Martin Scorsese taking on a kid’s film? Is it a departure from greatness or just a cleaver ruse?
Hugo is at times both fantasy film and history lesson. Thankfully, it can never be considered a departure from the excellence we’ve expected from Scorsese through the years. Hugo enchants with it’s excellent use of 3D and story that is more than the sum of it’s parts.
Hugo is based upon the Brian Selznick novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The story follows Hugo (Asa Butterfield) who lives in Paris train station after the death of his father. Hugo tries his best to survive on his own, resorting to stealing in order to feed himself. He also has a project of his own. Hugo’s father was working with Hugo on repairing a mechanical man. Hugo believes the mechanical man may have one last message for him from his father.
Hugo ends up stealing from the wrong man. Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley) is on to the young boy’s stealing ways and sets a trap for him. Méliès takes Hugo’s notebook in order to teach the boy a lesson about losing ones possessions. Méliès finds something in that notebook that terrifies him greatly.
Throughout the film, Hugo will meet many more characters. The most notable are Isabella (Chloë Grace Moretz) who is the grand-daughter of Méliès. She befriends Hugo and helps him along his journey to fix the mechanical man. Her character is incredibly intelligent, she knows it to since she’ll just show off her vocabulary any chance she gets. The other catalyst for this story is the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). After being injured in the last great war, no one would give him an opportunity for work. He takes his job as Station Inspector way to seriously because he is aware of the opportunity he has been given. At times the performance can be grating since it relies so much on slapstick, but with the film being as heavy as it, the comedy is mostly warranted.
For a family film, Hugo can get dark at times. The mechanical man in general is kind of unsettling, but there are also moments that deal with out of reality events that can be frightening. That being said, the film has enough heart to overcome any fantastical scares that might keep you away.
[spoiler]Martin Scorsese pulls a trick out of his hat. Not familiar with the original work, I never knew it was a love letter to silent film. Georges Méliès was in fact a story teller in his own right, directing hundreds of works. Scorsese uses 3D to enter this era and it is a beautiful to behold. In the current era events of the film, Scorsese uses the classic period pieces ideas and updates them for the 3D era. What worked then, still works today, and 3D is just the next iteration. Scorsese has discovered and mastered the use of 3D in one film.[/spoiler]
Hugo is definitely more than the some of it’s parts. What turns out to be a chase story with fantasy elements, turns out to be so much more. While I think the film will play better to film lovers, there’s something to enjoy here for everyone. I highly recommend seeking out the 3D version of the film to accurately see Hugo. Scorsese went back to the past to show how 3D should be done going forward.
4.5 Hearts / 5