Friday, April 3, 2015

Remembering Hook

I love Disney. I really love Disney. Down to their worst movies, I still find one scene I can love in it. You know what, though? One of my favorites was Peter Pan and as a child, I just loved that. A kid who can fly to another planet where he doesn't need to grow up. It wasn't until I played Uncharted 3 that I realized sailors used stars to map their island routes and that Never Neverland is actually just an undiscovered island. The entire story of Peter Pan is fascinating and the fact that the novel acted as a pseudo-sequel to Treasure Island, with Captain Hook having had killed Long John Silver, makes it even better. I love the movie and so many people do as well.

That's why Steven Spielberg's Hook was critically panned or on the worse end of mixed reviews when it came out. It ranks among the worst of Spielberg's movies, and that's surprising because he really doesn't have any bad movies. The Terminal is a good movie to watch if your sick and can't go to work one day and even Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has it's defenders and moments. Hook, however, was panned because it made Peter Pan grow up. That is honestly why, read the reviews and such and you'll see. Nobody hates the movie, they just can't fathom why Spielberg would do this. Spielberg once professed that he suffered from Peter Pan syndrome and read the interviews he made leading up to this film, he had a passion for Pan that is irreplaceable. Now ask him about Hook and he himself will say that he hates it.

Why? The reviewers of the film forced Spielberg to "grow up" and "get out" of his syndrome in a sense and see the film as they, the "grown ups" wanted him to see it. Hook only made a profit of $50 million even though it grossed $300 million. That problem is in the marketing because even for today's standards, $300 million is a lot of money. What is Spielberg's worst film, probably 1941 because it tried to be a comedy and ended up being great for the unintended reasons. Always is a close second but that's honestly because it's just odd. I mean seriously, those two movies and The Terminal are really the only bad movies that Spielberg's made. Yet why does Hook get so much hate?

As I've previously mentioned, it's because of people clinging on to this vision that Peter Pan will not grow up. Spielberg simply wondered, what if he did? Is there really that much harm in wondering? The movie is beautifully shot and one of the best examples of elaborate set pieces and displays of articulate background designs that are nowadays being found in CGI. I'll liken this film to Man of Steel, something people only hated because of their fetish with Christopher Reeve's Superman: The Movie. Despite there being a gap of decades between both Supermen and both Peter Pan, the love held for the first one soured the experience of the second one. Yet I love Hook and now I'll explain why I do.

Where to begin? Let's start at the beginning. We're introduced to Peter and Moira Banning, a successful All American couple who suffer from the syndrome we experience in almost any feel good movie. Yet it feels so different for some reason because Peter is such a stiff. He's against anything fun, he's against anything dangerous yet he wants to drive an owl to extinction and take over Sierra Madre clubs. He's an 80s pirate, this was before 2000s computer pirate and the 2010 Somalian pirates, mind you. An 80s pirate is essentially a corporate stooge who apprenticed under Donald Trump and operates a Ted Turner subsidiary and has only one goal in life: MAKE MOTHAFUCKING MONEY, regardless of the personal cost. No matter how much Peter tries to connect with his son, he just cannot. When they go to the orphanage where Peter grew up, operated by a Granny Wendy who used to live by J.M. Barrie (fuck off Depp), we have an incredible scene. It's just so beautiful, yet ironically I can only relate it to one lyric by Pharrell Williams: "I know niggas who run from their shadows like Peter Pan". The scene I'm referring to I cannot find a video clip, but it's Peter Banning on the phone. His children are behind him agitating him but we see his shadow rise up and try and embrace him but he rejects it and yells at his children, furious. Such a poignant scene.

Let's not forget, the film is called Hook, so the titular character is another reason why this film is good. Played by Dustin Hoffman, we get a sense of dread from Captain James Hook and down to when the children talk about the window wiper and when we return to the orphanage to see claw marks all over the house walls. Hoffman dominates the screen by playing the dreadful captain, the only man "Barbecue ever feared" and the fact of the matter is. He's one of the reasons why this film is good. It's also one of few times the villain's name is the name of the movie and for this, it works. The story of Peter Pan isn't actually his, it's Captain Hook's. It's the story of how a mad pirate's obsession shows a child how dreadful growing up can be. Hook is a representation of everything wrong with adults and when the mad Captain is becoming a paternal figure to Jack Banning, we see that the title is actually referring to Peter. He himself has become a pirate and Hook to his children, so when he finally embraces his old self, it's magical.

One of the most magical scenes Steven Spielberg has ever shot, however, is after the madness at the Lost Boys' resort. We see all of the Lost Boys reject Banning as Pan except one and this one says "There you are Peter". It is a beautifully shot scene and, well, watch it for yourself:
It is honestly, just great. The main reason why I wrote this article, however, was because I read this article by Travis Vogt. I'm not going to go and bash Vogt like Yafisz on Leadbeater, because Vogt places his opinion in a very clear and justifiable way. It's just that I need to show why Vogt's wrong about all of his pieces (except Julia Roberts, she was fucking terrible in the film). So, if you still want to, read on as I address Vogt's points.

1) It's Ugly - He says that it's not ugly because the set pieces are bad, but because of the excess used by Spielberg that he just "wears himself thin" or something to that accord. It's hard to argue against that point because that is just pure opinion. The Never Neverland that Peter is thrust into is different and seems to be an attraction in front of Pirates of the Caribbean at DisneyLand Paris rather than be in a Peter Pan flick. That's why it works. It's symbolic value to the film is great and add the fact that it does what no filmmaker, even Spielberg himself does nowaday, pay value to the actual set and design just makes me appreciate it even more.

2) Bad Acting - He says Robin Williams was bad as Peter Pan, which he would have been... but as Peter Banning, he was terrific. I agree on the Julia Roberts part, there's no getting past that... but it's ironic because the scene I used above to show how beautiful this film is, Vogt uses to show how bad Robin Williams is. Except, Vogt doesn't spend a lot of time explaining why he thinks Williams is bad. I mean Williams is good because of the expressions and subtle hints of disbelief and shock you see in him throughout the film. Vogt just says he's bad and spends three paragraphs talking about child actors.

3) Lawyer Jokes - He's angry because lawyers are the exact opposite of Peter Pan. True, but Peter Pan was good natured; Peter Banning is a pirate who represents Hook more than the pirate himself. This is just a pet peeve of his, it seems, so no point in pressing this further.

4) Annoying Kids - The kids in this film are annoying, but their annoying in every film and in this one it feels justifiable. Look, yes Banning is working to put food on the table for his children... but that doesn't excuse making false promises and claiming your "word to be your bond". It just adds to the symbolic value of Peter the Pirate, Hook the Second and it seems Vogt feels personally about this one, so perhaps it has something else to do with rather than his hate for the film...

5) Spielberg's thoughts - I've addressed this above.

6) Fuck Peter Pan - Again, this is a personal analysis of his and he addresses Barrie's dark undertones and secret facts that everybody knows, but nobody talks about. Look, he calls Spielberg out on once claiming to have Peter Pan syndrome. Great, I don't really know what point this guy is trying to make here but this bashes Peter Pan as a whole rather than Hook as a film. Why is Peter Pan relevant, though? Because he doesn't grow up. He gets to do what we all want to do and yes, a part of us resents him for it, but a larger part of us love shim for it. He makes these points on how Spielberg's a megalomaniac and Michael Jackson wouldn't like Never Neverland if he worked at a steel mill. First of all megalomania is a mental illness called Narcissistic Personality Disorder so fuck you and maybe the Jackson point is justified... but still... I have a feeling that this guy feels a lot more personally about this guy than some people. So he falls in the resents Pan for not growing up category. I'm not going to argue against his opinion, but I will justify mine.

7) Paige interview - He gets a friend of his to explain why people have warm feelings towards the film. I didn't see the movie until after it came out, at least ten years after if not more. Look, I could go on and on but...

This is a guy trying to impose his personal belief as fact. Fact trumps opinion. Opinion can never be fact unless opinion agrees with fact. Fact is, Hook is a gorgeous good film that has it's well deserved haters. His opinion is, Hook is a pile of shit. To him that is true, but in fact, it is not. Thanks for reading this long post, but I needed to talk about it.

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