Like the rest of the world, I’ve been deeply saddened by the recent death of Robin Williams, and have felt compelled to memorialize him in some way.
Last Monday after hearing about his death, some friends and I were talking about his films that have impacted us in one way or another, and as we named film after film, opening ourselves up to the emotions they each evoke, I had a feeling Netflix would be maxing out that night.
It’s unlikely that anyone reading this knew Robin Williams, and even those closest to him could never fully know his inner world, but those of us who have felt a little more hollow over this past week know one thing: his presence on screen had the power to touch our souls.
And so, this weekend Kyle and I joined the ranks of millions of others live-streaming Hook on Netflix on a pilgrimage of remembrance in honor of one whom we simply cannot let go. And while it brought back all of the warm, fuzzy feelings that a 90s-era children’s movie is guaranteed to do, I found myself astonished at the brilliance of the whole story in ways that I had never before noticed. (Truly—I was so impassioned that I wanted to write a paper about it. Didn’t I finish graduate school two years ago?)
Apparently it didn’t receive much critical acclaim when it came out in 1991, but if the famed mythologist Joseph Campbell had still been alive at the time, I guarantee you he would’ve given it a standing ovation. The archetypal themes of the Hero’s Journey in Hook are loud and clear, and pilgrim—if you watch closely, I have a feeling you’ll find an invitation for your own journey there, too.
As the movie begins, we meet Peter Banning, a man who can’t even sit through his daughter’s play (ironically about a not-so-unfamiliar story) without doing business on his cell phone (and check out that cell phone!). He’s too wrapped up in another world to notice his son’s desire and continues to make empty promises.
We soon find out that he has forgotten how to play and imagine, and has become too closed-off to express love. We also find out that he’s afraid to fly, which in the world of Peter Pan is no surprise, because he’s out of touch with any happy thought. (Naturally, he has no memory of being Peter Pan.)
He has, undoubtedly, lost his way.
In the inciting incident (the invitation in every journey), Hook kidnaps Peter’s children in an effort to lure Peter to a duel, and to be honest, I’m not even sure Peter would have found a way to go after his children if Tinker Bell wouldn’t have wrapped him up and flown him to Neverland herself. Once they arrive, Hook can’t even recognize Peter, and this “so-called Peter,” as Hook refers to him, doesn’t even have the capacity to rescue his children, resigning early, blinded by his own shame.
And so, Hook gives so-called Peter three days to prove himself—that is to say, three days to become Peter Pan once more. (Three days, people—do we think this is a coincidence?)
Over the next three days, Peter journeys toward remembrance with the prompting of Tink and the encouragement of the Lost Boys, who are as doubtful about Peter’s identity as Hook was at first. With each new challenge, Peter Banning journeys closer to his true identity as Peter Pan. (It’s the facing of our edges that always propels us toward growth, after all.) In moments both tender and provocative (signs that Peter is journeying closer to his heart and True Self), Peter remembers how to play, how to imagine, and how to love. And when he finally recovers his happy thought (being a father—directly related to the task at hand, no less), he remembers how to fly.
Three days later with his True Self restored (the moment of Resurrection just when it looks like evil has finally won?), Peter flies off to save his children from Captain Hook, who when faced with the real Peter Pan doesn’t stand a chance. Peter returns home from Neverland with his children and his recovered soul. And while Neverland is behind him, with his True Self restored, Peter knows a new journey has just begun.
“So… your adventures are over,” Granny Wendy says (Dame Maggie Smith, playing perfection, as always).
“Oh, no,” Peter responds. “To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure.”
Brilliant, right? I hope you’re feeling it, too. (If you’re still unsure, John Williams’ soundtrack will help push you over the edge.)
This journey portrayed by Robin Williams in Hook reminds me of a quote I’ve seen recently floating around on social media. The fact that no one seems to know where it comes from only contributes to its allure. Perhaps that’s because it’s real source is our True Selves, calling to us from deep within to remember.
Robin Williams’ role in Hook invites us on a journey of un-becoming. If we have eyes to see and ears to hear, the Divine is constantly beckoning us, calling us to awaken and remember.
And just like with Peter, there are many Sacred friends to help us along the way.
Who is your Hook? What calls you to fight? What is the fear that keeps you from your destiny—the one that always seems impossible to overcome in moments of doubt? What hidden invitation to Life and transformation lies within its threat?
Who is your Tinker Bell? Who insists that you remember, even when you have to be dragged kicking and screaming, and shares her fairy dust when you can’t think of a happy thought to make you fly?
Who are your Lost Boys? Who challenges you to be your best because they know you have it in you?
And what is your happy thought? What is the mantra you can return to each day of your journey, helping you to remember how to fly? What Truth calls you back, reminding you who you truly are?
Critics be damned—this movie isn’t just about scenery or block-buster hits or revisiting beloved fairytales. It’s about recovering the very essence of life.
The only question that remains is this: are you awake enough to follow its invitation?
What’s calling you on a journey of un-becoming? What beckons you to return to your True Self? Share your response to the question or the post in the comments.
(P.S.: Did anyone know Gwyneth Paltrow was in Hook?!)