There’s no denying that Martin Scorsese is a legend. What he can do behind the camera can bring tears to the most hardhearted critic. Yet when rumours came about that he was going to direct a kids’ film in dreaded 3D, eyebrows were raised. I mean, this guy who directed some of the most violent scenes in cinema, for crying out loud.
Hugo follows the tale of a young boy who lives in a train station in Paris, living a very lonely life – ironic as he is surrounded by the hubbub of commuters and the train staff. The only friend he has is an incomplete robot, which is the only memory he has of his deceased father. As he stumbles into the path of the hardhearted toy shop owner, Papa George, his life takes an interesting turn.
First of all, the 3D is well used here. 3D films nowadays do not merit the use of it as it does not enhance the filmwatching experience – if anything, it hinders it. This, however, is not too bad. The idea of Hugo’s world is that you can get lost in it and the 3D helps that to a certain extent.
The flashbacks of George Meliès are a joy to watch. Many people may not know a lot about the charm of silent cinema so it’s great to see a modern-day film celebrate it in its own way. Ben Kingsley is great; an embittered man who feels his achievements are lost and the fact that he cannot convey the same imagination in his later years show a sadness that can be admired. Doe-eyed Asa Butterfield is cute to watch but as his eyes are wide with wonder, something lacks in the eponymous character.
The cultural aspects of setting a film in Paris but have the characters speaking English raises a big debate. Some people may be under the impression that this is like Midnight in Paris for kids, it doesn’t show the film in the right light, let alone the best light.
Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Chloe Moretz and Christopher Lee are wonderful actors but to have them in the middle of Paris and not fully incorporate them into a slither of Parisian culture is almost a waste of the computer generated settings. The dialogue of the story is also lacking – the flow of the story stops a third of the way in the film, rendering what should have been a main focal point useless and the main characters wandering around aimlessly.
Drawing comparisons from other adaptations like “City of Ember” and “The Golden Compass“, the word ‘adventure’ does not play a major part in Hugo. The film could have become a celebration of the lost eras in silent cinema, a more interesting backstory of Hugo’s father – the severely underused Jude Law – or even the nameless automaton. Instead, it has become a wasted opportunity in Scorsese’s extensive filmography.
Overall, Hugo is like a Christmas present – the wrapping is beautiful but the present itself is a disappointment.