Posted by: fritzfedora | July 22, 2010

Hook

I’d like to talk about a film that I’ve found has a surprisingly large number of devotees: Hook.  We’re all familiar with Spielberg’s 1991 take of the story of Peter Pan; only here, Pan is an adult in the real world, has a family, and is kind of a dunce.  He’s forgotten about Neverland and his past; however, when his children are taken by his old nemesis, Captain Hook, he must return to Neverland and confront the life he left behind.  This is a great idea for a Peter Pan story, you will agree, and yet the execution is flawed.  Both Neverland and the Lost Boys are poorly realized and the principle characters are mishandled and miscast.

Neverland was always supposed to be paradise; why else would people flee there to escape from life’s pressures?  You wouldn’t want to live out the rest of your days in misery.  Now in my mind, if Neverland were paradise, it would be one large, tropical forest.  Lush vegetation, blue skies, a moderate climate would be part of the mix.  The Neverland in the film is wrong, though; there are too many different climate zones.  You’ve got a mix of desert and tundra and tropical; it’s either too hot or too cold.  And the color palette is wrong as well.  This place should be full of greens, blues, yellows, and the most vibrant kinds of these colors.  Instead we get oranges, browns, and grays… and they’re all washed out, muddy, bland.  There’s too much flourish and not enough real substance in this Neverland.  There are way too many costumes and props, and it’s all overdone and eventually becomes an assault on the eyes.  This Neverland is a bleak and dreary place.  If I were any of the Lost Boys, I’d be furious with Peter Pan.  That’s another problem: the Lost Boys.

They’re all way too hip, too quick with wisecracks, and they seem to have been taken out of a 90’s music video.  The Lost Boys are supposed to be young boys, with little to no educations.  And since they’ve been living out on their own without adult supervision, they’re probably borderline savages.  Their clothes should be more tattered, their behavior should be less Saved by the Bell and more Lord of the Flies, and they shouldn’t be as happy as they are when Pan returns.  Think about it: Pan took all these boys from their homes when they were at a pretty young and impressionable age.  This could be considered kidnapping.  He promised paradise and fun forever.  And where does he take them?  To a place that looks like Al Gore’s worst nightmare.  And then he abruptly leaves them for about 30 years to go live a life back in the regular world.  I’m pretty sure that means he abandoned the kids he was responsible for so he could live the kind of life he convinced them to give up.  So why aren’t the Lost Boys angrier, bitter, spiteful?  Why are they so happy to see this guy again?  And why is this guy played by Robin Williams?  That’s another flaw with the film: the casting.

Peter Pan is a leader, the alpha male.  There should be a ferocity and cunning about him.  His manner should suggest wisdom beyond his years; which makes sense, since his actual age is unknown.  He could very well be older than Wendy Darling.  Now whom do they get to play Pan?  Robin Williams.  The guy from Mork and Mindy.  Now, I like Williams as much as the next person (One Hour Photo and Good Morning, Vietnam are brilliant); however, Williams doesn’t have that alpha male quality necessary to convince us that he was ever much of a leader or warrior.  He can handle drama well enough, but he always seems out of place in the film, as if he’s never at ease in the setting.  Ewan McGregor might be more effective; he’s always had a boyish charm coupled with certain intensity.  Even worse off is Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook.  Hoffman is a wonderful actor; however, he doesn’t do sinister that well.  Hook is a character that requires an inherent threatening quality; he talks once and you know he doesn’t mean well.  He should also be pretty deranged; why else would he come back after 30 years and take Pan’s kids?  Hoffman doesn’t have that menacing quality to him; he’s too nice.  He tries too hard as Hook, is way too flamboyant, and misunderstands the character’s nature.  Someone like Daniel Day-Lewis or Hugh Laurie would suggest the perfect level of animosity without going over the top.  Finally, there’s Julia Roberts as Tinker Bell, which is probably the worst casting in the film.  Roberts is best in comedies and light dramas (like Erin Brokovich).  She doesn’t have the joviality or bouncy charm you need to play a fairy; she’s too down to earth.  You want someone like Amy Adams, who effortlessly conveys ebullience and cheer.  Also, Tinker Bell is rather wasted in the film, only showing up every once in a while to mildly scold the Lost Boys or confess her love for Pan… the latter was pretty odd.  I’d prefer to think of Tink and Pan as steadfast friends; yes, she once swallowed poison for him, but what good buddy wouldn’t?  The love aspect of the relationship seemed forced and inauthentic.  Well, the whole film seemed that way, really.

Had a bit more creativity and restraint been practiced when producing a look and feel for Neverland, the film might not have seemed as tedious to watch.  Had the actors fit comfortably into their roles rather than tried to grasp their parts, the characters would’ve seemed more believable.  Had the film given any sort of thought to anything beyond the initial concept, it might’ve been a success.  As it is, it qualifies as an off day for all involved.

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Responses

  1. Ok, maybe I’m just reacting emotionally because you’re dissing one of my childhood favorites (which, I admit, I haven’t seen in several years) but I just wanted to point out that Amy Adams was 17 when this movie was made and wasn’t acting professionally. Ewan McGregor was 20 and probably wouldn’t have made a great middle aged workaholic. Also, I thought the attempt to give Tinker Bell a more complex character was good- it makes more sense that she would be in love with him than that she follows him around with no regard for her own life or her own priorities just because they’re buddies. (Also why she’s constantly jealous of Wendy.)

    As for the lost boys and captain hook, I think you’re missing the intent of this movie. It wasn’t supposed to be dark good-versus-evil or even all that complex. It was supposed to be fun. Kids of the 90s were supposed to see themselves reflected in the Lost Boys. Captain Hook wasn’t supposed to be the scariest thing about that movie. It was supposed to be about the higher importance of silly childish things over the mundane, status-based, shallow adult world. Captain Hook isn’t the villain, the man that Peter let himself become is the real villain. Captain Hook is as necessary to the lost Boys as Peter- they exist to fight him, not in a “we’re fighting for our very survival and the freedom of all mankind” sort of way, but in a light-hearted, territorial, neighborhood kids kind of way.

    Anyway, I love this blog, but I think this review missed the mark entirely.

    • thank you for reading and commenting. don’t forget to subscribe and tell a friend!

  2. hey go back and watch the film now, and you’ll see how lame it is. And how was Hook not supposed to be scary? he kidnapped a couple kids, he’s supposed to be diabolical. and when we see him, he looks like he could’ve played a drag queen in the Birdcage. And, i’m sorry, but “status-based, shallow adult world?” Pan grew up, got a job, and yeah became a schmuck, but there’s nothing shallow about growing up. Much more comes with adulthood than childhood; of course, they can’t even follow thru with treating this film like an adult story, because Pan freaking flies! he’s an adult, his imagination is impaired, he’s not supposed to be able to fly, that’s the point! and the original story is pretty complex, with some pretty dark themes, so to make a film that doesn’t even try for anything beyond shallow is insulting to the audience.

  3. and one more thing: the Lost boys were all kidnapped at some point by Pan and convinced never to grow up; you have any idea how messed up your childhood to that point has to be for a kid to even consider not wanting to grow up? and kids are supposed to look up to the Lost Boys??

  4. Um… I’m going to have to completely agree with Kelsey’s comment here. I think you were expecting WAY too much from this movie–it’s supposed to be a simple and comedic Peter Pan story! I’m not especially attached to it from my childhood or anything, but I thought it was entertaining and I certainly didn’t hate it.

    First of all, I totally disagree that Neverland was bleak and dreary. “Hook” might look more dated by today’s standards because it was made in the early 90′s but I seem to recall that there was quite a bit of lush vegetation (albeit saturated in yellows) throughout the movie. And Neverland wasn’t supposed to be JUST a lazy paradise, it was supposed to be whatever the child’s imagination deemed it to be. The lost boys didn’t want to lay around in leafy, cushy trees all day, they wanted to play and have adventures and fight pirates! So in regards to the details you mentioned like the climate and color palates, I thought the film actually presented an interesting range of settings and colors as it related to the energy of the lost boys–I would’ve been bored to death if the whole thing took place in the jungle.

    Also, Peter Pan is definitely a leader, but certainly not an “alpha male” figure. Traditionally, Pan has been played by a woman, and is, in practically every movie, cartoon, or play version (past and present) blatantly effeminate. I think it’s contradictory to the point of the lost boys’ existence to question why they wouldn’t be bitter or spiteful towards Pan after he returns as a grown-up. It’s in their nature to rally around whatever leader suits their lifestyle. And in fact, they ARE skeptical of him until he proves to himself and to them that he is the real Pan.

    In terms of casting, I think Robin Williams is actually a great choice for Pan–who could epitomize a lost boy more than Robin Williams? He basically IS a boy in a man’s body! And I didn’t think he made Pan seem like a “dunce” at all–part of the point of the movie was to show how the grown-up Pan has to rediscover the facets of his imagination that he’s forgotten as an adult. The other casting choices don’t bother me at all, and I thought they all delivered solid performances within the scope of my expectations. And I LOVED Bob Hoskins as Smee.

    It seems like what you were expecting this movie to be is something more like the more modern P.J. Hogan’s “Peter Pan.” It’s a lot more dramatic and serious than what I think “Hook” was trying, on any level, to be. I still think this is a good movie, and I’m always surprised when someone hates it so much.

    • i’ll give you this: Bob Hoskins was great as Smee, and he and Maggie Smith were the only actors cast properly. I have to ask: why would anyone want a simple comedic story about Peter Pan? the story isn’t simple or comedic in nature, and by making Pan an adult the story should have been treated a little more seriously. And Williams is no action hero, which is what Pan comes down to be. I never believed Williams as Pan (though I had no problem with him as Panning in the beginning). Him remembering his past while in the old tree house was actually a decent scene; I particularly liked him remembering that he left because he wanted to grow up and become a father. That was a nice touch. The problem is that he then proceeded to fly and put the tights on, which was wrong.
      There are certainly things to like about the film, I agree. I just don’t think there are enough.


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