Bang A Rang! Watching Hook has always been childhood “comfort food” for me – the equivalent of cooking up a pot of Kraft Mac & Cheese or curling up in a big wonderful security blanket. It is a reminder of a simpler time in my life.
I have always found it surprising that Hook doesn’t receive the same amount of admiration that Spielberg’s other classics have garnered. It could come from Spielberg, who has always sort of embarrassingly dismissed the film, having felt the indifferent (all the way to harsh) backlash of both critics and box office performance alike. But like it or not, it has managed to stand the test of time and garnered a loyal audience from the children that grew up watching the film. It is a holdover, made on what I like to call “The Cusp” – that late 80’s to early 90’s period when computers were not the norm yet. Only bigger budget films could afford to use the best of the best special effects. And for that, it has aged wonderfully (Other films from this period to do the same: Roger Rabbit, Robocop, Dick Tracy, The Rocketeer).
I can only wonder how Hook would perform in today’s climate, both critically and commercially. Currently, Hollywood’s “Tent Pole” bubble is ready to burst any second. Both Spielberg and George Lucas made this prediction back in 2013. Just this year Spielberg suffered a ginormous flop with his live adaptation of The B.F.G (bringing in a world wide gross of 113 million on a budget of 140 million).
Today’s audiences, raised on a steady diet of savvy pop culture, desperately lament how that their childhoods are being ruined by remakes, reimaginings, and the occasional random sequel to old movies( that came out anywhere from one to two decades prior). We’ve seen what happens when you try to remake the Ghostbusters with an all female cast… But we’ve also seen what happens when you lovingly remake Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. What a contrast.
It seems people want nostalgia but also originality at the same time. And that’s just what “Hook” provides! It builds on what came before it and allows us to revisit that magical world from the Walt Disney movie through an adult prism. Just the way Scream gave us a smart, cynical breakdown on the tropes weaved through every 80’s slasher film, Hook asks the question, “What happens when Peter Pan grows up?”
The movie begins with Peter Banning (One of Robin William’s best performances EVER, seriously) struggling to balance his work life with family life, only to have his children kidnapped by his old nemesis Captain Hook (One of Dustin Hoffman’s best performances EVER, seriously). Captain Hook is hell bent on finally getting his revenge on Pan after the events of the Disney film. I always wondered why he waited so long… Was he waiting for Peter’s kids to be old enough? He was very surprised to see that his greatest foil had grown up.
Peter is transported to Neverland by Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts was given the on-set nickname “Tinkerhell” for her fussy disposition) and confronts Hook, but is in no shape to fight him. So, Tinkerbell strikes a deal with the Captain: Peter has three days to become Pan again. There is just one problem… Peter has no memory of his history with Neverland or “The Mantle” of “The Pan” and must go on a journey of rediscovery.
The film really tugs on my heart strings with its analysis of that rediscovery of one’s identity and reconnecting with it. When Peter returns to Neverland, he is incomplete. If he ever wants to see his kids again he needs to come in contact with those qualities that once made a leader, warrior, and the formidable adversary that Captain Hook yearns for. Peter needs to find his inner child that has been suppressed by years and years of maturation, fiscal responsibility, and parenthood. First, he was stuck as a perpetual child who never grew up, until he did, and became a perpetual adult. He knows no balance, and needs to find it in order to be a whole person for once and for all!
I always become particularly emotional during the scene where Peter finally flies for the first time in years. He does a reverse E.T. and flies over the sun and magically realigns his spirit. When he touches down again he is greeted by his rival and biggest sceptic (next to Peter himself of course), Rufio – the current steward of the Lost Boys.
It is this moment that really cements the film’s greatness for me. It is a hero’s journey – a man must return to his past childhood (the shadow world) so that he may continue to be a father in the future (a return to the status quo). And in the end we are left wondering if it was all a dream. Little hints on the screen lead us to believe they could have past through Peter’s subconscious and led to an incredible drunk dream. But then we see that Toodles indeed had lost and found his marbles, and watch as he heads out for on last great adventure. What a fitting way to cap off the film!
When Robin Williams tragically took his life two years ago, my immediate response was to mourn the loss of this monumental presence from my childhood by revisiting Hook. It was a soothing tonic for a tragic event involving someone I did not know, but who was always there when I was growing up. It was a testament to the magic of movies, Robin Williams, and the incredible body of work he left behind for all of us (now adult) children to go back and revisit at anytime. For although he is gone, he is merely a button click away, at anytime. As I write this sentence, I’ve opened up my Facebook to check some messages only to be reminded that TODAY on August 11th, Robin left us. So fittingly from my Facebook I say again: