Oliver Twist meets Harry Potter in magical mystery tour

Pan (PG)

There have been so many re-tellings of the Peter Pan story you wonder if they can keep coming up with original spins on it.

They have. This version – a prequel – adopts a kind of Biblical approach. It has lines like "are you who they say you are" to Peter. He's referred to elsewhere as ‘The Chosen One’, showcasing the parallels to the Messiah. And his mother is called Mary. (The film basically concerns his search for her). 
There are other genre echoes too. Think J.K. Rowling. Think Charles Dickens. Even think King Kong. It rolls out its spectacular intent from frame one as Mary deposits the baby Peter at an orphanage. Not long afterwards we're in the territory of flying ships and Luciferean (Herod-esque?) villains. Hugh Jackman gives off a Robert J. Downey vibe as Blackbeard the pirate.

Early on he puts Peter on a gangplank for insubordination after Peter objects to having some fairy dust taken from him that he's found in a mine. As he hurtles downwards towards certain death he finds, lo and behold, that he can fly. Always a handy trick to have up your sleeve when you're facing extinction.
Gerret Hedlund plays Captain Hook with a dare-devilry that calls up Indiana Jones. As Tiger Lily, Rooney Mara looks a star in the making. What wonderfully expressive eyes this young lady has. She reminded me of those Arabian princess we saw in the harem films of the 1950s. When she interacts with Hook – her idealistic defiance counterpoints his roguish self-centredness – we seem to be watching two ciphers from central casting in the golden age of Hollywood.

The film loses its momentum two-thirds of the way through. The ending is also protracted. But kids will still adore this revisionist version of J.M. Barrie's beloved classic. The 3D special effects (albeit computer-generated) work a treat. They make the fiercesome creatures from Neverland leap out of the screen at you.

In the centre of it all is Peter himself, played with wide-eyed wonder by Levi Miller. At times I thought he displayed too much self-confidence (and not enough fear) in the face of danger. But it's important to remember that – again like those fifties actioners – the film keeps a tongue in its cheek throughout. And a twinkle in its eye. 
Hats off to all concerned. Warner Brothers definitely have a hit on his hands with this rip-roaring yarn. The high wire acts will take your breath away.

*** Very Good