Sunday, October 11, 2015

Pan [2015]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (L)  ChicagoTribune (1 1/2 Stars) (1 Star)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (1/2 Star)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

I found Pan [2015] (directed by Joe Wright [wikip] [IMDb], screenplay by Jason Fuchs [wikip] [IMDb] based on the characters from the Peter Pan [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] books of J.M. Barrie [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) to be one awful -- misguided, misrated, poorly cast, needlessly / gratuitously / stupidly anti-Catholic (say what? yup...) -- prequel to a beloved children's story.  Indeed it appears that the story of Peter Pan [wikip] [IMDb] (played in the film Levi Miller) itself was abducted in this film by contemporary corporate pirates ;-).

Oh, there are _so many_ things wrong with this film.  Let's begin by noting that though the film seeks to tell the "origin story" of  Peter Pan [wikip] [IMDb].  Yet the 10 y.o. Peter Pan of the story is placed in a London based Catholic run orphanage (more on this below ... ;-) during the 1940 London Blitz (during WW II), some 30 years after J.M. Barrie first published his book (1911) and three years after he died (1937).  Huh?  Why?

As best as I can see, it's to place him in a Catholic orphanage (run by a congregation the film-makers sarcastically named "The Sisters of Eternal Prudence").  Now Readers mind you, the English haven't exactly been stellar in the "kind, gentle orphanage department" -- think JANE EYRE (placed in an orphanage run by Protestant sadists, and OLIVER TWIST (placed in a work house run by "old school" Capitalist ones ...).  But it seemed important to the film makers here, EVEN AT THE EXPENSE OF WARPING THE PETER PAN STORY'S TIMELINE, to place the 10 y.o. Peter Pan into the hands of Irish accented daughters and granddaughters of the Irish Potato Famine (where the "Enlightened" / Protestant Brits watched and waited while the lowly / Catholic Irish starved ... "If only they had converted ... then we would have given them the bowl of soup...").

IMHO, the British simply have no right at all that make Catholics, especially Irish Catholics, look Evil after what the Brits did (and mostly DID NOT DO...) during that Famine.   None.  It's akin to American film makers insisting on _continuing_ to portray Native Americans as "savages" (after having largely wiped them out and stolen their land ...).  Decency requires at least respect for the killed.  It's a whole other matter for the Irish (or really anyone) criticize themselves.  But the historically powerful have _no right_ to continue to lampoon the people they let die / arguably murdered.

Further even the image of the "sadistic nun" (popular nowadays in many, often non/anti-Catholic circles) is at best an awful and generally unfair stereotype:

I myself knew a woman from our Servite parish in Denver (interestingly enough called "Our Lady of Mount Carmel"  There's "another story" there ;-) whose mother and two aunts grew-up in a Catholic orphanage run by SAINT Frances Cabrini in Denver and she / her whole family were proud as punch of this noting that the two aunts were even present at a relatively famous miracle that took place at what became the Cabrini Shrine outside of Denver noting that Mother Cabrini had gone out to this then rather desert location ("gifts" given to the Church aren't often "the best" ...).  But "Mother Cabrini took her cane, hit it against the ground, and a spring came up" (which gushes to this day).

Then, many of our younger women parishioners at Annunciata Parish here in Chicago, would be amused to be told that Sr. Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Mercy Sisters that founded MOTHER McCAULEY HIGH SCHOOL here in Chicago, a high school that has produced GENERATIONS OF WOMEN who've held ALL KINDS OF POWERFUL POSITIONS (as doctors, lawyers, judges, teachers and nurses) throughout this fair city, COULD HAVE BEEN "ONE OF THOSE EVIL NUNS" like the ones portrayed in the film ... Hmmm... Are powerful, competent women especially when they are CATHOLIC ... "EVIL" ... ?

Then, there's Blessed Maria Magdalena della Passione (Constanza Starace), OSM*, who founded the Compassionist Servite Sisters (related to us as I'm a Servite Friar) out in Castellamare outside of Naples, Italy in the late 1800s.  Now granted, part of her story was that she "may have been possessed" for something like 30 years ;-).  But she was known for also running lovely orphanages "for the bambini" and at least in Italy, everyone's hearts continue to melt when one thinks of the "nuns who took care of the orphans."

Finally, I even knew a "Madre Flora"* who ran a small congregation founded in Pesaro, Italy that still ran orphanages in Peru.  (We used to go out to her facility for our annual "programation retreat" while I was in the Seminary at the Servite Int'l College in Rome).   A lot of those kids would be brought back to Italy where they'd be adopted by Italian parents, who'd again cut themselves up to have "a bambino" of their own.

And I'd add one story more actually.  Each week I say Mass, early in the morning for a smiling community of Mexican "Hijas de Maria Inmaculada de Guadalupe" who help run a school at Immaculate Conception Church in South Chicago, IL which without them WOULD NOT HAVE ONE because the neighborhood is so poor.  It's simply IMPOSSIBLE for me to see those lovely, ever smiling nuns as "EVIL..."

So the portrayal of "nuns as Evil" is really awful / unfair (Evil in itself...) especially when it comes to the British who themselves (1) have a historically TERRIBLE REPUTATION of dealing with orphans (again think Jane Eyre / Oliver Twist), and then even worse reputation with dealing with Catholics (again think the Irish Potato Famine).

But ...

... STUPIDLY ADDED, anachronous "Evil" London Residing / Irish Accented Catholic Nuns ASIDE ;-) ... how was the rest of the film? ;-) ;-)

Well ... IMHO it wasn't much better ;-)

... In the film after the EVIL Irish Accented Nuns hoisted a large "Jolly Roger" Pirate Flag on top of their Convent (DURING A NAZI AIR RAID...) an airborne pirate ship arrives.  Its pirates PROCEED TO ABDUCT the 10 y/o Peter Pan along with most of his other orphan friends, taking them upward, beyond the clouds, indeed beyond the solar system, to "Neverland."

Now DESPITE this film being rated for kids ("PG"), much of the rest of the story plays out in a Hellish mine resembling the one featured recently in the very R-rated Mad Max: Fury Road [2015].  Said mine is run by Captain Blackbeard [wikip] [IMDb] (played by Hugh Jackman) who has his slaves, including the 10 y/o Peter Pan and a young future Captain Hook [wikip] [IMDb] (played by a terribly miscast Garrett Hedlund. Don't get me wrong, he's a talented actor - Country Strong [2010] / On the Road [2012] - but this was NOT the role for him.  It'd be akin to having John Wayne play the role ...) mining for "Pixum" (pixie dust) which, Blackbeard thought could "keep him young."

Blackbeard and his pirates believe that the fairies who had previously produced said "Pixum" are extinct.  Instead, we find that are being protected by an aboriginal (part Native American, part Native Australian, part Avatar [2009]-like) tribe of which Tiger Lily [wikip] [IMDb] (played by a much better cast Rooney Mara) was a princess.
Anyway, if the nuns were cut, and the film was rated PG-13 and perhaps Garett Hedlund was not cast in this film as Captain Hook, the film would have been okay.  As it is ... what a mess.

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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