I’ve been very excited for Hugo for quite a while. I had read the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which I loved and reviewed for this site a few months ago. I was super happy to learn that one of the best filmmakers of all time was adapting this lovely book into film. Many were very surprised that Martin Scorsese was doing a children’s film. I would be too, if I hadn’t read the book. Hence, I was not surprised by this development. I was more surprised that Scorsese chose to make the film in 3D. I’m not a fan of 3D. In most cases, 3D films are shoddy and not entirely in 3D. It’s basically a way to make more money off a film. Well, Hugo is an exception. A tremendous exception. Hugo is, without a doubt, the most marvelous and visually stunning film of the year.
Hugo is about an orphan boy living in a grand train station in 1920’s Paris, France. Hugo (Asa Butterfield) hides in the walls of the train station, doing the job of tuning the clocks that his uncle had abandoned. All alone, Hugo steals food and toy parts in order to fix an automaton he and his father (Jude Law) had been working on before he unexpectedly died. One day, the toy booth owner (Ben Kingsley) catches him and takes away Hugo’s notebook with his father’s notes on how to fix the automaton. Desperate to get it back, he enlists the help of the toy booth owner’s goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz).
Hugo is just… beautiful. James Cameron called it a masterpiece and I can’t disagree. The 3D is spectacular. I’ve never seen 3D done so well. It was present throughout the film, and it wasn’t the cheap “in your face” kind of 3D. It enhanced the movie experience like 3D is supposed to! I can’t even begin to describe the lovely camera work and angles that amplified the 3D and made it feel so real, almost like we were dreaming. I hope other filmmakers start to take note and follow Scorsese’s example on how to properly use 3D.
At the beginning, the story seems directionless, especially if one isn’t familiar with the book, which most people aren’t. We meet Hugo and we understand his desperation to fix the automaton, but then what? This is where the story takes a turn into something quite unexpected and remarkable. The story turns into a very fascinating lesson in Film History 101. You see, the toy booth owner is actually George Méliès, a famous director and pioneer of early cinema. Usually, I wouldn’t give such a plot development away, but I think it’s important to know that before seeing the movie. This is a film for film lovers, young and old. It’s for the people who go to the theater to escape and live in someone else’s dream for a few hours. It’s about the love of cinema.
The performances were great. Asa Butterfield plays well as Hugo. Chloë Moretz is precocious as Isabelle. Ben Kingsley nails it as George Méliès, the most note-worthy performance of the film. Finally, Sacha Baron Cohen adds some great comedy with his role as the train station inspector.
To be honest, Hugo is more like a kid’s movie made for adults. I do think some kids, especially the younger ones, will find the movie a tad boring. However, I still recommend this movie with all my heart. Scorsese created something very special with Hugo. It’s easily his most personal film, and as an avid moviegoer and cinephile, it was impossible for me to not connect with this story. On top of that, Hugo is such a brilliant sight for the eyes. It’s truly filmmaking at its best and a must-see in 3D. (You are really missing out if you don’t see it in 3D. This one is more than worth the extra 3D fee.) Trust me, there’s no movie this year as dazzling as Martin Scorsese’s Hugo.
Hugo hits theaters Wednesday, November 23rd.