Collector's Edition

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Details At A Glance

Category Family Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Rating Other Trailer(s) Yes, 3 - Other Theatrical Trailers
Year Released 1991 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 136:04 minutes Other Extras Biographies - Cast and Crew
Featurette - Making Of (6:49)
Gallery - Alternate Ad Campaigns
Gallery - Costume Design
Gallery - Production and Set Design
Game - The Lost Treasure
Menu Animation and Audio
Scene Selection Animation
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (65:41)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Steven Spielberg
Tristar Films
Columbia TriStar Home Video
Starring Dustin Hoffman
Robin Williams
Julia Roberts
Bob Hoskins
Maggie Smith
Case Brackley
RRP $39.95 Music John Williams

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement Yes, yet another defunct airline
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Yes folks, the name is indeed correct. Okay, it may not be ET or Raiders of The Lost Ark or Close Encounters of The Third Kind, but Steven Spielberg finally makes a directorial return to the release sheets in Region 4 - and not before time either. Of course, it does beg the question that if Columbia TriStar are going to release a Steven Spielberg film in Region 4, which one should it be? Frankly, Close Encounters of The Third Kind should surely be the choice? Still, let us be a little charitable and acknowledge the fact that we do finally have another Steven Spielberg film to enjoy, and perhaps look at it as being a harbinger of better things to come. Something like starting in the basement and working your way up to the penthouse. For I feel that few would deny that this was ultimately not one of Steven Spielberg's better efforts, even though I do not consider this to be as bad as many critics have made it out to be. Coincidentally, this arrived for review the day after I had indulged in the Peter Pan DVD from Region 1, so the original basis of the film was very clear in the mind, and there is no doubt that Steven Spielberg was faithful in the use of the original story as the basis of this "what if".

    And contrary to popular misconception, this is not another Peter Pan film. This is very much a "what if" film, based upon the premise of what would happen to a Peter Pan, so heavily dependent upon "never growing old", if he were to grow old and forget his past. It makes an interesting contrast to the oft-repeated Peter Pan story.

    Peter Banning (Robin Williams) is an obviously successful businessman, specializing in corporate hit and run raids it seems. In a depressingly common situation, he is slowly alienating his lovely wife Moira (Caroline Goodall) and children, due to his increasing obsession with his work. He also seems to be slowly forgetting his roots as an orphan, saved by Granny Wendy (Maggie Smith), the grandmother of his wife. So when he returns to England with his family to attend the dedication of a new wing at a children's hospital in Wendy's honour, he seems to be less focused on family than he should be. But he is shocked out of his monomania by the kidnapping of his children, by none other than Captain James Hook (Dustin Hoffman), and even more shocked when Wendy forces him to understand that he is actually the Peter Pan and that he has to go after the children. Slowly getting pickled on some alcoholic sustenance, he is further forced to confront his past when Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) arrives to drag him off to Never Neverland. No mean task for a guy who has forgotten everything about how he used to fly and why he did it anyway. Suffice it to say, he heads off to Never Neverland where the inevitable (less than successful) rekindling of relationships with Captain Hook and The Lost Boys takes place, with Tinkerbell and The Lost Boys taking on the task of trying to get Peter to remember everything about his past so that we can have the climatic battle between good and bad.

    As long as one approaches the film not expecting a retelling of the classic Peter Pan story, then I have always felt that this was a decent piece of family fun, mixed with a decent dollop of good old family values. To return to it on DVD in all its widescreen glory is a delight after years of surviving on a rather mediocre VHS tape. There is obvious enthusiasm for the project from all concerned here, as the film moves along at a quite decent pace, despite its two hour plus length. The story could perhaps have been aided by a little judicious pruning here and there, but the cast have done a commendable job with what they were given to work with. Robin Williams is his usual sterlingly reliable self in the lead role, without going over the top - which would have been quite easy to do methinks. I have always found this a rather refreshingly different performance from Dustin Hoffman (he copped a Golden Globe nomination for it) and for some reason find him completely convincing as the Hook trying to recapture something that has long gone. The less said about Julia Roberts here the better, although it must have been difficult in a role where basically you would have been doing everything solo for insertion later into a shot. The highlight for me though is Bob Hoskins. Obviously the film is heavily based upon effects work at times, and to be honest the work is showing up its age a little now. However, it remains a rather decent piece of effects work overall. The scope of the design of the film can best be gauged by the five Oscar nominations the film copped in 1991 - Best Art Direction-Set Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Effects-Visual Effects, Best Make-Up and Best Song. Whilst it ultimately failed to collect a single one (mutterings of anti-Spielberg bias again by the Academy were heard), the quality is there to be seen. I return to the film with a lot of fondness and rather enjoyed the experience and I certainly believe this to be better than the 5.8 out of 10 that it currently rates on the Internet Movie Database.

    Looking for interesting little cameo roles? Well everyone knows about Glenn Close (you do remember that, don't you?) and Phil Collins, but how many of you remember the appearance of a certain Gwyneth Paltrow? I have to admit, I had forgotten that she was in this film. And the coolest thing about the DVD? That Amblin Entertainment logo at the end of the credits - may we see a heck of a lot more of it on Region 4 DVDs soon!

Transfer Quality


    Another Columbia TriStar DVD transfer, so we can go down the usual road of trotting out the usual platitudes. Sorry, but they do in general do it better and more consistently than just about everyone.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and as is standard from this source, is 16x9 enhanced. Without wishing to resort to bashing, I do wish other companies were as committed to something as simple as 16x9 enhancement as Columbia TriStar are. We will appreciate it in five years time when we start to indulge in those widescreen digital televisions.

    This was filmed anamorphically so I was sort of expecting the usual superbly sharp and stunningly defined transfers that such cinematography seems to produce. In that respect, I have to say that I am a little disappointed and at times I found this to be a lot softer than usual for such efforts. Part of the reason will be of course that this is nine years old and not exactly a sparklingly new transfer, and part of the reason will be the fact that some of the film was intended to be rather softer in focus (notably whenever Tinkerbell appears on screen). Still, despite the odd reservation here and there, this is indeed quite a sharp transfer if lacking the ultimate in definition. Shadow detail is generally good throughout, although again not quite up to the standards of a more recent film. There did not appear to be any problems with low level noise in the transfer.

    This is not the ultimate in vibrant transfers, and some attempt to deliberately play down the colours away from Never Neverland seems to have been employed. However, in general this is a very nicely rendered palette with just the right sort of primary colour vibrancy when required (the Lost Boys food fight for instance). The overall effect is entirely natural, if you can understand that in a totally fabricated world, and quite believable. It just lacks the real wow factor that perhaps I was expecting, given the nature of the film.

   There were no apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There were no apparent film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. There were film artefacts throughout the film, but nothing that was remotely distracting and really for a nine year old film this is very clean indeed.

    This is an RSDL format disc with the layer change coming at 65:41. It is as good a place as any other I suppose but it was just a little too noticeable for my taste, even though it did not disrupt the film in any real way.


   The audio transfer is a Dolby Digital 5.1 effort that frankly I found a little underwhelming. Nothing seriously wrong with it, but perhaps I was expecting a little more body to the sound than what we actually end up with.

   There are three audio tracks on the DVD, all being Dolby Digital 5.1 efforts: English, French and German. I listened to the default English soundtrack.

   The dialogue is generally clear and easy to understand throughout.

   There did not appear to be any audio sync problems with the transfer.

   The musical score comes from the master of the past twenty years in John Williams, and it is another typical effort from the master. Nothing too overtly noticeable but always ready to support the film. Not a stridently brilliantly effort like say Star Wars either, but nice enough to make most film music composers weep at the master's work.

   Where this soundtrack is underwhelming is in the surround and bass channels. Basically there was barely any activity at all through the bass channel, which was a little surprising as, even though the film is not an overt action effort, there were a few times that I would have expected the bass channel be used to complement the on-screen action. The main problem though is the lack of any real detail out of the rear channels, and this was certainly missed noticeably during the scenes in Never Neverland. There was plenty of scope for background ambient noise and yet there seemed to be none at all. The overall effect is that we have a 5.1 soundtrack that basically sounds like a 2.0 effort. It would seem that rather than go the whole hog and produce a proper 5.1 remaster, the original master has been tweaked into something that is a quasi-5.1 effort. I am no technical genius and don't know the full technicalities of audio remastering, but that is what it sounds like to me. The overall result is a sound picture that I do not find really convincing and it never really makes me feel a part of the film, but rather always a watcher. Apart from that, there is not too much to complain about as far as the sound goes.


    Well, this is not a Deluxe Collector's Edition, rather just a plain old ordinary Collector's Edition, but we have some decent extras here in quantity if not quality.


    Some extraordinarily extensive animation and audio enhancement here in all menus, with some nice animation linking between the menus. The overall effect is very good indeed, with some rather nicely impressive colours that ultimately are a little misleading apropos the film. The menus are not 16x9 enhanced, presented in a full frame format and have Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Possibly the only complaint here is that the initial animation leading to the main menu is quite lengthy (at least by menu standards), so if you lack patience in getting to the menu, you would be advised to indulge in the use of the skip button on your remote. Just be aware that if you are in the first subtitle menu, the arrow to the second subtitle menu is not the most obvious thing in the world.

Theatrical Trailer (1:59)

    A nice effort, presented in a full frame format, not 16x9 enhanced and presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, although this is starting to show its age a little. Contrast is a little off and the colours are not exactly vibrant, but I suppose that we do have to consider that it is nine years old.

Theatrical Trailers - Bicentennial Man (2:49), Muppets From Space (2:16) and Stuart Little (1:40)

    Okay, maybe we will have to get used to this rather blatant captive advertising, as this is the second such effort in three Columbia TriStar DVDs through my player. Still, when it involves Bicentennial Man, I am not complaining. Yes folks, it is coming to Region 4 DVD near you (and Michael, can I have it please? [Ed. Inducements aplenty will be required]). Technically speaking, this is of damn good quality and would rank as one of the better looking trailers I have seen on DVD. The only problem is that if you decide to scan through the trailer, the picture develops a rather nasty wobble after the scan is over (a similar lack of stability was noted during the game also included in the package). The other two trailers are repeats from those found on The Adventures of Elmo In Grouchland, apart from the fact that this time they are not in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Still, it must be doing its job well as I definitely want that most anticipated of releases, Muppets From Space, whilst the exposure to the Stuart Little trailer is also piquing my interest. All three trailers are presented in a full frame format and are not 16x9 enhanced, with consistent use of Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Making Of (6:49)

    An earlier effort in the now prototypical short promotional film, taking the trailer and extracts from the film and interspersing them with interview extracts from the main cast members and some minimal behind the scenes footage. Really hardly worthwhile in my view, and technically the quality is nothing more than average. Presented in a full frame format, not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Game - The Lost Treasure

    Don't worry, you do not need anything special to play it, just your DVD remote control. Go in search of three pieces of treasure hidden on Treasure Island and be rewarded with a surprise beyond your wildest dreams - well at least that is what is claimed in the introductory menu. After a frustrating half an hour or so playing the game several times and collecting all the treasure trove several times, I am still none the wiser as to what the surprise beyond my wildest dreams is and how the heck you get it. Perhaps I am too old to understand how these things work - there are zero instructions by the way to give a real clue as to how to finish the game - and the younger generation will have all revealed to them in about thirty seconds flat. A nice concept although the execution is probably not the best and in the end I found it a little too frustrating. You should also be aware that this displays the same sort of image instability at times as the trailer did.


    The three of them are quite similar in style, comprising a collection of stills, either drawings or photos, but with a difference. Whilst they still lack any annotation, these are animated and move from one to the next without any input from the remote, whilst being accompanied by music. Well at least it is a different presentation, even if they really are hardly worthwhile bothering to look at.

Biographies - Cast and Crew

R4 vs R1

    The Region 1 release is due out on 21st March, whilst this Region 4 release is due out in April. However, from the information on a couple of the US online retailers websites it would seem that the Region 1 release is a fairly plain jane effort with the theatrical trailer, cast and crew biographies and production notes. That being the case, even at the rather hefty asking price of $39.95, the Region 4 version would be the version of choice.


    Hook is a film that I enjoy and despite the minor quibbles about the audio, this is a nice release. Hopefully a harbinger of more Spielberg to come.

    A very good video transfer.

    A good audio transfer.

    A decent enough bunch of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
18th March 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL