Hugo review

Martin Scorsese
Ben Kingsley
Sacha Baron Cohen
Asa Butterfield
Chloe Grace Moretz
Rated: PG

I’ll have to get my flame shields ready for this one.

Martin Scorsese’s latest pic Hugo is based on the novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” The film follows a young boy by the name of Hugo (Butterfield), who after his parents dying is forced to work for his uncle in the main train station of Paris. After his uncle leaves Hugo continues working on the clocks and is left isolated. The one thing he has is a small robotic like machine that him and his father (played by Jude Law) were working on together.

Things change though as the shop keeper (Kingsley) of a small toy store in the station discovers Hugo and takes his notebook. When trying to get it back he meets the store keeper’s God-Daughter Isabelle (Moretz). Together the two of them begin to find out more about the robot and start to see a connection with the shop keeper and the machine.

The movie, to me, felt disjointed. The first and second half seem to be far apart in terms of the story, as if the whole thing shifted direction. What’s worse is that the plot moves along at a very slow pace and never got me engaged until probably the last half hour. And even then it was more because of Scorsese doing a major homage to early cinema.

Another problem is that as the film get’s toward’s the end it stops being Hugo’s movie, as if he becomes a side character in his own movie. Speaking of side characters, Scorsese seemed to try and set up these little side plots for some of the quirky characters who come to the train station every day. However, they have very little to do with the overall plot and never really have a reason to be there.

The climax also left quite a bit to be desired. For one thing, the mystery of the movie is solved very early, so the suspense for the ending is never really there. Plus, the final climactic scene is already foreshadowed a head of time letting us on to know the outcome.

The acting in the movie is solid, Kingsley delivers a good performance as well as the younger actors. However the characters themselves never really got me interested.

The character who I was most disappointed in was Hugo himself, who came off as dull the entire movie. He never really seemed to be anything more than a super nice kid who always gave puppy dog eyes. He should have been a character to get behind and root for, maybe be a little mischievous and capture a bit of childhood to display. He never really did.

Going to the side characters, Kingsley played the role well with a lot of emotion, his character starts off as a mean old man but he eventually shows some of his lighter side. This problem is we never really see this transition since it seems to happen very quickly, plus, Hugo doesn’t appear to have a huge involvement in this transition, he’s just there for the ride.

The sub plots for the minor characters go no where especially for the bumbling inspector at the station played by Sacha Baron Cohen, who chases after orphans including Hugo very often. We find things out about his back story like how he’s an injured war veteran (which they almost seemed to exploit for laughs at times) and some other things however it’s not really made clear if we should feel sympathy for him or dislike him.

The acting for these roles are fine though, for example the young Chloe Moretz delivers another good performance, yet I never felt any chemistry between any of them and none of them were engaging to me.

The biggest compliment I can give the film is the art direction and set designs.

Scorsese really captures Paris and brings out the magic of the city during the 1930s, similar to “Midnight In Paris.” The settings are exquisite and it creates a mystical atmosphere, added on is the costume design which really help set the movie in the period. The 3D is also well used, especially in the opening sequence when Hugo is going through the train station. The film also shows some early cinema and the people who made it happen back in the day, which was a nice thing to do.

Hugo is by no means a bad film what-so-ever. The designs and settings are beautiful, the acting is fine, and the homage to early film-making is a great gesture by Scorsese, That being said however, I was never fully captivated by the story or the characters to get into these aspects. The movie looks fantastic, but on the inside it felt dull. I’ll put it at a 2 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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