Whether you’ve seen the ads during the month’s long blitz or heard about the critical reviews, you’re more than likely familiar with the recent release of PAN.
The writer, an avid fan of the source material, wrote/pitched it as a passion project. On the surface it’s high concept, How did Peter Pan get to Neverland?
Now if you read any of the reviews (or maybe even if you saw it) you certainly know it does not live up to the promise of the premise.
I have an early draft of the opening pages coming up in a bit, and in many ways it reads better than the final, which in short was a stone soup of visual effects that added to the $150 million budget but didn’t add to the story.
Here’s a Wrap article as to why it didn’t perform well.
I beg to differ. My theater had a ton of show times, and the one I went to was pretty full. So all it had to do was live up to the promise of the premise. These kids, my son included, know the source material by heart, so they expect the world to hold certain truths.
PAN failed in setting up its world and being consistently true to it.
I commented to my son, that there were a lot of girls in the audience. He rightfully said, because of the fairies… Boy were they disappointed. There was a huge build up to the world of fairies that Peter was ‘the chosen one’ to protect and all they got was whooshes of sparkles. Even that came 100 pages in.
My son wanted to know why Blackbeard was in the film, and why his ship wasn’t THE QUEEN ANNE’S REVENGE. I tend to agree, Captain Hook was set up and paid off nicely, but why drag a classic pirate into it? The villain pirate could have been completely fictional.
Let’s start at the beginning… In the film Mom hurries through the streets of London with a baby tucked in her trench coat, at the orphanage she leaps over a very tall iron gate like a ninja Olympiad. My son, reared back in his seat and said, “that was random.” (Near the end it was revealed that his Mom was a warrior, and he replied, “so that’s how she was able to jump the fence.” These things matter to fans who want to believe.
You’ll see in the early draft that, that fence jumping scene wasn’t in there.
When the ship crossed over from the real world, it was in the solar system, Peter reaches for Saturn! That was the beginning of the gratuitous VFX. My son couldn’t believe it, he didn’t believe it. The last thing you want to do is give a viewer a reason not to believe in the story world.
I could go on about every way the film failed the premise and the world, but frankly, it’s not necessary at this point and it’s too late to do any good.
What works well about the 1st act pages of the early draft, is that it gets inside the head and heart of Peter. What changed from the film, is that Mom is alone in the film and the film is introduced with a story in the stars that harkens to the source material, but in this draft it does so, much more simply and effectively. The events at the orphanage change around some; namely the villainous headmaster is now a bitter crone. My son kept asking why is she so mean? Truth be told, this bit could have been written with a sympathetic headmaster facing the same ruthless pirates that the kids are. Peter has enough bad guys from this point on, and all this one did was add to the confused story and force us to come back at the end to see the old crone get her comeuppance .
The last thing I’ll point out from the pages here, is this: Notice how much better the read gets, it actually takes off, once the writer stops using camera and title direction. I cannot say this enough… unless, you are a writer who is directing your script, do not include camera and title transitions. If your writing is crisp and clear, the director will have a good feeling as to where the camera needs to be.