Reviewed by John Hussey
Everybody knows about Peter Pan, a character that derived from J. M. Barrie‘s novel, Peter and Wendy, and his infamous adventures in Netherland with the Lost Boys fighting against Captain James Hook. In order to add to this wonderful tale, screenwriters Jim V. Hart and Malia Scotch Marmo created the premise for a continuation story in which Peter actually left Netherland and grew up. With the addition of Steven Spielberg Hook became a great fantastical film which explored many interesting themes, such as the consequences of growing up and neglecting your family.
I’m not going to lie, Hook is a personal favourite of mine, and has been since I was a kid. I just love how it explores the emotional idea of Peter Pan growing up and forgetting who he was and what he stood for, ultimately becoming a mere shell of his former-self. It’s nothing short of tragedy as his sense of adventure and imagination has totally faded away and his own children, Jack and Maggie, suffer because of this. Peter is now a workaholic who practically neglects his children, particularly Jack, as he continuously breaks his promises.
Before I go any further I want to talk about the cast. It’s fantastic. You couldn’t ask for a better cast and they all shine and bring their respective characters to life. Leading the show is the late Robin Williams who plays Peter. I love his multiple layers and how Robin conveys them, going from a dislikeable character in the first act to becoming a heroic adventurer in the third. Robin’s talents are without end and you feel his emotional struggle throughout, starting with his somewhat uncomfortable performance as Peter Banning in which he can’t balance out his life and comes across as impatient and disconnected towards his children.
Though in some moments it is understandable why Peter would become angry towards Jack because he doesn’t always do as he’s told (sometimes doing questionable acts, particularly on the plane) but he is a child after-all and by this point has become disappointed with his father. Despite his children causing a massive amount of noise whilst he’s having a stressful work call it doesn’t excuse the fact that he gets aggressive at his family like they are an inconvenient obstacle. I mean bless Maggie, she’s only little and just wants some attention from her daddy. Plus he’s using a mobile phone, why didn’t he bloody well move rooms? No excuse for being a bad parent.
Needless to say his wife Moira laces into him and conveys perfectly that Peter is foolishly allowing the short years he can spend raising his children fade away as he predominately concentrates on work. This links nicely within his connection to Wendy Darling, played by Maggie Smith, in which she knew the younger Peter and becomes quite shocked at his radical change in both appearance and attitudes. It shocks her to find out that his job pretty much makes him a pirate, a powerful line that showcases how far he has fallen within his adulthood.
Things kick off when Jack and Maggie are taken. The scene is set up perfectly beforehand as Peter enters the children’s room alone, setting up a cold atmosphere as he observes the pictures on the glass window which depicts Hook sailing across the sea, almost foreshadowing his return. The kidnapping scene is rather haunting as you never see Hook. Instead he’s strangely depicted as a supernatural being as he magically opens the hook shaped lock on the children’s window. What makes the scene more terrifying is Nancy’s sense of danger as she begins barking, before an old senile Tootles begins chanting the word “Hook” over and over.
The tension only rises as Peter, Moira and Wendy return from a special charity event (honouring Darling) only to discover scratch marks running throughout the house, along with broken windows. Jack and Maggie are nowhere to be seen and a message is left for Peter, goading him to return to Netherland for one last confrontation. Wendy then desperately tries to explain to Peter that he is Peter Pan by showing him her book about their whimsical adventures.
Peter is completely sceptical about this whole idea and begins drinking to throw away his worries. Suddenly Tinkerbell arrives on the scene, played by Julia Roberts, and attempts to bring Peter back to Netherland. Now, I’m not a fan of Roberts’ work at all but in Hook I actually tolerate her and believe she conveys a nice sense of fun throughout, as well as being optimistic and loyal towards Peter (even if at times she feels a little in-your-face). Again Peter continues the sceptism game while Tinkerbell is saddened to discover that her old friend has completely forgotten her and their adventures together.
This is a small indication as to the emotional journey that lies ahead. Tinkerbell eventually forces Peter to come back with her and takes him to the Pirate Town to confront Hook. His entrance is really awesome, displaying a sense of dread as well as a sense of awesomeness. We first see Smee, played by the late Bob Hoskins, as he travels to get Hook’s infamous weapon sharpened, before bringing a horde of chanting pirates back to the ship (which really does set the mood for Hook’s unveiling afterwards).
Hoskins’ Smee is truly delightful as he’s always amusing, and yet feels quite dangerous with his pirate nature. His chemistry with Hook is also something to be admired. After some witty jokes (which his dim-witted crew don’t understand at first) he brings out the man himself, Dustin Hoffman. What can I say, the man’s a genius. He truly steals every scene he’s in with his campy villainy. There’s just something about Hoffman’s interpretation of Captain Hook that always leaves a smile on my face. It’s both comical and yet devilish. Though it is always clear that his thirst for vengeance against Peter is always apparent, and like a spoilt child he’s determined to get it one way or another.
Naturally Hoffman and Robin play off each other perfectly, a match made in Heaven you might say. The casting of Hook couldn’t have gone any better. But the development only grows stronger as the film goes on, with this first encounter being rather one-sided as Peter Banning nervously tries to get around the situation the only way he knows how – write a blank check. Ultimately his lack of determination and fear of heights prevents him from reaching his children, furthering the ongoing conflict between Peter and Jack.
Despite his poor performance Tinkerbell manages to persuade Hook to give her time to train Peter, and promises to get him ready for war within three days. Now there is one slight continuity error I would like to address and that’s the teleportation of Tinkerbell from Peter apparently accidentally drowning, to him winding up in the Lost Boys hide-out shortly afterwards. Did she just decide to give-up on her best friend and then head back home for a nap? It makes no sense, but hey-ho.
Peter’s encounter with the Lost Boys is rather amusing as they don’t trust him due to being an adult, and upon finding out he’s a lawyer they go ballistic. He’s ultimately chased around the exotic environment (despite being a 90s sound-set it holds up miraculously well, conveying the fantastical nature of Netherland) before being faced by leader Rufio as he determines whether or not Peter Banning is truly Peter Pan. Nobody, including Peter, believes in him except one little Lost Boy and in a heart-warming moment he sees through Peter’s age and finds their old leader. This begins Peter’s extensive journey into rekindling with his past.
There’s a funny montage of the Lost Boys trying desperately to push Peter through an endurance test in order to remind him what it means to be a Lost Boy. One of my favourite scenes is when they undertake the feast. It’s utterly brilliant and I love how it begins to really pull Peter’s past into the present, along with adding to the drama and emotional impact of the narrative. To begin with Peter’s sceptism prevents him from joining in on the very game he originally created, but after having an eventful vocal showdown with Rufio (which begins his transition) he finally begins to imagine and starts to play with the Lost Boys. It’s a great moment that turns Peter’s character around as we start to see the layers unpeel.
The scene ends nicely with Rufio, who’s annoyed with Peter for taking away his limelight, attempts to throw a coconut at Peter but is stopped after he slices it in half with a sword. It’s great how we have a moment to contemplate what happened, to which Peter looks at himself in shock, in order to further the emotional unravelling of the protagonist.
This is helped further by Peter’s touching conversation with Lost Boy Thud Butt in which he delivers him Tootles’ marbles (the very same ones he was searching for at Wendy’s house near the beginning of the film) provoking Peter to laugh at how Tootles actually lost his marbles, which further shows how his character has loosened up. It’s also quite heart-warming, as well as sad, how we learn that Thud Butt’s happy thought is his mother.
Meanwhile, Hook has an amusing scene with Smee in which he has a daft epiphany about his end, resulting in him wanting to commit suicide. During this Smee helps himself to food before trying to entice his captain to play with his toys (a small replica of Netherland). There’s a hilarious dramatic moment where Smee becomes confused by what Hook wants him to do, with the captain declaring one moment he doesn’t want Smee to stop him before suddenly changing his mind. It’s also rather intriguing that there’s hints that Hook and Smee might be gay-lovers, which merely adds to the comedic and deep chemistry that Hoffman and Hoskins had with one another onscreen.
They then become rather devious when they plot to turn Peter’s children against him as the ultimate revenge scheme. Maggie is fortunately too strong minded to be fooled by Hook’s sinisterly twisting words as he attempts to turn her against her parents. Jack, on the other-hand, is easily manipulated. This is down to the fact that Peter’s recent actions led to Jack feeling abandoned by his father. It’s a truly emotional scene when we witness Jack smashing his father’s watch as he vents out his frustrations, ultimately breaking down and leading to Hook manipulating him further.
It’s clever how the original baseball scene is reused to emphasis the impact it had on both Jack and Peter. This time round Peter manages to catch the game but doesn’t receive the reward of celebrating with his son. Jack ultimately changes his fate by not becoming distracted by his father’s absence and finally wins the game. Though the premise of pirates playing baseball is rather silly, and completely baffling, the scene itself is important for Peter’s final set-up, particularly after seeing Hook sharing a father-son moment with Jack whilst Peter is forced to watch from the side-lines.
This makes him even more determined to fly and become the boy he once was. It leads into my favourite scene of the film, in which he finally remembers his past. The entire film has been leading up to this moment and it’s delivered perfectly. But before we get the joyous moment of seeing him fly again we go through a very tear-jerky sequence in which we watch Peter go through his tragic past as it all comes back to him. We learn about how he ran away from his parents because of his fear of growing up and dying, along with how Tinkerbell found him and taught him to fly.
We then learn that he wanted to return home (after becoming lonely) but tragically discovered his parents had forgotten about him and moved on. The most depressing, and yet happiest, part comes with his discovery of Wendy. We are shown how he first met her and how their love-story began, but it all ended in sadness as Wendy kept getting older and older after every visit, until she forgot how to fly. In that moment he met Moira (Wendy’s granddaughter) and instantly fell in love with her, choosing to abandon his life as Peter Pan in order to be with her.
It’s sad seeing him give up his fantastical life, throwing away his adventures and abandoning his friends. But it’s also really beautiful that Peter did it all for love. I suppose it doesn’t help with the added bit of information that Tinkerbell also loved Peter and had to watch him being taken away from her. It’s awfully sad and makes me want to cry every time I watch it. Despite being a family adventure movie it holds many deep, and personal themes and ideas and this part of the narrative conveys them extremely well and showcases how tragic the heart of Hook really is.
Moving on from the sadness, Peter finally finds his happy thought – Jack. Peter wanted to be a father and now he finally remembered why he left Netherland in the first place and so went fourth to become the boy he once was in order to become the man he really wanted to be. It’s a truly magical moment seeing Robin don the Peter Pan costume and fly over Netherland. It’s so clear how different his performance feels and how much fun he’s having by conveying the child-like behaviour and imagination. This moment is made even better when the Lost Boys finally stand by him, including Rufio who finally sees Peter as Peter Pan.
I really don’t know why there’s a segment in which Peter briefly loses his memory of his children just because he’s reverted back into his childhood self (especially considering his happy thought to get there was his wishes to be a father). But I suppose the scene added to the guilty nature of Peter abandoning his home and leaving behind Tinkerbell. I really love this moment and Roberts really displays the tragedy of this emotional moment, which is made even worse by the fact you know Peter won’t stay in Netherland and will leave after he’s saved Jack and Maggie.
Though the final showdown might seem a little childish at times, and in some ways can detract from the seriousness laid out before it, but I still really like it and it really conveys the change in Peter’s character and how (as a boy) he would’ve acted and planned against Hook. Plus, if we can endure seeing stuffed teddy-bears helping to take down the freaking Empire in Return of the Jedi then seeing children take down drunken pirates shouldn’t be too hard. For me personally, this climatic (if slightly ridiculous – Thud Butt is the “Human-Canon!”) is a good pay-off to Hook and ends Peter and Hook’s conflict on a satisfying note, specifically in showing Peter winning over Jack.
It becomes rather personal in the end as Hook tries using Jack against Peter, as well as cruelly killing Rufio, all for the sake of him gaining his vengeance. Even when Hook seems defeated (after a short, but cool swordfight between Robin and Hoffman) he still attempts to get the final victory by crazily charging at Peter with a hidden blade. Poetically Tinkerbell returns to show her support and helps Peter to defeat Hook. After his hook is lodged into the old crocodile clock it magically (without reason, because why not?) comes back to life and eats Hook. It’s certainly poetic at least.
Then more tears get ready to be unleashed upon Peter having to say goodbye to the Lost Boys. Part of me never wants him to leave, or at least hopes that one day he will come back again. It’s even more tear-jerky when Peter promotes Thud-Butt as the new leader of the Lost Boys in his absence. Upon returning home he says his final goodbyes to Tinkerbell (which adds even more emotion to this conclusion) before reuniting with his family. I love the happiness of this ending in which Peter has become a changed man, delighting Moira with their return, making Wendy happy that Peter got to have one last adventure, before Tootles gets his happy thought back.
Hook, for me anyway, is a classic and one that will remain in my heart forever. It’s just such a magical and emotional journey that makes me happy and sad for all the right reasons. I truly love this film. I don’t know what else to say. I suppose I can’t go without giving a massive round of applause to composer John Williams for his beautifully moving soundtrack. If it isn’t the wonderful performance by Robin it’s Williams’ music that makes me want to weep with happiness. Williams helps to make Hook powerful and this particular composing remains one of (if not) his best.
I guess it’s harder to watch Hook now due to the tragic absence of Robin and his final words within the film, “To live would be an awfully great adventure.” But despite that, Hook is a great film in which I can look back at his wonderful life and remember how much joy his legacy has brought me. Thank you Robin Williams.