing Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. I reached out to Kurt Cobain for comment, but upon hearing his song used like this, the singer committed suicide again.

Peter realizes he can fly after being thrown to his death by Blackbeard (this movie deals with attempted child murder super casually) and escapes with the help of his new friend, Mr. Hook (Garret Hedlund doing his worst John Wayne impression). Guys, Hook and Peter were friends! Isn’t that cool? I wonder how they’ll turn into enemies? That might be an interesting story to tell (the movie will never tell this story). Also Hook still has both hands so I guess Captain Hook is just like…his name? Irony!

Peter meets Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) one of the natives of the island who tells him the ‘chosen one’ prophecy and also where the fairies are all just hanging out while their island gets destroyed. Hook awkwardly hits on Tiger Lilly, who I’m pretty sure was like 13 in the original Peter Pan, so it’s increasingly uncomfortable in this story that was supposed to take place years before. In the middle of their super cool dance party, Blackbeard shows up and starts shooting all the natives in the face with guns. The natives then explode into rainbow dust for some unexplained reason, so you’re sad that they’re dead, but happy because it makes everything look pretty. Peter defeats the pirates by attacking them with weird CGI skeleton birds which do not explode into rainbow dust.

Pan Tiger Lily

Once the annoying pirates are gone, our three adventurers set off to unlock the fairy kingdom and defeat the pirates. Blackbeard is waiting Peter in front of the fairy door and forces him to unlock it, which is fine because that’s what he was gonna do anyway. Peter does that and then kills all the bad guys by throwing CGI fairies at them. The end.

The movie closes on the following lines:

Peter: Hook, we’ll always be friends right?
Captain Hook: Sure kid, what could possibly go wrong?

Which is weird because almost the same conversation happened between Director Joe Wright and his writer Jason Fuchs:

Jason: We should do a Peter Pan origin prequel.
Joe: Sure kid, what could possibly go wrong?
The next day, Joe Wright’s hand was eaten by a crocodile.

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