Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton.
What do you think of when you hear the name Martin Scorsese? Dark, dramatic, violent, crime movies. Those are his bread and butter genres, what he’s made his living out of, and it’s been a very good life for him so far. With 5 nominations and 1 win for Best Achievement in Directing from the Academy Awards, Scorsese has been one of the most decorated and successful directors of all time. So it came as a shock to me and most of the rest of the world when we found out that his next film would be a family adventure film made in 3D. I can’t lie, it sounded a bit strange and off-putting. But despite my less than positive assumptions, the reviews for this movie put it as one of Scorsese’s best films yet.
Based on the book by Brian Selznick, the movie starts with a train station panning scene that makes me dream of owning a 3D television. The first couple minutes, along with many other scenes throughout the movie, are dazzling, and make me seriously regret not seeing this film in IMAX 3D. I can only imagine how much better it would have been, and this might be the first time I’ve ever said that about a film. Watching it in non-3D is a little strange, as there are clearly animations and camera movements only used to take advantage of 3D, but to the average movie-viewer, it probably won’t bother you.
We are first introduced to Hugo, played by Asa Butterfield [The Boy in the Striped Pajamas], a young boy living in the depths of the walls of a Paris train station in the 1930’s after his father, Jude Law [Enemy at the Gates] dies in a fire. He spends his time stealing small mechanical odds and ends to work on automaton, a wind up humanoid figure that can writes a message when working. While dodging the watchful eye of the quirky Station Inspector, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen [Ali G, Borat], he spies a part he needs, but is caught by stern shop owner Georges Méliès, played by Ben Kingsely [Schindler’s List, Gandhi]. Méliès confiscates some parts and a notebook, which was Hugo’s father’s, which contained the information on how to fix the automaton. With a little help from Méliès’ goddaughter Isabelle, played by Chloe Moretz [Let Me In, Kick-Ass], Hugo is able to start working for Méliès to earn his notebook back. When it turns out that Isabelle has the key to wind up and operate the automaton, they set off on an adventure to figure out the secrets it has to tell.
Once you get into the story, it’s a bit more understandable as to why Scorsese did this movie. George Méliès, if you didn’t know, was one of the first filmmakers ever. There is a lot of history in this movie.It’s really cool to see a portrayal of such times as a big movie fan, even though I knew a lot of this history already.
The movie’s story, while fun and charming, is not anything that great to me. It’s nothing new, the high’s of it aren’t that high, and the low’s not very low. It was all put together very well, which is not surprising from Scorsese, but I don’t agree with all of the high praise that other critics have given it. Many have called it heartfelt and a very intimate story for Scorsese, but I didn’t see any real heart or ‘oomph’ in it. If it wasn’t done by Scorsese, I fear it would have passed by without much notice or praise.
3/4 – Hugo, with unique, bright, and colorful visuals and a family story, is something new from Martin Scorsese. While it hits in some areas, the story slightly misses it’s target. The overall film falls short of great, but is still an enjoyable viewing.