Friday, January 30, 2015

Discussing the "Pan" Teaser Trailer: Are Our Children's Stories Adaptations Getting Too Grown Up?

This trailer has been out for a while. I just never got the chance to post it (or discuss it). There haven't been any new ones yet that I've seen, despite the release date closing in. I have to wonder if they're not rethinking a few things...

Before I discuss, here's the trailer:
I'm not sure how I feel about this adaptation, and I'm not talking about the casting, (cough-Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily??-cough).

In my mind neither Pan nor Tink are exactly sweet (they're actually a little frightening in some ways) but the rest of Neverland and the surrounding story by Barry are more "light-childhood magic" than using dark, looming adolescent themes. I think that's an important aspect of the Peter Pan story, particularly as it deals with the joys of childhood (which might be nice to see an example of, since that's barely acknowledged anymore in any child shown in the media that's over five years old, though true childhood extends far longer) and why you might not want to grow up.

In case you're not aware, this is a prequel to Barry's classic, how Peter became Pan, so you'd think it would be focused on the POV of a child, but this trailer isn't telling me that at all.

I think this is perhaps my main problem with making all adaptations "dark". Mostly, they're not truly adult versions but instead they teeter on that YA/New Adult precipice where everything is uncertain and generally not quite as straightforwardly free and joyful as children's storytelling and tales, yet these versions also aren't layered enough to properly explore the raised issues.

There's no doubt our culture is youth-skewed, but with a specific YA focus still being dominant in both TV series and novels, children aren't getting much of a chance to be "real and as naive as they should be children" either. Children's entertainment these days seems largely to talk down to children, or is so filled with "educational value" so that there isn't that escape into the imagination that children need and crave, where they can explore and learn on their own. Instead, ironically in this case of a Peter Pan interpretation, they're encouraged to "grow up".

As a parent whose son is just the right age to introduce to wonderful worlds of live action fantasy and imagination with a little (but not too much) danger, I'm finding a lot of modern movies just aren't up to the task and I'm having to hunt down DVD transfers of much older classics. What's missing in children's movies at the moment is straight forward (fairy) tales that allow the child/person to enjoy and take them at face value but also have enough layering (yet not too much explanation and detail to make it so specific) that allows a stretching of the imagination and new understandings of themes when the child is ready to go there.

One thing is certain: this version of Peter Pan isn't going to address that issue at all. It's going for that elusive pre-teen male demographic that's so hard to attract. But I'm not certain it's hitting the mark there either. Just look at the posters. Not a single smile or overall joyful palette of color. Where is the humor, the sense of fun, the role play? The magic here is "serious" and Neverland does't really look like somewhere a kid would want to stay...


Note: Pan is set to open in theaters on July 24th.


  1. I find that much like the case with "Little Red Riding Hood", people tend to get a bit hung up on the darker undertones of Peter Pan. And while adult interpretations and dark undertones can be fine, sometimes you have to let go of that to use the story for other purposes.

  2. I think you're right in that this version of Peter Pan isn't really meant for children. At least not *most* children. My twin and I were reading Stephen King at 12 yrs (we hid the books from my parents) and loved the terror, without being terrified. But I think the majority of kids aren't geared for that kind of thing. In this trailer, the thieving clowns are something that I know would make a lot of kids terrified of both clowns, and their bedroom ceilings.

    That said, I think *I* am going to enjoy the movie, eventually. I was very excited when I first heard that it was in the works.

    However, I utterly UTTERLY loathe the entire concept of the Indians. Yes, the original Indians in Barry's story weren't realistic in the sense of American Indian cultures, but that was because he didn't KNOW about them. They were, however BASED on the idea of the American Indians, and I feel like this strange cheesy Papua New Guinea-ish concept was created purely to serve the interest of those behind the scenes, and as a way to avoid the issue of Native cultures by saying what they've created doesn't strictly relate to any of those in existence. Hence putting Mara Rooney in there as the 'indian princess'. That bothers me enough on its own that I'm not going to pay money to go see the movie. I think I'll like it once I've watched it, but that'll be once it's out of theaters.

  3. I completely agree with you. Kids need to keep that innocence and sense of fun and wonder as long as they can. Why thrust them into such dark concepts before they are ready, when they will have to deal with real darkness one day soon anyway? Give them something without heavy undercurrents that they can simply enjoy for what it is and find joy in. Great post :)

  4. It's like noir-fairy tales are the new thing. All the light is gone out them, and it is one long existential slog. And added to that the heavy, heavy use of CGI which doesn't engage the imagination but rather replaces it visiually, means there is very little room for a child to insert themselves into the story. And once you've been told this story -- how do you ever find your way back to the other tale?

  5. I would say it's a reflection of a fashion - everything has to go dark, has to have an edge. I notice how the TV & film industry seems to think it's fine to put graphically violent or gory scenes into family films, or to rate films as 12, or 12A to make more money, when in fact they should be rated 15.

    Also, from watching the trailer, I'm guessing that this is yet another 3D film. Why are film makers obsessed with this? I know you can watch it in 2D, but even in 2D, the visual detail is not the same. There's a blurred quality about it that's very annoying (you can see that in the trailer at 1.50min in). I saw that blurred quality in Avatar and Lord of the Rings as well, when I watched the 2D versions.