The most striking thing about Pan, the "origin story" for the Peter Pan we all know and love (?), is its desperate quest to be as unoriginal as possible. It's not just that, as Alison Willmore points out, the film's "chosen one" plot has become the default mode in contemporary science fiction and fantasy, but that Pan spends much of its time quoting other genre films in a heavy-lidded wink to the adult audience. Bilge Ibiri, among others, notes that Hook is clearly drawn from Indiana Jones, but the character's disappearance/reappearance to save the day at the end isn't Jones--it's Han Solo from Star Wars, complete with a "flyboy" reference, no less. The orphanage is Oliver! with the addition of monstrous nuns (surely Peter's mom could have thought this through a little better). The extreme long shots of characters wandering through the Neverland landscape have been lifted from Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. All the fight sequences look depressingly like the Wachowskis crossed with wuxia. And Peter's triumphant flight scenes have all been lifted from, well, Superman. (Yes, there are Peter Pan references too, from Hook breaking and entering with a hook to his complaint that Peter doesn't need to "crow" about flying.) It's big-budget cinema as Frankenstein's monster, really--dead material from other movies, stitched together and animated with CGI.
Pan also attempts to have some politics. Blackbeard's obsession with eternal life clearly derives from the old story about Ponce de Leon's quest for the Fountain of Youth, and his destructive mining project, his enslavement of orphans, and his genocidal plots against the natives are similarly supposed to evoke European imperial conquest. Twentieth-century England doesn't appear to be much of an improvement, not least because the convent is actually in the business of selling children to Blackbeard--the Church, far from providing some sort of safe haven, here goes hand-in-hand with the vicious conqueror. In a bit of heavy-handed symbolism, the statue of the Virgin Mary operates a trap door; the real Mary is Peter's mother Mary, who, far from being a pure virgin, was a warrior and Blackbeard's lover before being impregnated by a fairy prince. (Peter may be a Messiah figure, as Hook quite explicitly points out, but he's Peter Pan, not Christ.) So: anti-imperialism and pro-environmentalism, yay? Well, no, not really. For starters, while the film is indeed multiracial--the orphans, pirates, and natives are all indeed, as even Blackbeard says, of all nations, races, etc.--the leads who Get Things Done, for better or for worse, are all, shock and surprise, white folks, while the only non-white folks who get any lines are outright villains (Bishop), weasels (the Smeagol-ish Smiegel), doomed (the Chief), or resentful of the chosen guy (Kwahu). On the one hand, the film makes a point of being supposedly colorblind; on the other, it, just, um, makes all the leads white. Including the faux Native American-with-a-jumble-of-other-ethnicities-thrown-in princess, "the only Caucasian among a multi-cultural band of insurrectionists." Meanwhile, because this is a children's film, we have the strange experience of watching Blackbeard systematically murdering Tiger Lily's tribe, leaving behind, not corpses (that would be distressing), but poofs of colored powder. Having dispatched the natives, Blackbeard can wait for their remains to simply blow away (which is an allegory in its own right, but not one, I think, that the film intends). Pointedly, we are not allowed time for any of the deaths to resonate; the only character worth mourning, it seems, is Mary, by both Peter and, ironically enough, Blackbeard (who murdered her in the first place). This has not, to put it mildly, been thought through: the film wants to have a veneer of "adult" politics (imperial exploitation is bad!) while not shocking the kiddies (no dead people on our screen, please, despite the film's rather high body count). The result is a cynical product that fails to learn its own cliched lessons about believing in yourself.