(We've also reviewed the movie on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray HERE.)
'Hook' was my family's movie growing up. Although we were dirt poor, my mother bought the VHS of it the week it was released because my old man was cooped-up in the hospital after knee surgery and all us kids were freaked out. As kids, we couldn't grasp that the operation was a routine non-life-threatening one. Visiting our dad in the grim hospital was made easier by looking forward to watching 'Hook' when we got home. I know it sounds shallow, but we were kids and that's how our minds functioned back then. 'Hook' was the perfect distraction. As soon as he came home, we watched it over and over again with him.
I cannot think of a modern sequel to a classic piece of literature and theatee that has ever worked and fit in as well with the source material as 'Hook,' the tale of what happened to Peter Pan after Wendy's story. In this Steven Spielberg-told tale, Peter is now a grown man with children of his own. Having been away from Neverland for too long, he has completely forgotten his real identity. He now lives in the U.S. and is far too involved in being lawyer to be a good father. Upon returning to London to visit "Grandma" Wendy, his children are kidnapped by Captain Hook in an attempt to lure Peter back for another epic battle. Since Peter remembers nothing of his childhood, he doesn't believe the wild nature of what's happened. In fact, Tinkerbell has to drag him back to Neverland and - even then - he doesn't believe it. 'Hook' is a wonderfully magical tale of the power of believing and making the inner child a major part of your adult life.
'Hook' is one of those rare films that wisps me away to my childhood. Twenty years later, now at the age of 31, certain moments still bring tears to my eyes. I cannot watch the little boy put his hands on Peter's face and say, "There you are, Peter," without welling up. I cannot watch the Lost Boys celebrate as Peter lands and caws with them after remembering how to fly without that same teary reaction. The collective group of filmmakers who put this film together did it with sweet perfection and a tender heart.
While some complain about the use of sets instead of setting 'Hook' in the grand scope that it "deserves," I, for one, believe sets are one of the best selling points for the film. It would have been hard to successfully give 'Hook' a grand scope in 1991, but the route they took worked in the same fashion as the musicals of old. Would you want to see old classics like 'White Christmas' not filmed on huge sets? No way. Those are iconic images from that movie and other classics like it. 'Hook' is the same way. The sets are just another element that make it a classic.
John Williams' score is from the classic school that rarely exists anymore - one with themes for characters, locations and a grand overture for the film itself. The specific themes have not only stayed with me over the last 20 years, but I watch my four-year-old daughter hum Captain Hook's while playing in her toy room. The Blu-ray case features a pull-quote from Gary Franklin's review saying 'Hook' is "a film that will entertain generations, generations from now." I can attest to that already being the case. When I told my daughter that I would be getting a "better" version of the movie within a few days, she asked if she could watch it with me and when I told her she could, for days she kept asking if today was the day. When it finally came and we sat down to watch it, having seen it a dozen times before, she still sat there pegged to the screen for all 142 magical minutes of it. When Peter remembered how to fly, she excitedly sat up and yelled, "It's time to fight!" When the Lost Boys showed up at Hook's ship and started fighting, she yelled, "They're awesome! They're awesome! They're awesome!" And just before Captain Hook met his mysterious fate, she exclaimed, "The crocodile! The crocodile! He's gonna eat Captain Hook!"
You seen, 'Hook' is already that multi-generational classic. Some families love 'E.T.'or 'The Princess Bride,' my family's movie - my parent's, my siblings' and my own small family's movie - is 'Hook.' Franklin's statement has already proven true. And now that 'Hook' is available in the glorious Blu-ray format, it's only going to prove stronger.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Hook' makes its way to Blu-ray on a Region-free BD-50 in a standard two-disc blue keepcase. For now, a DVD version of the movie is included with the Blu-ray. Beneath the discs, visible through the blue case, is an image of Captain Hook and Smee printed on the back of the cover art sheet. Upon inserting the disc, the only thing that plays before the main menu is a skippable Sony vanity reel.
Being such a huge fan of the film, I became extremely worried as the film began. The opening credits and title card were shaky, moving side-to-side on the screen. But once the film began, I realized the rest of the film's video quality was far from flawed. Presented in a nice and wide 2.40:1 aspect ratio with a wonderful 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 transfer, the Blu-ray is probably the best presentation of 'Hook' that we'll ever get.
A sticker on the packaging of the Blu-ray claims that this release was remastered specifically for Blu-ray. Not as reassuring as the "director approved" sticker, this at least offers the comfort of knowing that it's not just the Superbit release on a bigger, bluer disc.
If you've seen and studied 'Hook' as much as I have, you know that Spielberg shot the film somewhat softly, with lots of haze, fog, and glowing bright lights. While some scenes feature this directorial decision more than others, sharp definition is always visible - only more so during the non-hazy scenes. When Captain Hook discovers Peter on his ship for the first time, the set is filled with quite a bit of stage fog. But during one long take you can see the fog entirely drift out of the shot and the details get even sharper.
A light amount of grain dusts the entire film and only one shot features noticeable digital noise (when Peter realizes that he's flying in their burned-out old tree hideout). The print used for this transfer was almost perfectly cleaned. Less than ten shots feature occasional specks or scratches. The dirtiest shot in the film is the generic mid-flight exterior shot of the Pan Am airplane carrying Peter and his family to England.
Blacks are extremely deep. The second star to the right has never been surrounded by such a rich darkness. Shadows are well delineated and contain just as much detail within the shadow as they do outside. The colors are vibrant, bringing to life the blue-green sea as Peter falls from Hook's plank. Strands of multicolored mermaid hair show off the brilliant color palette in one simple shot.
Spielberg's Director of Photography likes to constantly rack focus throughout 'Hook,' causing some objects to briefly appear somewhat blurry and not in the sharpest detail. Keep in mind that this is not an error in the transfer, but one from the filmmaking stance.
With a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track in both English and French, 'Hook' has never sounded so great. John Williams' iconic score heavily fills the space and works together with Spielberg's direction to create a solid and unified tone.
The surround channels are used subtly to add dynamic life to the experience. Perfectly balanced with the music and dialogue are environmental channel-specific sounds - an elevator dinging and sliding open to the right, cheers from all around as grown-up orphans applaud Wendy at her party, Tink's fast wing-flapping buzzing around the room, a hoard of pirates chanting "Hook! Hook! Shows us the hook!" in all directions, et cetera. Low bass sounds are used mostly during intense sequences, be it through music or effects.
As great as the audio quality is, it isn't without a few flaws. The overall volume of the Master Audio track seems a little low, but it never affects the balance of vocals, music and effects. It's the entire track itself with the quiet volume, not the different layers of audio. Around the 24:20mark, a slight fast pop can be heard in the right channels. And at times the dialog comes across as mildly flat. Other than those few faults, this audio is track is superb.
'Hook' received the Blu-ray transfer that die-hard fans like me have been wanting, only without the special features that it deserves. Both the video and audio qualities are near perfect, making this a steal of a deal (especially considering its low price). Despite a few minor technical flaws and small could-be-better filmmaking decisions, 'Hook' is one catalog title that surely deserves to be in your collection.