Hook Should Have Been The End Of Peter Pan Movies

Hook was the last Peter Pan movie to have an original take on the story and there should be a moratorium on the character until there's a new one.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

robin williams hook dustin hoffman

The entire idea of Peter Pan is that he will never grow old, never stop being a mischievous boy, never have any end to his wild adventures. For nearly a century, this has proved irresistible to film studios, who have churned out movies based on J.M. Barrie’s most famous creation, hoping to never have any end to box office grosses. The 1991 Steven Spielberg film Hook, which starred Robin Williams as a grown Peter Pan turned corporate lawyer, is the only film to do anything of note with the story in decades and should serve as the logical endpoint to films about the boy who refused to grow up.

peter pan
Peter Pan (1953)

Of course, it hasn’t. In the last decade alone, there have been three different live-action feature films based on Peter Pan, not to mention two live-action television movies, innumerable episodes of shows like Once Upon a Time, cartoons, and whatever that live televised musical that starred Christopher Walken was. All of them can be divided into three basic camps: retelling the basic Disney story, an unnecessary origin story, or doing the least imaginative thing possible and asking, what if the good guy was actually a bad guy (see: Zack Snyder re: Superman)?

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Peter Pan (2003)

Hook is the only Peter Pan movie in literally 99 years to actually have a new idea about the character: what if he grew up? For all of the faults of the movie (of which there are many, we’ll get into it), it cannot be argued that this is a take that no one else had dared tackle and that no one has done better since. If you can’t come up with a new story, why keep telling it? If you can’t even look forward from the narrative, but have to keep returning to the starting point and “reimagining” it, what’s the point?

Pan (2015)

It goes without saying that Peter Pan is one of the world’s most recognizable intellectual properties and thanks to the vagaries of both U.S. and U.K. copyright law, extremely profitable. David Lowery is releasing Peter Pan & Wendy later this year, directly adapting the same story as Disney did all the way back in 1953, just with Jude Law this time. Next year, we’re getting Peter Pan: Neverland Nightmare from the same people that turned Winnie the Pooh into a slasher film, which is about as creative as we can get these days.

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Peter Pan & Wendy (2023)

Steven Spielberg himself is not particularly fond of Hook, largely viewing it as both overproduced and underimagined, the result of his own insecurities. It cannot be denied that the best part of the film is the opening sequence, in which we see the agitated, distant father of a corporate raider that Peter Pan has become. While Robin Williams was rightly acclaimed for his dramatic chops in movies like Good Will Hunting and World’s Greatest Dad, the first act of Hook allowed him to play the most out-of-character he ever would, as an unlikeable, uncharismatic jerk. 

Along with Robin Williams, Hook gave us bravura performances from an unrecognizable Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook (who manages to be both a living cartoon and genuinely frightening at times) and Bob Hoskins as Smee. It cannot be overstated how much the star of Super Mario Bros. was able to take what was basically a background character who happened to have a name and turn him into an actually compelling little schemer of a character who clearly has some kind of strange, co-dependent relationship with his captain.

peter pan

Hook has its flaws, without question. For a movie that cost $70 million and stars some of the biggest stars of the 1990s, it feels remarkably small, like Neverland is basically just a cramped Lost Boys set and a pirate ship. It can be charitably said that Julia Roberts was miscast as Tinkerbell, though some of that might have been the reported friction between her and Spielberg. Once Williams fully gets his mojo back and is flying around in an adult-sized Halloween costume, both he and Spielberg are indulging in their most maudlin tendencies.

But until filmmakers can come up with a better idea for Peter Pan than “he’s actually been evil the whole time!” or “you’ve never seen his origin story like this!”, Hook should be the last we hear of him. Just because the boy refuses to grow up doesn’t mean we haven’t grown past him.