I’ll get this right out of the way now: I’m probably too biased to write this review. This is coming from a guy who just finished gushing about how The Muppets are the greatest thing ever. Last year I gave a speech about Martin Scorsese because when reexamining his work I realized I like him so much as a filmmaker due to his obsession with cinema. Always the master of timing, Hugo is the movie that encompasses everything I raved about in that speech.
I adore film history. Reading about its early days with its battles over technologies and storytellers entering a brand new medium is captivating. Throughout silent films, brilliant men always tested ways to tell a story that couldn’t be done on stage or through a book. Some of that magic was gone once sound was invented but thankfully a lot of the works of F.W. Murnau, Charlie Chaplin, and Georges Méliès can still have an affect on any generation.
Scorsese made Hugo to prove that statement. A young Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives in the train station during the 1930s. He hides from the mean station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) as he keeps all of the clocks well tuned. After upsetting a toymaker (Ben Kingsley), Hugo befriends a young girl named Isabelle (Chloë Moretz), which starts them upon an adventure like the ones read about in books.
Now the trailers of this movie will have you believe, they will go on a magical journey similar to Harry Potter or Narnia. There are plenty of scenes full of awe and wonder, but…it isn’t the same. Those films show literal magic; you wave a stick and fire appears. Hugo shows there is magic already around us.
All filmmakers are magicians. They transport you to a new world with every frame. The best ones can continue to amaze you even after you’ve seen thousands of movies. Scorsese has been making films for decades yet he continues to experiment and create spectacles. Hugo’s opening shot proves that in spades. Spoiling it—or anything really—is like ruining a magic trick so all I will say is that the scene is even better in 3D.
Yes, after way too many worthless and lousy films being post-converted to get a few extra dollars, Hugo is the only film where the 3D is essential. Not even Avatar really needed to be in 3D. Hugo does. A little girl during my screening kept chiming in with wonderful comments that proved this film will be adored by all ages. When the film references one of the first silent movies Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat and how audiences were afraid the train would hit them, this little girl said “It’s just like a 3D film!”
Correct! Scorsese is returning to a time when motion pictures were new and going to the theatre was a treat for the imagination. It’s a world void of product placement, jokes “just for adults” or the threat to make an empty sequel. People talk about how they saw The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars or even Pulp Fiction and that’s what inspired them to discover the rest of the medium. For me it was Abbott & Costello and Alfred Hitchcock. Hugo has the power to do the same for a new generation.
So it’s a damn shame the studio doesn’t know how to market this great movie. If this bombs, it’s a travesty.