Aslum's Review of Hugo
HUGO (Martin Scorcese, 2011)
I almost just want to say, "it's Martin Scorcese, what do /you/ think?", and leave it at that.
HUGO is this marvelous story of a young French orphan (Asa Butterfield) in the late 20's / early '30's (I'm guessing) who conceals his lack of parents by maintaining the clock, as his father used to, at a local train station. Each day he survives by stealing what he can, including various parts for a mechanical man that he and his father (Jude Law) were working on before he passed away. Hugo believes that completing the machine will somehow reconnect him with his late father when activated, so he does so obsessively until he runs afoul a bitter old shop-keep (Ben Kingsley) who recognizes Hugo's talents for fixing things and allows him to earn parts by working for him. The man's daughter (ChloŽ Grace Moretz) takes a liking to Hugo and the mystery of the mechanical man, and helps him try to figure out what it does and what it means. Will Hugo discover the mystery in the machine? That's the film.
And it's excellent. As always, I say that the only proper use of 3D is when it has some thematic value to the movie it's used in, and that is definitely the case here. To explain without giving away the movie, let me say that when movies were invented, the "moving pictures" were seen as a gimmick - an attraction that you might see at a carnival or traveling medicine show. Narrative film didn't come into being until much later, and as a result, /spectacle/ was the goal of the early filmmakers, not telling compelling stories like this. I don't think I need to point out that one can make the same case against Hollywood's current obsession with 3D filmmaking. Like James Cameron with AVATAR (2009), Scorcese, as a master, knows exactly what he's doing with this new technology. I don't think 3D is appropriate for every film, and I'm pretty sure Scorcese would agree, but it's definitely appropriate to this one, and as a result, Scorcese uses it that way, giving us the feeling of how it must be to squeeze into the small space that is Hugo's lair, and letting us see what it's like to be a little boy in a world of "giant" grown ups. Most importantly, when we get to the final act, and the reveal of what this story is actually about, he takes the work of one of the oft forgotten silent masters and uses 3D to make his work arguably /better/. I will admit, as a film geek who studied this in school, this aspect may mean more to me than it does to others. But the rest of it is so well executed, that's just icing on the cake. HUGO is a great movie, and I really loved it.
Some have not, so I would like to address the criticism that the movie is too slow. One of the things that's misleading about how this movie has been sold to the masses is the idea that it's a kid's movie. It is, but not for every kid. A kid who would like THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH (John Sayles, 1994) would love this movie, but a kid who liked ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS (Jim Hill, 2007)? Not so much. While it is visually very compelling, that requires a level of sophistication and appreciation for subtlety that not every kid, least of all a modern kid, would be able to tolerate. I don't view this film as a kid's movie, more like a "kid accessible movie" (no sex or violence). It's a great companion to THE ARTIST (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011) more than anything else.
And as I said, a brilliant one. I loved HUGO. That's all I can say about it. A.