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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt Pratt@moviecitynews.com

DVD Geek: Pan

You have to give the 111-minute Pan a good half hour to get started—and it’s a genuine challenge to get that far—but after disorienting beginnings, it picks up as a fantasy adventure, although it’s an ‘origin’ story that does its darnedest to turn Peter Pan into Harry Potter. In so blatantly aligning itself with the first Potter story, the film forgets what it is supposed to be about. Set during World War II, a young boy is lifted out of his orphanage one night by pirates in a flying sailing ship, who take him and a number of other orphans to an island, where he is used as slave labor in mines. He escapes with the help of an older prisoner known as ‘Hook,’ played by Garrett Hedlund, who tries hard to be Harrison Ford, and they team up to find a way back to the regular world and also help the island’s indigenous tribe, which is at war with the pirates. Hugh Jackman is the villainous pirate running the mine, Rooney Mara is one of the indigenous natives, and Levi Miller earnestly plays the young hero. After the dreary beginning, the fantasy images become more stimulating—there are flying sail boats all over the place—and the film is undoubtedly more rewarding in 3D than it is in its flat presentation. The action scenes are energetic and not too drawn out, and the special effects provide a stimulating spectacle. At the end, there is not even a hint at how Hedlund’s character would eventually become a villain, since he is arm in arm with Mara’s character, providing a surrogate family for Miller’s character, and so the movie isn’t really about explaining how the dynamics of the later Peter Pan story came to be, but is instead about the young hero learning to master his powers and uncover the secrets of his parentage.

The picture is letterboxed with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1. The color transfer looks nice, even when the image is overloaded with special effects. The Dolby Atmos audio track has lots of power and an effective dimensionality, with plenty of busy directional effects during the showiest action sequences. There is an audio track that describes the action (“Peter grabs the sword that Smiegel holds, then climbs to the top of the cable car. The pirates continue to crank the car’s pulley. Peter swings the sword at the car’s cable. It has no effect. He keeps whacking at the cable to no avail. The car pauses and Peter glances at the deep chasm below. He looks back at the cable, sees a hook and removes it. The cable car plummets into the mining canyon as one side of the cable snaps back towards the elevator tower. Hook holds onto his hat and Smiegel clings to the rails. Peter wraps himself around a pole on the top of the car. The car hurtles towards a floating ship and tears through its sails. The trio is tossed from the car, slides down the sails and lands on a pile of cargo on the deck. Peter, Hook and Smiegel scurry out of the car’s path, just before it crashes onto the deck.”), French, Spanish and Portuguese audio tracks, optional English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles, and 28 minutes of mostly good promotional featurettes, including one that delves effectively into the origins of James M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.

The film’s director, Joe Wright, supplies a decent commentary track, talking about constructing the film, working with the cast and other interesting technical details, such as managing the precision of the colors. “The grading of these things is quite delicate, because Rooney has this amazing translucent skin and if you bring in even the tiniest too much green or blue she can look rather like the undead.” He also explains how Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” found its way into the movie. “I had the whole pirate crew together for a week in rehearsals, so we could work out some kind of common language and behavior for the pirates. And, um, I felt I needed to get some music in to create an atmosphere, and I listened to kind of sea shanties and so on, and felt that they were all a bit, um, soft for my pirates. I wanted my pirates to be a bit harder, and a bit more punk, so we started playing some punk music in the rehearsal room, and soon as we put ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on, the whole gang went nuts and started pogoing and singing along, and that was the moment where I kind of thought, ‘Well, how about if we have them all sing ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ um, which is a kind of crazy idea, and for some people, it really works, and for others it doesn’t. I really like it. The whole idea for the show is to be as eclectic as possible, and to create, you know, surrealist ideas by juxtaposing disparate references by putting them together and seeing what we could come up with.”

The DVD included in the set does not have quite as sharp a picture and the sound is less detailed. There is no commentary and no Portuguese, but otherwise all of the language options are carried over. There is only one six-minute featurette.

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The Atlantic: You saw that the Academy Awards recently held up your 2001 acceptance speech as the Platonic ideal of an Oscar speech. Did you have a reaction?

Soderbergh: Shock and dismay. When that popped up and people started texting me about it, I said, “Oh, it’s too bad I’m not there to tell the story of how that took place.” Well. I was not sober at the time. And I had nothing prepared because I knew I wasn’t going to win [Best Director for Traffic]. I figured Ridley, Ang or Daldry would win. So I was hitting the bar pretty hard, having a great night, feeling super-relaxed because I don’t have to get up there. So the combination of a 0.4 blood alcohol level and lack of preparation resulted in me, in my state of drunkenness crossed with adrenaline surge. I was coherent enough to know that [if I tried to thank everyone], that way lies destruction. So I went the other way. There were some people who appreciated that, and there were some people who really wanted to hear their names said, and I had to apologize to them.
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