Martin Scorsese throws a nod towards Steam Punk.
I find myself in a weird spot reviewing this movie. I mean, who am I to review the work of a true movie making genius like Martin Scorsese? He is responsible for so many of my favorite films, including Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Shutter Island, and The Aviator. Of course, he has done a lot of stuff no one has ever heard of, including a ton of documentaries. However, for a movie amateur like myself to offer criticism feels like I am hanging around giving advice to a brain surgeon.
But then I remember that I have an obligation to deliver my unbiased and honest opinion to you, my beloved reader. Fortunately, Hugo is a decently fun movie, and even if I didn’t know Scorsese had directed it I would have enjoyed it. It was fun, well acted, extremely well directed, and overall a quality movie experience. Like pretty much 100% of the movies I nit pick apart it has a few items I can take issue with, but overall pretty cool. I think one of the things that really works for me on this film is it is so different from any of Martin Scorsese’s other films. It’s great to see a director head into something new.
It is the story of young Hugo (Asa Butterfield-the Boy in the Striped Pajamas, the Return of Nanny MacPhee), the son of a clockmaker who has been orphaned and now lives in a Paris train station, winding and maintaining the clocks. His only legacy of his father is a mysterious steam punk automaton that was rescued from a museum store room and is in need of repair (steam punk Sonic image courtesy of the Video Game T Shirts). He gets caught trying to steal parts from a grumpy toy shop owner named Papa George (the great Ben Kingsley-Sexy Beast, Ghandi, Shutter Island, Schindler’s List), who confiscates Hugo’s fathers notebook. He gets Hugo to work for him repairing windup toys to make up for the stolen goods. Meanwhile Hugo befriends George’s goddaughter Isabelle (played most excellently by Chloe Grace Moretz, the Hitgirl from Kick Ass. She was also the vampire from Let Me In. What a talented young actress. I am sure we will see some amazing things from her in the future), who is something of a bookworm and looking for adventure. She sees the potential with Hugo and together they work on the mystery of the mechanical man.
I don’t want to get too much into the story, as I don’t want to hand out any spoilers. Hugo is beset by the station inspector (Sasha Baron Cohen-Borat, Sweeney Todd, Bruno, Ali G) who adds an element of danger to the story. Papa George has a mysterious past that he wants to keep secret. Clocks get wound. Mysteries are solved.
The stars. All around quality film. Direction, story, and overall experience excellent. Two stars. The acting was awesome, although how could you expect any less from Ben Kingsley? Chloe was decent too, although occasionally she and Asa seemed to have forced the scenes. Two stars. The camera work and visual were really, really good. Two stars. The story overall was very immersive. You really felt like you were in the Montparnasse train station in the 30′s. One star. Steam punk-ish. One star. Based in part on a true story. One star. Total: nine stars.
Now, though it galls me to do this, I have to award the black holes. The biggest one is going to have to be the fact that 3D sucks. It really did nothing to in any way enhance this film, and it is obvious Martin Scorsese, being new to the 3D art form, was looking for and writing in extra visuals to better display the 3D effects. Unfortunately this really did nothing but aggravate the next two black holes I am about to give. One black hole. The movie, perhaps due to the extra visuals, seemed to really drag at points. The fun of watching Hugo wind his was through the massive gears and cogs of all the clocks in the station kind of loses it’s magic when we have to watch it a second and third time. Plot progression seemed really slow. One black hole. The movie, supposedly for kids, runs a whopping 127 minutes. I saw more than one family have to leave early after the kids got bored of watching gears spin, and even I had to take a bathroom break about 3/4 of the way through (the ocean tanker sized Diet Coke did not help). One black hole. Finally, while Sasha Baron Cohen was probably the best actor in the film, his role as the menacing station inspector was significantly compromised by his comedic bearing and delivery. It literally felt like Hugo was being chased by Inspector Clouseau, and it is tough to feel concern for anyone in that situation. The rest of the movie is actually really poignant and serious with whimsical element, but every time Sasha got on screen the slapstick-o-meter dipped deeply into the red. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
So a grand total of five stars. Not bad, but not awesome. Hugo is a fun, quality movie. But it in no way compares to Shutter Island or Goodfellas. Worth seeing? Yes. Worth seeing in a theater? Yes. Worth seeing twice in a theater? Probably not, unless you are into the 3D art form or the movie history portrayed. Good date movie? Sure, as long as your date is a visual person. Not my first choice.
Thanks for reading, and don’t hate me for not gushing all over this film. I really am a Scorsese fan. Just not his best film. Perhaps he was so distracted by the details of 3D he couldn’t apply as much focus as usual on the other aspects of the film. Short review, but that’s what usually happens when I enjoy the film. I will write up the Descendants tomorrow, and hopefully see something else then for Monday. Maybe Arthur Christmas. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Talk to you soon.