What up, Buttercups?
Let’s face it. Being an adult sucks. Adulting sucks. There are bills and worries and stuff you have to do and everything, in short, sucks. Yet, we spend most of our time as children wishing we could hurry up to a point where we’re the ones who make the rules and we can do what we want, not realising that our parents are replaced as the rule makers by other people who are even more powerful and, in some cases, a lot less benevolent.
I can’t help but love this film. I remember watching this as a child on VHS. The story of how we got is was weird. McDonalds did a weird promotion where you could buy videos from them with meals. Or something. We got videos from them during this offer. The first was The Addams Family and Hook was the second.
Watching it as a child a lot of the themes of the film went over my head. I think that is something that happens a lot. All I knew was that I had watched Peter Pan and this had some of the same characters in. It took place in the same Neverland and it had Captain Hook in it.
It was also the film that set off my long time love of everything Robin Williams. It’s something I still have and part of the reason no matter how good the live action remake of Aladdin that Disney have in the work is, I doubt I will ever watch it. I’m tired of their rehashing of my childhood.
Still. Hook. Firstly, I’d like to address the fact that it took some real balls to hire Dustin Hoffman to play Captain Hook and then make him virtually unrecognisable. The casting of this film is wonderful. From Robin playing the uptight Peter to Bob Hoskins as Smee and Maggie Smith as Wendy. Maggie smith who looks as vibrant today as she did almost… wow, 25 years ago.
Okay that’s depressing.
It is clearly a film of two halves. You have the first section where Peter is obviously not the perfect father figure. There is even a suggestion that he favours his younger daughter over his son. Which is actually a convincing plot point. Those of us who have siblings will always swear blind that the other one is our parent’s favourite and parent’s, let’s face it, we’re right.
For example; a valid point which Jack brings up is that Peter went to his daughter’s play – the play performed is Peter Pan. So, is he there for his daughter Maggie (who is playing the role of her grandmother Wendy who is acted in the film by Maggie Smith, how’s that for a meta in joke?) or to watch the story of his younger years? – but he missed Jack’s baseball game. How many of us can relate to our siblings getting attention or presents which we didn’t?
This is then reflected and turned on its head when the children are whisked away to Neverland. Captain Hook spends the majority of time wooing Jack. Setting up baseball games and being attentive to his needs and neglecting Maggie.
Visually the two worlds are stunningly different. The real world is muted lots of dour and drab clothes, except for the children. But… once in Neverland it is all vibrant colours. Everything feels more alive. Like you’ve stepped into a place caught in an eternal summer. Where the days are long and filled with adventure and the nights are always warm and filled with star studded skies.
Abig theme for this film is adulthood but moreover it is about remembering what it is to have fun and keeping the eternal spark of youth burning in your chest. Peter forgets who he is when he’s in the real world but by going back and going through all the rigorous training and trails that the Lost Boys put him through he remembers his childhood. Conversely by remembering, he can’t remember why he wanted to leave and is stuck as a grown man in a child’s body. Which is overcome by the remembrance of his responsibilities to his kids.
It’s a film about balance essentially.
Everything has an opposite. Peter has Hook. Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) has Smee. Even Peter’s fear of flying has Hook’s Crocodile. The reversal of fears is cleverly done. Peter being afraid of flying at the beginning of the movie while we all know it was something he was never afraid of before. Goes up against the stuffed crocodile. Which Hook was afraid of but has now seemingly beaten. By the end of the film these the roles are reversed; Peter overcomes his fear of flying and Hook is confronted by dozens ticking clocks and his ultimate run in with the crocodile he thought he’d beaten.
Event he changes in Peter are balanced. It’s only by realising that Hook is being a better father to Jack than he was that spurs Peter to try to better himself and rediscover how happy fatherhood made him which allows him to fly once more.
There are hokey action scenes where children in colourful armour with weapons that shoot tomatoes and eggs and marbles and funny coloured gunge hold out against grown men wielding swords. The only death coming at the hands of Hook. Which actually provides the turning point in the film for a lot of the characters. It’s that moment which shakes Jack out from under the spell Hook has him under.
Imagination plays a big part in the set up to this film. There is of course the food fight scene. Where dinner is a game powered by imagination. You can only eat the food that you imagine to be in front of you. It is a pivotal scene in the film and one that was always a favourite of mine as a child. Watching his building frustration as all the dishes around him are empty yet the child dig in like there is a banquet before him. The verbal show down with Rufio (Dante Basco) which serves as the catalyst for Peter’s imagination to kick back in. Which leads to the food fight and finally Rufio throwing a coconut at Peter which he slices in half with a neat little spin while holding his sword. This in turn leads to the slow trickle of memories that bring him back to being the Peter Pan who ran Neverland.
In essence this film can be completely summed up by my favourite quote from the late great Mr Williams, “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” That is the entire film in a nutshell. Not losing the little spark of madness as the mounting pressures of adult life trying to smother it.