This month in Parvati Magazine, we share two films that play with light and visuals.
Pan is a prequel to the Peter Pan story. It opens with a young boy named Peter (Levi Miller) in an orphanage, pondering his ancestry and the miniature pan flute he wears as a pendant. But soon he, and we, are swept up and dropped into an immersive world where ships fly through the air between spheres of water where fish swim.
This retelling of the Pan story by the same studio that did the Harry Potter movies seems to be trying to capitalize on Potter’s magic by following a similar storyline: that of a boy prophesied to be a hero. It veers significantly off the original Peter Pan source material, including the introduction of Captain Blackbeard (an unrecognizable Hugh Jackman) as a villain and recasting the future Captain Hook as an ally (Garrett Hedlund). It also addresses the slightly uncomfortable topic of Native American stereotypes in the source material in a slightly uncomfortable way: keeping the princess Tiger Lily and her tribe in the story, but recasting them as white.
The 3D world is visually stunning and takes full advantage of Peter’s ability to fly, allowing him to move through three dimensional space. Cinematically it’s gorgeous. We’re not so sure about the plot, though.
The news of a Jem and the Holograms movie stirred hope in the heart of many a Generation X’er who grew up watching the cartoon of the same name. We looked forward to the magic and the power of Jerrica/Jem as an executive and star musician, as well as that of Synergy, the AI that generates holograms to allow Jerrica/Jem to pursue her double life and stop crime while rocking out. Unfortunately, the movie has none of the magic. It recreates Jerrica as a young girl who rockets to YouTube stardom and is steered by record executives to pursue a solo career and abandon her sisters. This Jem has no agency, no power. And Synergy is nowhere to be found. While Pan remains at least in the same universe as the source material, Jem and the Holograms rips off a beloved name to tell a tired generic story. If you liked the cartoons, don’t watch the movie because it will break your heart. If you never saw the cartoons, don’t watch the movie because you’ll have no idea what you’re missing.