Reviewing a bad movie that could’ve been better
Most people have seen Hook (1991) right? It might be the family movie you watch over the holidays or just something for Sunday afternoon streaming on Netflix. As the follow up to such a popular children’s story in Peter Pan Hook was always going to be popular. But there are many elements of the film that fall short. So what went wrong and why do so many people see Hook as a bad movie?
I’ve taken a look at some movies, like 1993’s Super Mario Bros and 2016’s Suicide Squad here before. Movies that were big budget and high concept that reached for the stars but instead crashed and burned in a major way. They weren’t just critical bombs and financial disappointments. They also torpedoed any chance at launching profitable franchises.
This time, I’m going to take a look at a movie that is in the similar vein: 1991’s Hook. If you’ve seen Hook, you may be raising an eyebrow at me grouping it with the previous movies in my series. Hook wasn’t an overbooked, wasted opportunity (Suicide Squad). Nor an absolute tap-dancing dumpster fire (Super Mario Bros). But given its potential it was so…disappointing.
So lets a flight to Neverland and take a look at the world of Hook. We’ll see what was good about it, what went wrong, and how it could have been better.
SPOILERS: Although this movie is almost 30 years old, there are some spoilers in places. So beware!
What worked and why it had so much potential
There was so much that could have happened with Hook, so much room for originality and creativity. It certainly wasn’t a financial flop, making $300 million off of a $70 million budget, and it was nominated for five Academy Awards. Not only that, it featured an intriguing concept: what would have happened had Peter Pan actually grown up? We’ve seen so many iterations of the Peter Pan tale over the years. Rarely had it dealt with speculative fiction of what might happen if The Boy Who Never Grew Up suddenly…grew up?
Other than the concept, one of the other strong aspects of Hook was the star power it brought to the table. There was star power both in front of the camera and behind it.
The movie starred some of the biggest and brightest stars in Hollywood at the time (though we’ll get more into this in a bit). Plus it had some very strong supporting cast members. At the helm was legendary director Steven Spielberg. A man with family movie experience in E.T and fresh off of directing the mega-successful Indiana Jones movies. He’d go on to direct another family movie Jurassic Park soon afterwards. So experience in this genre was not a problem.
In particular, among the strong supporting cast was Bob Hoskins (who would go on to star in Super Mario Bros of all things) as Smee. Hoskins did a masterful job of walking the line between over-the-top and silly while also being dramatic. Not only that, but the introduction of a noticeable-yet-subtle homosexual undertone to the Smee-Hook relationship was somewhat revolutionary for its time. Also strong was Dante Basco as Rufio, the tough but ultimately sympathetic leader of the Lost Boys who dies defending Peter’s honour. This act forces Peter’s son, Jack, to reconcile with his father and, in the end, the crocodile gets Captain Hook again.
Indeed, one of the stronger elements of the Hook movie is the way it deals with the dynamic of Peter Pan (now Peter Banning) as a father. He becomes the same kind of grown-up he always wanted to avoid. In one of the movie’s most iconic moments, he regains his ability to fly by remembering his happiest thought. He left Neverland and grew up because he wanted to be a father.
That scene…it still gets me all these years later.
So despite all this potential and star power, why isn’t Hook more well-loved? Why is it remembered as a movie with middling reviews at best? It holds an abysmal 29% on Rotten Tomatoes. And why was it not a game-changing work that could have started a franchise?
Well, let’s take a look…
What Went Wrong?
Earlier, I mentioned that Hook had a lot of star-power in its cast, so it shouldn’t be a bad movie, right? It was also directed by Spielberg in his prime. But as any chef can tell you, great ingredients don’t always make a great meal. And Hook was not a great meal.
The biggest issue of the movie was the casting of the two leads. Robin Williams played Peter Pan. Dustin Hoffman played Captain Hook. That’s 11 Academy Award Nominations and 3 wins right there (and Hoffman had just won an Oscar for Rain Man two years prior). Both were very capable actors in their primes. But they were cast incorrectly.
Williams was…fine?…as Peter Pan. He tamed his trademark wild energy at the time and focused it into a more serious role until the time called for it towards the end. But he was a bit too inconsistent in his role. Like in his other more dramatic roles (i.e. What Dreams May Come), his “serious” acting sometimes comes across as too syrupy and over-the-top. His portrayal of Peter Pan was almost too melodramatic and, when he finally crosses back over to the side of the Lost Boys, almost too cheesy for the role.
The real role for Williams in this movie was that of Captain Hook. If Williams would have been cast as Captain Hook, he could have unleashed his manic energy for a good purpose. Captain Hook is all about being over-the-top and theatrical, and Williams would have nailed that part. However, there is also a darker element to Hook’s character. Williams might have been able to match this dark element but it would have been unlikely. One thing is for sure, though: Dustin Hoffman was not right for the role of Captain Hook. Hoffman is a great actor of course. He has played iconic roles and earned both critical and popular acclaim. But his performance as Captain Hook was too bland for this movie. Everything in Hook was over-the-top, syrupy, fantastical, or melodramatic. Hoffman’s performance was just…there. It was fine. But it could have been a lot more.
Speaking of poor casting choices, let’s talk about Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell for a minute. Julia Roberts did not need to be in this movie. She was not good enough to blend into the role. A role which made Tinkerbell less a character and more a ploy to sell tickets (indeed, she was a year removed from her star-making role in Pretty Woman).
This was a movie about a beloved fictional character, framed around an intriguing narrative, directed by a beloved auteur in Steven Spielberg. In this way, Hook was a bad movie as it suffered from a similar problem as something like Suicide Squad now. People were always going to see this movie. It didn’t need a “Hollywood choice” like Julia Roberts to sell tickets. This was a chance to put a potential rising star in a breakout role. Instead, they took the movie star who – like her counterparts – didn’t really fit and was dealing with relationship troubles at the time.
That brings us to the final misfire from Hook, that being the direction of Spielberg. Spielberg’s movies, while loved, always had that overly emotional and melodramatic bent. But he didn’t bring anything original and interesting to this story. He just leaned on his typical tricks and did a cookie-cutter job in which could have been an intriguing narrative. It had the stirring score by John Williams. Then it had the father-son dynamic that so many Spielberg movies have. It had big special effects and bright colours. But it didn’t have any real originality or charm. And I’m not the only one who thinks so: Spielberg himself notoriously disliked Hook, even though fans have taken more of a liking to it in recent years.
How Hook could have been better?
So with all of that in mind, how could Hook have been done better? How could it have become a classic of the fairytale and fantasy genre that it could have been?
The first step would have been to figure out the correct casting choice. So who would have been a better Peter Pan? You could convince me that Williams could have made Peter work if given a better Captain Hook to play off. In fact, one fascinating choice could have been to have Robin Williams play both Peter Pan and Captain Hook. It would have taken some editing trickery, of course. But to have him unleash all of the different facets of his personality and acting chops would have made for an interesting ride.
However, there could have been other choices to play Peter Pan that likely would have been more intriguing than Williams. The two that stand out the most are Rick Moranis and Tom Hanks. Both Moranis and Hanks had an everyman charm that would have gone over well with audiences and would have made them endearing as Peter Pan. Rick Moranis had recently finished filming the underrated Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. In which he played a goofball but well-meaning dad who ends up saving the day (sound familiar?). This same charm would have played well in Hook as Peter Pan, though having him play the stuck-up version of Peter Banning might have been tricky.
At this time Tom Hanks would have been a perfect choice for Peter Pan. He’d just recently finished starring in his breakout role in Big, where he played an actual boy trapped in a grown-up’s body. He had (and still has) that boyish and loveable charm that would have resonated with audiences as Peter Pan. He had not yet become the megastar he would develop into (Hook came out in 1991, and he didn’t win his back-to-back Oscars until 1994 & 1995). Tom Hanks wouldn’t have overpowered the role with his celebrity star power like Robin Williams did to a degree. With Hanks – or Moranis – in the role of Peter Pan, the character would have been more emotionally resonant and not as campy as Williams made it.
But what about the role of Captain Hook in this movie? Hook’s role is one that needed to be over-the-top and chew all the scenery. As we have discussed, Hoffman did not accomplish that task. But who could have done that effectively? We would need someone who was a quality actor that could handle any role. Plus, we would need someone who could be funny, but more to the point someone who could be sinister and threatening. We would also need someone who wouldn’t overpower the role with obvious celebrity star power.
That’s quite a lot of criteria to meet. But, the best choice for an actor that ticks all the boxes is the man who won the Academy Award for Best Actor the year before Hook was released: Jeremy Irons. Irons has made a career of playing the threatening, brilliant villain. He is always the highlight of the movie he is in, but he never overpowers it. In fact, he could have blended in with any of the actors for Peter Pan, whether it be Williams himself or even Moranis or Hanks.
The other thing that could have improved Hook? Let the story speak for itself. The way Hook was set up, it was a story about Peter Pan growing up, forgetting his roots, and ultimately redeeming himself. There was no need for nonsensical special effects or melodrama. The story will create the drama and the pathos; let the actors and the script do the rest. Indeed, a major issue with the original version of Hook is the fact that it really tried to pack too much into the film. It’s already a good story. Just let it tell itself.
Thanks for reading our review of Hook (1991). Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
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Read IMDB information on Hook HERE.
Hogwarts Houses For MCU Characters
Since its conception, Hogwarts houses have been a deciding factor in getting to know people. How someone answers “what Hogwarts house are you in?” can tell you a lot about a person. But where do some of our favourite MCU characters shape up when faced with the sorting hat?
Tony Stark/Iron Man- Ravenclaw
While Tony could be argued for almost any of the houses, Ravenclaw suits him best. Most of his development comes from the pursuit of knowledge. Aside from being one of the smartest characters in the MCU, he is constantly learning and improving upon his technology. He tends to approach large problems from a strategic and pragmatic standpoint, especially in his later films. Admittedly he can be brave and somewhat self-servingly ambitious. But who he is at the end of his arc and the way that he solves problems points to Iron Man being in Ravenclaw.
Steve Rogers/Captain America- Gryffindor
Is it even a question? Steve Rogers is definitely a Gryffindor. From day one, he has always strived to do what’s right. And he subtly wants a bit of glory for it too. He’s a natural leader and has always rushed into danger without a thought. He is undoubtedly driven by bravery and righteousness and is through and through a Gryffindor.
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow- Hufflepuff
Natasha is tricky. She could truthfully swing in any direction. It may seem strange to put a spy in Hufflepuff, but if nothing else, Natasha is loyal. She cares deeply for those close to her and has shown that she’s willing to die for them. Her characterization throughout the MCU has been lacking, but her solo film has shown her to be fiercely loyal.
Bruce Banner/The Hulk- Ravenclaw
Another Ravenclaw. Similar to Tony, Bruce is very intelligent. While he seems to be less inclined to want to fight battles than Tony is, he is constantly learning. His relationship with the Hulk can even be characterized this way. By a desire to learn how to control him, then to understand him, then to become him. His arc is one that is driven by knowledge.
Thor is always looking to prove himself. Even though he can lift the hammer, he is constantly looking for validation that he is worthy. He’s not usually afraid of much, and when he is, he faces it anyway. What makes Thor a Gryffindor though is his desire to be the hero. He’s not in Slytherin because he doesn’t desire to rule. He’s not ambitious, he just wants validation.
Peter Parker/Spiderman- Gryffindor
Peter is another hard one. He’s intelligent like Bruce and Tony, which could throw him into Ravenclaw. He’s loyal to his friends, which could put him into Hufflepuff. But at his core, Peter is in Gryffindor. The proof is in one of his first lines in the MCU. In Civil War, he tells Tony, “if you can do the things I do, and you don’t, then bad things happen because of you. (paraphrased)” He feels that because he’s special, he has to act. And unlike Steve and Thor, Peter is almost always afraid. He faces his challenges in spite of that. And while he wants to have a normal life, and a typical High School experience, he selflessly puts himself on the line. Once again, Peter is not looking for recognition, he’s just trying to do the right thing.
Dr Strange- Ravenclaw
Lots of Ravenclaws in the MCU. For Dr Strange, there really isn’t any other option. He is completely driven by the pursuit of knowledge. And while recognition came with that, we see with his journey into the mystic arts that his true motivation comes from learning. He’s a very similar character to Tony Stark, and both of them are textbook Ravenclaws.
Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch- Hufflepuff
Like Natasha, Wanda is driven by her relationships. She is faithfully loyal to her brother, then Vision, then her family. She is definitely motivated to protect and care for those she loves. Including creating an entire alternate reality to be with them! Wanda is brave and intelligent, but at her core, she is loyal.
Finally, a Slytherin. Once again, was there any other option? Loki is characterized by his cunning and ambition. He wants to rule. And he doesn’t get there by rushing into battle. He gets there by being sneaky and clever. Loki is a Slytherin through and through.
Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel- Slytherin
This may not feel like the obvious choice for Carol, but she definitely portrays characteristics of a Slytherin. She’s the best, and she wants people to know it. She’s confident and clever, and she likes attention. We don’t know her very well yet, but from what we’ve seen, she seems to relish in the attention her efforts provide. She is good, helpful, and ambitious.
T’Challa/Black Panther- Hufflepuff
T’Challa is also driven by loyalty. But while he is protective of those he loves, his true loyalty is to Wakanda. He’s not king because of ambition, he’s king out of duty. Everything he does is through the lens of “what is best for Wakanda?” While it’s a bit unconventional, his loyalty to Wakanda characterizes him as a Hufflepuff.
Scott Lang/Ant-Man- Gryffindor
At first, it appears that Scott would be in Hufflepuff. After all, he is very motivated by his relationship with his daughter. But if he were truly 100% driven by that, he would have made different choices. He would not have betrayed Hope and Hank and teamed up with Captain America without their permission. He also would not have stolen from his company and landed in jail in the first place. But both of those above decisions do characterize him as a Gryffindor. He wants to be in the action, and he doesn’t always consider the consequences. Scott isn’t really looking for recognition and is not that ambitious, but he does want to be involved in the big events. He wants to help people, and he bravely faces battles. Sometimes without discretion.
Do you agree with our picks for these MCU characters in Hogwarts Houses? If not or if we’ve missed any out, leave us a comment below.
Check out our review of Black Widow HERE.
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