Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hook


Here's another Christmas film for you. A childhood favorite of mine (and probably yours too), Steven Spielberg's Hook. Hook is very interesting to me, because it has some incredibly interesting aspects of the psychology of Peter Pan, but it is also a kids movie, so the filmmakers decided not to get to deep in the subject matter. There is actually only one thing that I don't like about this movie, (other than Julia Roberts, obviously) but I'll get more into that later. This film may be hard for me to critique, because its one of the few movies that I have been watching, literally, my whole life, so there is a lot of sentimental value, but it was pretty critically panned on its initial release. So I will go into the pros and cons, one by one, and I will be completely honest about everything.
Dustin Hoffman and Bob Hoskins
Pros.
1) The visual aspect: Everything visually about this film is top notch (and I don't just mean the special effects). The costumes and the production designs are all quite the spectacle. They are some of the best looking pirates in cinema, I have ever seen, and the ship looks incredible. The pirates aren't the only costumes that looked good, the lost boys look great as well. They are dirty and gritty, yet, with a sense of playfulness.  My favorite set is the flowers that smell Peter, for the clever irony and because of the practical effects. Everything in Neverland is a visual splendor, from the exotic island setting with great looking mermaids, to the decrepit and shoddy camp where the lost boys dwell. Its also a plus how good Dustin Hoffman looks as the titular character.
2) The acting: Everybody in this film is fully committed to their respective roles, save Julia Roberts, she fucking blows. Robin Williams is a great dramatic actor and he fit into the role of Peter Banning (Pan) so well. He is one of a handful of actors that could make the jump from emotionally distant, corporate douchebag father, to man child, so fluidly. And his gradual character change in the film never feels forced or sudden. The child actors are all surprisingly good, which is a common trait among Spielberg films because he actually knows how to direct kids. I hate Rufio. He's a fucking retarded little bitch. I did like his death though. It made sense out of his character in a very Spielbergian way. Clearly though, the best character/actor in the film was Hook/Dustin Hoffman. He is both a sinister villain and a cartoon pirate at the same time. He is clearly a bad man. He kidnaps children from their beds and when he doesn't get his way he just tells his pirates to kill them all, in those words, although his motives are incredibly one dimensional, for the sake of it being a children's film. He is a very lonely and angry man, who resolves his issues by slaughtering children, because of his never ending rivalry with a then-absent Peter Pan.

3) The character development of Peter Pan: This film asks a pretty interesting question; What would happen if Peter Pan grew up? Peter Pan was the eternally young leader of the lost boys, who refused to grow up and battle grown ups, who on Neverland became Pirates. Now he is a middle aged asshole, who is married to his job, can't commit to his children fully, and has an implied drinking problem. He has become distant, both physically and emotionally, from Wendy, his former love and guardian (by means of foster care), because he is subconsciously repressing the memories of his childhood because adults don't want to be lost boys. So the whole plot is basically him remembering to become Peter Pan again just so he can battle Hook and save his kids. The whole time he is incredibly reluctant to down the green tights and crow again, because he can't, or rather doesn't want to, believe that any of it is real. The film offers some interesting emotional insight into the psychology of the character by giving him a tragic (somewhat) back story, as well as a fear of death, which results in him refusing to grow up. Once he remembers that he was Peter Pan, he refers to full on child mode, just like the film Jack, but soon after he realizes his mission, he straightens out and becomes Peter Pan in spirit and Peter Banning in mind.
4) The Music: Spielberg + John Williams = enough said
Now for the cons.
1) The third act: This is where things get ridiculous. After a pretty adult build up, the film slips into children's fare. Which is a giant disappointment because I think the first 2 acts are actually very good. Just the fact that pirates with guns and swords are losing in physical combat to a bunch of kids with paint and eggs. I understand that Rufio dies to give some vulnerability to the lost boys, but a few more casualties might have made me care a bit more in the final act. But that is almost impossible in a children's film, so there is really
nothing at stake and this sudden tonal shift from melancholy to camp is really underwhelming and I can't roll my eyes or facepalm enough at the climax.

All in all, the film is actually a pretty good film, filled with great visuals, music, and acting, but is disjointed by an abrupt and clumsy third act. Its still a fun film and I really enjoy the final shot. It makes me look forward to another sunrise. So, if you haven't seen it in a while give it another go, and if you didn't like it when it came out, you probably wont enjoy it now. But it shows an adult where the line is crossed from being too serious and for kids to show some responsibility and grow up, but just not so fast
     -L,K

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