Hugo is based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. The titular Hugo Cabret is an orphan who lives in a 1930's Paris train station maintaining the clocks. He has an automaton, a mechanized human whose function is to write, that is in need of repair. He needs a key to activate it and hopefully find a message from his deceased father which will really get the adventure going.
And yet it doesn't. As far as films go, there is no "grand adventure". There is no epic battle against an evil force, there is no magic or ancient artifact that must be rescued. There is simply a device that gets fixed, a simple fact learned, and a conflict that needs to be resolved. That is what makes this film so great. It is very straight forward and does not attempt to add any extra bells or whistles. Sure, the advertisements make it seem more fantastic to draw in that family crowd, but this is a very slow paced, but very sure of itself film that does one thing and it does it well: show an appreciation for cinema.
The best way to describe Hugo is as a love letter to early cinema. George Melies plays an extremely important role as essentially the father of narrative film and special effects. Without him, we would not have the films we have today. The reverence his craft is treated with shows how much Scorsese respects him and appreciates all he did for the art he holds so dear. Just as we present day film afficenados hold Mr. Scorsese in high regard, did he hold Mr. Melies for all of his work. In real life, and in Hugo as well, he felt unappreciated and forgotten to film goers, but as Hugo proves, that is certainly not the case. The best part about this film is that now a new generation who knew nothing about Melies or even A Trip to the Moon (one of the first films I watched when I became a Media Studies student) now have a much better idea as to what preceeded what they see today.
Directors always want to create just one career defining film in their lifetimes. If a director can create one film that will be remembered by all for being so incredibly well crafted, their career can be considered a success. Martin Scorsese has not only done that, but he has done it once a decade with Taxi Driver in the 70's, Raging Bull in the 80's, Goodfellas in the 90's, The Departed in the 00's, and now, in the 2010's, he has created Hugo. The best part? With films like The Irishman on the way (think The Expendables of gangster films) and a Frank Sinatra biopic, Hugo might just be the start for this decade. And that, is a very magical thing.
Martin ScorseseWritten by:
Sacha Baron Coen
Chloe Grace Moretz
Paramount PicturesRunning Time:
126 MinutesRated PG
(+) Veteran actors show their skills and new actors prove their worth
(+) Baron Coen steps away from his R-Rated comedy for something more endearing
(+) Beautiful visuals that show 3D can work when done right
(+) Wonderful score that adds to what is seen
(+) A true cinephile's dream: a movie by Martin Scorsese about movies
(+) Scorsese's best film since The Departed
(-) Well paced, but slow. Younger viewers will have trouble staying still.
(?) At almost 70, how is Scorsese still making movies that are THIS good?