In 2015, there was another retelling of the classic Peter Pan story, but this time, Levi Miller played the famed character of the fantastical world of Neverland. The feature introduces Hook and Tiger Lily, with the duo needing to work together in order to save Neverland from Blackbeard. The latest retelling of the Peter Pan story bombed hard with critics, scoring an abysmal 27% on rotten tomatoes based on over 200 plus reviews. Still, given the intellectual property, Pan still had a strong chance at making bank at the box office. Given its hefty $150 million production price tag, it desperately needed to do big numbers at the box office. The Warner Bros. pic would end up with nearly $16 million domestically and finish off its theatrical run with $128.4 million worldwide. Ouch. Warner Bros. loses nearly $90 million on the failed retelling of J.M. Barrie’s classic character. So, what happened? All the ingredients were there for this to be a big box office success, yet audiences simply didn’t about the latest Peter Pan version. Let’s examine the likely reason that Pan bombed at the box office.
The Controversial White Washing Of Tiger Lily
Rooney Mara is a very talented actress. She’s proven her versatility in The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, Nightmare Alley, or Side Effects; however, it was a big mistake casting her in a role that’s meant for a native American. Now Hollywood is no stranger to this. The Last Airbender – which features a predominantly Asian cast in the anime – opted to hire white actors. Johnny Deep being cast as Tonto for The Lone Ranger was even more sketchy over the fact that his performance seemed to rely on offensive cultural stereotypes of Native Americans. Gods of Egypt, Ghost in a Shell, and countless other features were clear evidence of whitewashing. Hollywood’s treatment of minorities is well documented at this point, so no reason to beat a dead bush once again. However, the key thing regarding Pan and the movies listed are they all turned out to be flops. To play devil’s advocate, I can understand why executives pull this stunt. Hollywood is a business first and foremost; one of their prime rules is to always try and attach name talent to a big-budget project. Does that justify not choosing a Native American actor over Rooney Mara? No. If Hollywood wants to create stars, then they have to take risks on all types of talent. Leonardo DiCaprio wouldn’t be such a big celebrity if executives didn’t take a risk by putting him as a leading man. The same thing can be said for talents like Will Smith, Denzel Washington, or Robert Downey Jr. Of course, racism played a factor into this as well. This isn’t me saying that the casting directors actively avoided casting a Native American because they hate the race, but it’s stated by various actors of color that executives didn’t see them as bankable stars overseas. It’s been proven time and time again that audiences don’t particularly care about race when watching a movie. There’s no guarantee that having a Native American as Tiger Lily would’ve resulted in success for Pan, but there’s also no denying that the white washing controversy kept alot of movie goers from purchasing a ticket.
Robin Willams Likely Overshadowed Pan
There’s been over ten different incarnations of the classic novel. However, one of the most memorable live-action adaptations in the Peter Pan canon was Hook, with Robin Williams as the titular character. This Steven Spielberg vehicle holds a fond place in the hearts of many 90’s fans and was a successful version of the Peter Pan saga. Hook managed to garner $300.9 million worldwide, though it wasn’t exactly a critical darling. Robin Williams wasn’t the first man to play the classic Disney character, but with the tragic passing of the talented actor a year prior, Williams was still fresh on the minds of many fans who grew up with the Steven Spielberg version. Hook was…odd, but there’s no denying the presence of Robin Williams and his version of the role. This isn’t a shot at newcomer Levi Miller, but he just doesn’t come close to matching the star power of Robin Williams. Out of respect for the veteran, many opted to skip the latest version. Couple that with the fact that the biggest star was Hugh Jackman – who played Blackbeard – then it was going to be tough for Pan to get out of the shadows of the Robin Williams version. It sounds crazy since there’s been numerous live action versions of Peter Pan following Hook, but it remains the most financially successful version thus far, and it was a big moment in popular culture for a brief period of time. It’s no Godfather or Pulp Fiction, but 90s kids still have fond memories over this feature.
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