Movie Review: Hugo directed by Martin Scorsese

[ 1 ] November 23, 2011 |

For ages: 8 and up

My boys and I adore Brian Selznick’s award winning book The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Not your typical children’s book, the story is told through a series of wordless pencil illustrations alternated by pictureless pages of text. Each section so captivating you are pulled through the story at a breathtaking pace in order to discover hidden secrets and how the characters connect in the end. Woven into the story is the history of film, paying tribute to the esteemed silent filmmaker, George Méliès .

Upon first hearing that Martin Scorsese would make this beloved book into a film, I was a bit apprehensive yet curious how he would adapt such a magnificent book about movies into a movie. Scorsese’s film, Hugo is visually stunning and captivating in it’s own way. I felt a similar pull through the film with it’s beautiful use of cinematography and 3-D special effects, combining a series of silent scenes (reminiscent of Selznick’s drawings) and scenes with dialog to tell the story.

Although not necessary to enjoy the film, I recommend reading Selznick’s book before seeing the movie because it’s a work of art and the story of Hugo is about preserving and honoring artists and their work – both film and books.

My boy’s are avid movie fans and love to review them on their blog, flickflackmovietalk.com. In anticipation of Hugo they reread the book and watched original George Méliès and Lumière brothers’ films. Here are their thoughts on the new Hugo film directed by Martin Scorsese.

From Flick: 4 stars out of 5 stars

A boy named Hugo Cabret maintains clocks in a train station in Paris. His father is dead and he is all alone. But when he meets a young girl named Isabelle and her godparents, George Méliès and Mama Jeanne, his life is changed forever. Hugo is trying to fix an automaton that his father found in a museum where he worked. Mysteries, prisons, filmmakers, and friends await Hugo.

Hugo is an experience. The acting is superb, the cinematography splendid, the sets lavish and the music graceful. Ben Kingsley’s performance is Oscar worthy. Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz’s performances are also  great. The only actor in the film that I didn’t like was Sacha Baron Cohen as the station inspector. None of the jokes in the film worked and almost all of them revolved around him. The character of the station inspector is supposed to be a threat to Hugo therefore making him a menacing character so to have him being involved in the most jokes doesn’t help. Other then Kingsley the best part about this film is the cinematography which is enchanting,  especially when the camera zooms through the train station or when you see Hugo in the clocks.

I have read the original book The Invention of Hugo Cabret and I think the film is not as dark as the book, which is surprising, because the film is directed by Martin Scorsese who is known for such critically acclaimed films as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. Yes, I know that Scorsesse wants kids to see this film, but would it hurt to make the film as dark as the book? Despite my opinion there is one scene where Hugo comes out of a dream only to find himself in yet another dream where he finds himself turning into a machine that is even more disturbing than the first.

This is probably one of my top five favorite films of the year. This is my first Scorsese film  (I don’t think I’ll be seeing another one anytime soon). I found it interesting that Scorsese chose to show clips from old and silent films. I hope the masses of people that see this film will be intrigued to see these silent films. This is not a perfect film, but it’s pretty close.

My favorite character is Hugo because I think it is interesting that at the beginning of the film he is a thief and is all alone but at the end of the film, he has made several friends and has learned many lessons.

My favorite scene is when George Méliès tells the story of his life because it demonstrates the power of Kingsley’s performance and also taught me more about Méliès’ films.

From Flack:  5 stars out of 5 stars

Hugo is a movie about movies. It tells the story of a boy named Hugo Cabret and his friendship with a girl named Isabelle.  They discover a mystery involving clocks, forgotten pasts, and films themselves, all in the setting of a train station. Together they find out the history of Isabelle’s godfather and go on an adventure unlike any other.

Martin Scorsese’s latest picture is the first of his films I’ve seen. The use of 3D is excellent and brings you deeply into the world of Paris in the 1930′s.  It starts out slow, yet smartly used the 3D strongly at the beginning because it wears off later on, as in all films. It’s not that it’s boring at the beginning, it’s just not exciting.  However, movies don’t need to be and so that’s why Hugo is not like most kid’s movies.  It almost has the charm of a silent film.

Although some of the scenes with Sacha Baron Cohen (as the station inspector) are unnecessarily silly, they do add to the films tribute to movies because they remind you of Charlie Chaplin.  Asa Butterfield, as Hugo, gives a star making turn and does an excellent job, because he makes you want to tell Isabelle’s godfather about the automaton and he makes you sad when his father dies (it happens at the beginning so don’t tell me I spoiled the movie). Chloë Grace Moretz, as Isabelle, is also great as portraying the character as a friendly nice person you’d like to meet.The movie is also a great tribute to movies.  The montage of old film classics is terrific, and the movie teaches you a great deal about special effects from a long time ago.  Although you might think that a 3D kid’s movie wouldn’t be very emotional, the last scene made me cry.  Ben Kingsley also is impressive because of the way he portrays his character as a man who on the outside seems like a grouchy old man, but on the inside is really a thoughtful loving person, making him the heart of the film.

Because I have read the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick there were a few parts that I missed such as the character, Etienne. However it is impossible to recreate the beauty of the book so changes must be made. It would be foolish if the filmmakers attempted to use the same drawings and pictures (in the film it would have been animation and live action) but the film attempts and definitely succeeds at having it’s own visual style. The movie is technically dazzling.  The cuts and editing are terrific and I loved how the cinematography focused on one thing and then another (in one scenes the focus moves from Hugo’s face to a key).  The 3D works well to serve the story, although it could have been a disastrous distraction. The film is a must see and I’m sure it will be Oscar nominated.

My favorite scene is at the end, when it was sad and made me cry, but I don’t want to give it away.

My favorite character is Hugo, because Asa Butterfield does a very good job at playing him and is very convincing and relateable.

Three Notes:
1. This film is produced by Johnny Depp, which surprised me, even though he can do whatever he wants because he’s a mega-billion, trillion movie star.
2. The reason I’m posting it now is because we saw it at a preview screening for critics.  We got reserved seats in the middle of the theater at Providence Place Mall and I was very happy.
3. The author of the book on which the film is based on has a brief cameo in the film as an eager student.

This film should be seen on the big screen because not only is it about movies, but it has an epic scale that is at the same time very human.  I suggest that it should be seen in 3D, although other members of my family do not.  This film is one of the best of the year.

Category: community news, movies + media


Flick + Flack

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Two eleven year old boys (and brothers) talk about films. They love it all – watching the films, making movies, reading the books that inspired them, writing screenplays, listening to the soundtracks, learning all the trivia, and interviewing people in the industry.

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  1. Elyse Major elyse says:

    fabulous reviews, flick and flack! thank you!

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