In 1931 Paris, a young orphaned boy named Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives inside a train station’s walls and because he knows all about fixing clocks, he takes care of the station’s clocks. When Hugo is caught stealing spare parts from Georges (Ben Kingsley), who runs a toy booth in the train station, Georges gives him the chance to make it up to him by working in the booth. Hugo ends up becoming friends with Georges’ god-daughter, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), and he soon finds out that she has never seen a movie before. Georges has forbidden her from seeing them but she doesn’t know why. But the two of them soon discover that the real reason is because Georges is none other than silent film pioneer Georges Méliès. The kids are eager to learn more about his past, but convinced that he has been long forgotten and that all his work has been lost, the last thing Georges wants to do is look back on those days. Hugo and Isabelle start investigating on their own and in the process, they are able to help Georges realize that not all of his work has been lost forever and that are able to show him that he has not been forgotten.
If you are a fan of silent films, by all means, go see Hugo! I positively adored it! It’s starts out looking like it’s going to be a kids’ adventure movie, but then it turns into a crash course in Georges Méliès and an introduction to silent film. Even if you already know about Méliès and film history, it is truly delightful to see how Scorsese recreates Méliès’ studio and to see the clips featuring Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino, Louise Brooks, and Douglas Faribanks, just to name a few. Martin Scorsese’s love of film history is very well known and you can see that influence in his other movies, but I loved seeing him be able to just go all out with it here. You can tell that he must have been loving the fact that it was his job to recreate Méliès’ studio and sets.
Not only does Scorsese’s passion for the subject matter show, but it’s also very visually interesting. Normally, I’m not a big fan of 3D and this was actually the first modern 3D movie I ever saw. Before the movie, they showed trailers for some upcoming 3D releases and really wasn’t wowed by the 3D I saw in those, but Hugo’s use of 3D was far superior to anything I saw in the trailers. The 3D was very well done and wasn’t used to carry the movie. I’m confident that I would have loved it just as much if I had seen it in 2D. It’s funny that the movie often referenced how audiences would scream and duck when they first saw Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat because they thought they were going to be run over, because there were moments in Hugo that made me sort of try to get out of the way of the 3D effects. There was one scene where the Station Inspector is confronting Hugo and keeps leaning in closer and closer to Hugo (and toward the camera) and I caught myself leaning back in my seat because it felt like he kept leaning in toward me.
Overall, Hugo is a purely delightful and magical film. I very highly recommend it. It’s a very rare film and not just because it is a family friendly Martin Scorsese film. Even though it has rightfully gained a lot of critical acclaim, it has only managed to peak at #3 on the weekend box office charts since it’s been released, which is too bad because it deserves to be on top.