Hook - What Is Grown Up?

Thoughts On: Hook

The kind of sequel to the 1953 Peter Pan where Peter has grown up and left Neverland.

Ok, before we start, I absolutely love this film. I know there are some who don't, but whatever. I love this film because I watched it as a kid. No, it's not flawless, but neither is Star Wars. I never saw Star Wars until I was a teen and, yeah... meh. So I know why I love this film so much. But, I've rewatched it throughout the years and whilst it's lost some of its magic and I see its flaws, I've also grown to see its more philosophical side. Before anyone gripes, shut up. All films have a philosophical side. Art comes from ideas - an artist's philosophies. With Hook comes something inherent to all Spielberg films - his tone and philosophies. And, yes, all films have the philosophical side, no, you don't have to care about them. That doesn't mean they're not there--getting kind of philosophical already, Schroedinger's cat and all--is the philosophical there, not there, or everywhere at the same time? Anyway, preface over. This film is about a lie we all grow up to realise: adults don't exist. I'm sure you've heard that a millions times, but clichés are often clichés because they hold and irrevocable truth - too bad the packaging is sometimes annoying. As a kid we all look up to the giants around us and see them as invincible and all knowing. We grow up, we look down and we think: 'Oh, God, what am I going to do...'. One of the most surreal experiences I've ever had was volunteering for a work placement in a class of 6/7 year olds when I was 16. At that point I was still in school and to go from one day being taught to the next assisting in teaching was... anxiety inducing to say the least. The responsibility teachers hold had never clicked with me until I stood before 30 odd near babies completely dependant on me (well, kind of--I don't know how real teachers do it). In this recently enlightened state I could have watched Hook, watched the part where Peter first announces he's here to save his kids on Hook's ship. He demands them back, threatens with the law, tries to bribe, to buy his way out of trouble, but is just laughed at. He's made to climb, scale the ship's mast to get his children from a suspended net, dozens of feet off the ground, a horde of taunting pirates jeering below--all whilst he's scared of heights. Impossible. 'Come on, daddy, just reach out and touch our fingers and we can all go home. Ok?'... I could bawl just... streams of tears now, but back in my recently enlightened state?... yeah, no amount of chocolate, pillows or  a comfortable bed could rescue me.

This sad little picture I've just painted for you holds something so human and so honest I dare you to rewatch the film and not get it. Life is  big and scary. People are small and often afraid. But, at the same time we've got these little people about us, sure, utterly convinced, we are the big, scary ones. That's a truth I'm embarrassed to admit. You don't need kids to understand this. You just need to have been one and ask yourself how much you've changed. Here's a depressing game I like to play. It's called, what if you were alone? You stumble onto a bear in a forest. You have all your food taken away. All your money stolen. Your home burns to the ground. You fall into a river with a strong current. You're abandoned in a desert. You're given a baby. What do you do? Remember, there's absolutely no one around to help in any way shape or form. That means no friends, family, government, shops, Google. What do you do? Now, the question is rhetorical, mostly because everyone is a smartass and thinks they have all the answers because they've seen this documentary, this movie and that T.V show. Real life? You're screwed. Humbling, no? I hope it is. This is the primary purpose of the film and is exactly why it is called Hook.

Peter Pan was titled just so because it's about remaining a child.  Hook is Hook because of its more sinister undertones. This film, when unpacked, is tragically sad. Yes, it's about learning to be a kid again, but the juxtaposition between the real world and the fantasy is something imperative that if you don't watch, you just might miss the most valuable thing the film has to offer. In the beginning, reality is reality, filling the first act with let downs and short comings - such being life. The movement toward act 2 however has an enlightening experience like the one I told you about, but flipped. Instead of the kid realising he's never going to be an adult, the adult realises he's still a kid. This is the moment where Peter is told he's Peter Pan by Wendy. Now, that whole adult kid/kid adult bit might seem like the same thing, and you could argue the semantics, but to presume they are the same is to fall into the film's trap. There is no true happy ending. The movement into fantasy is our second act and is where the idea of an adult realising he's a kid is really set in. Peter Panning becomes Pan the Man... ERH-ER-ERH-ER-OOOOOOOOOOOHHHH!!! You have no idea of how stupid I look with this ridiculous smile on my face right now. Anyway, Pan, now the man (you see the contradictory irony?) fights Hook and... sorry... I hate! I hate!! I HATE PETER PAN!!!... I will forever love Dustin Hoffman for that. Forget I'M WALKING HERE! I'M WALKING HERE! Forget blame is for God, and small children. Forget the whole idea of Rain Man. I hate! I hate!! I HATE PETE PAN!!!... is where it's at! Anyway, enough of the shouting, Pan, now the man, fights Hook to get his children back, the whole crocodile bit, PG 13 war (that is kinda great) and oh no, Rufio... but, hooray! The mum gets her kids back and I'm nearly crying, nearly (I don't cry). Happy endings! But, wait. We jump back to reality at the end and there's that weird bit with Smee as a hobo or something (some kind of trash collector - I know). The film is reminding us here that it is a film, that fantasy is fantasy, that Peter's not really gone on a journey. To believe the delusional Peter that sweeps his kids up and leaves balcony windows unlocked is entirely all right and the message of the films is trust yourself as a kid and kids in general, well... no, don't do that.

What the film makes clear is that fantasy is pleasant, that childishness is fun, but that reality is where we live. To be swept away by the feel-good ending is to believe you are still a kid. Now, it may seem like this is my tone, but, I only said adults don't exist. To clarify, a child's concept of adult doesn't exist. People grow up, they do change, not much in the grand scheme, but they change nonetheless. If Peter remains so delusional as he is at the end of the film then someone's going to lose their job, have more kids, start a day care centre,  have a kid fall out of a window and end up divorced--or stuck in the plot of Antichrist... yeah, I shuddered too. Robin Williams in place of Willem Dafoe? Yeah, that'd ruin a whole load of films for me. Anyhow, I said the film is about Hook and I haven't mentioned him properly once, so, Hook is the central character of the film--more central than you can imagine. If Peter did end up divorced, consumed by fantasy, depressed, an adult aware of the truth that Neverland exists... uh-huh, he's going back. Hook is Peter Pan! Well, metaphorically--ish. Consumed by this idea that all adults are no more than children, but faced with the obvious fact that they're not really, well, you just might hate them. Maybe want to kill them, especially if your some psycho that's lost all he has by destroying the man he once was to get it all. The cyclic nature of the plot is kind of mind blowing, so I'll give you a moment, a break, a breath and a chance to mull things over...

Ultimately the film argues that kids can't be the adults they thought they could grow up to be. It furthers this, making it obvious that we shouldn't see ourselves as children, but embrace our naivety. After all, maybe the ending was a happy one. Maybe Peter only remained to ecstatic for a while before reverting to his old self, but with a better perspective, a softer, more playful idea of himself as a father. All in all, the film asks you how you would handle things, if you are a child in an adult's body or simply grown up enough to accept that you're merely human.

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