Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hugo: Movie Review


An orphan goes on an adventure, and we discover the magic of filmmaking.

“Hugo” has Martin Scorsese master the children’s adventure movie genre. Scorsese’s 2010 hit was “Shutter Island” where he mastered the suspense thriller by paying attention to every detail in the film. Here, the camera is in the walls of a 1930s train station in Paris where we see the inner workings of clocks, an automaton, and an orphan boy looking for a key. It’s also in 3D and is about the history of filmmaking.2011

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Screenplay by: John Logan

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz and Ben Kingsley

Visually, this is a masterpiece. Easily the best 3D movie released in recent memory, if not of all time. There is seamless merging between computer-generated graphics and real sets. Conceptually, this is very impressive. As Hugo is on one of his adventures, he starts finding connections to old films. These are not just fictional films that help the story along. Scorsese is actually telling us the history of filmmaking and uses the real footage of important films. He even rendered these real films in 3D. I don’t know how he does it.

Story wise, “Hugo” suffered. It meandered a lot, never quite deciding which little adventure to start, or solve, or finish. A trick that I have learned in screenwriting is to use a time frame to set the story in, a ticking clock as some might say. Ironically, for a film that had more actual ticking clocks than any other, they didn’t give their story one.

One has to question if this was really meant to be a children’s movie. The over two-hour run time sent the younger kids crying into the arms of their mothers as exhaustion set in. And as the story moved away from an orphan boy on an adventure to the history of filmmaking, it became quite dry for the older kids. I found Hugo, our hero, to be a snotty kid who didn’t even want to tell us what he was up to in the beginning, but at least the kids liked him. And I, at least, had the history of filmmaking to amuse me immensely.

I don’t think “Hugo” was just supposed to be the history of filmmaking, but the magic of it. For those of us who love films, it certainly was magical. Hugo, the young boy, was removed from discovering the magic because his little adventure was mostly solved by the time we got into it. Unfortunately, I think this removes the kids in the audience from discovering the magic of it. But the kids can have fun watching a robot while the adults are educated — perhaps that is what makes “Hugo” so special.

Conveniently, both “Hugo” and The Artist” are supposed to be the big winners of awards season this year, both were released the same month, and both have something to say about movies. After you watch “Hugo” and are introduced to the earliest films of the Lumière brothers and Georges Méliès, watch “The Artist” it picks up where “Hugo” left off and introduces us to stars of silent films, the golden age of Hollywood.


The Artist (2011) - The golden hue of black and white silence and old-school charm.