'Pan': How the new movie compares to the other many recent 'Peter Pan' adaptations

'Pan' stars Levi Miller as Peter Pan and Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard. The film functions as a prequel to the familiar story by J.M. Barrie.

Eduardo Verdugo/AP
'Pan' stars Hugh Jackman (r.) and Levi Miller (l.).

“Pan,” a prequel to the famous “Peter Pan” story by J.M. Barrie, arrives in theaters today.

It stars actor Levi Miller as Peter and actor Hugh Jackman as the pirate Blackbeard (no, not Captain Hook). Hook, who at this point in the narrative has not yet risen to his iconic villain status, is portrayed by actor Garrett Hedlund. 

While the story of “Peter Pan” has been around for more than a hundred years, pop culture seems to be returning to the tale more and more frequently. One of the most famous adaptations of the story came with the 1953 animated movie “Peter Pan,” which was released by Disney.

But recently the boy who wouldn’t grow up has been all over the big screen, the small one, and the stage. In 2003, Disney released a live-action take on the story that starred Jeremy Sumpter, Rachel Hurd-Wood, and Jason Isaacs.

Soon after came the 2004 movie “Finding Neverland,” about the writing of the tale, which starred “Black Mass” actor Johnny Depp as Barrie and earned Depp an Oscar nomination for best actor.

In 2012, Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s children’s novel “Peter and the Starcatcher,” which like “Pan” is a prequel to Barrie’s story, premiered on Broadway. It earned good reviews and “Blackhat” actor Christian Borle earned a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his role as the pirate Black Stache, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Peter’s enemy Captain Hook.

After NBC scored with its live musical adaptation of “The Sound of Music,” it selected the musical version of “Peter Pan” for its 2014 holiday production. “Girls” actress Allison Williams starred in the title role, while actor Christopher Walken starred as Captain Hook (and, fun fact, Mr. Borle must be pretty familiar with this story by now – in NBC’s production, he portrayed Mr. Darling as well as Hook’s sidekick Mr. Smee).

Earlier this year, a musical adaptation of “Finding Neverland” became the newest “Peter Pan”-based show to find a home on Broadway, and it’s still running there. Now we have the movie “Pan” and Disney is planning a live-action movie starring Reese Witherspoon as Tinker Bell, Peter Pan’s fairy companion. 

What keeps us returning to the story? The themes of the joys of childhood as well as what it means to leave childhood behind no doubt resonate with many. Interestingly, “Pan” director Joe Wright recently said it was the opposite for him.

“I always wanted to grow up,” he said in a recent interview. “I hated childhood. I found it a really difficult period of life. I was bullied and I was quite scared a lot of the time ... Peter Pan offered an escape from all of that,” he said. 

Wright credits the lead character with the enduring appeal of the story. 

“Peter has incredible courage and fun and so I think that reminds us of childhood in an honest and beautiful way,” he said.

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