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Hook

(Steven Spielberg, USA, 1991)


 


It is often said that film directors have one story – their unique, obsessive tale – which they tell over and over in many different forms. When Martin Scorsese made The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), he admitted that all his heroes were essentially crucified Christ figures. In a like fashion, Steven Spielberg could probably claim that all his previous protagonists have been stand-ins for Peter Pan – the boy who never grows up. And he has proved this by making the ultimate Spielberg movie: Hook.

The central idea of Hook is simple but quite brilliant. Peter Banning (Robin Williams) is a typically harried, alienated corporate man of modern times. He ignores his family, and is completely out of touch with his own feelings. Reluctantly journeying to England to visit Granny Wendy (Maggie Smith), the wise old woman who adopted and raised him as a child, he discovers one night that his children have been kidnapped. The culprit's note is signed Captain Hook.

So Wendy must tell the Peter the truth – that he is, indeed, Peter Pan, the only person with the power to travel to Neverland and rescue his children. This parallel world has all the same characters immortalised by J.M. Barrie – Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts), the Lost Boys, and especially the twisted genius Hook (Dustin Hoffman), out for a rematch with Pan.

Spielberg has always celebrated regression – the need for the jaded citizens of the contemporary world to immerse themselves in childhood in order to recover their lost innocence. Although this vision has been unfashionable for several years, Hook succeeds because it gives the idea a New Age twist. It resonates especially with the brand of men's liberation now sweeping the Western world. Peter Banning becomes a fully potent male – and a beloved father figure – once he retrieves his fabulous, primal origins as Pan.

No matter what one thinks of these attitudes, it is hard not to be won over by Hook. It is classy entertainment in every way, from a filmmaker who, like his hero, has on this occasion refound his power as a popular artist.

MORE Spielberg: Catch Me If You Can, The Color Purple, The Lost World, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, The Terminal

© Adrian Martin March 1992


Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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