Carl the Critic: Reviews "Hugo" (Caution Contains Plot Spoilers)
Experience/Expectations: "Hugo" is based on a novel by Brian Selznick about a boy who works on the clocks at some french train station and meets Georges Méliès. That's all I knew about the film going into it (or at least what wikipedia told me, I never read the book myself but I know that it is the first novel to win a Caldecott Medal which is unusual because this is an award for children picture books.) With no time to read the novel, and not sure how accurate wikipedia was on the novel, I watched the trailer and smelled a potential for an Oscar nomination. The trailer looked so beautiful, clean, and colorful. It also has the visionary eye of Martin Scorsese, and the script of John Logan (who wrote the script for so many good movies like "Rango", "Sweeny Todd", "Gladiator", "The Last Samurai", and many other films.) It also looked like it had a talented cast (Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lee, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law, Chloë Grace Moretz and many others). But the real selling point for me (based on what I saw in the trailer) was the costume and production design, which looked amazing. But how does the film hold up? Is it really as good as I hoped? Well there were things that were better than I expected, and things that were a little disappointing.
Story: The story begins with a boy named Hugo (big surprise) trying to steal from a toy salesman who is simply known as "Papa George", but is caught and Papa George takes the boy's notebook, and for the first 30 minutes of the film Hugo torments Papa George about getting his journal back. Eventually it seems as though Papa George burned the notebook and Hugo gets very sad (if you find Hugo's sad face annoying, don't worry he only cries about 20% of the entire film, so it's not that big of a deal.) We also meet Isabelle (who on occasion loses her British accent) who likes books but is not allowed to watch movies because her godfather (Papa George) doesn't want her to. Hugo then takes her to his home in the clocks and show her a robot (actually it's not a robot it's a thing magician's used or something, but I'm still calling it a robot) that his dad gave to him from the museum that he use to work at. I say use to because before he can help his son finish fixing the robot the museum catches on fire on a night when he is working. When Hugo fixes the robot and finds out that Isabelle has the key that is used to make the robot work, he uses the key in the hopes that it writes a letter to him from his father from beyond the grave. It doesn't. Instead it draws a picture of the man on the moon with a rocket in his eye with the signature of Georges Méliès (which turns out to be "Papa George's" real name.)
Now for those of you who don't know your film history, Georges Méliès was the magician turned filmmaker who was one of the first to use special effects in his films. The picture that the robot drew was based on the film called "Le Voyage dans la Lune" ("The Trip to the Moon" for those who ne parlent pas français).
The two children then discover the truth as they try to find out why Georges Méliès became Papa George.
Critique: Let me begin by saying I love this movie, but I also found some things annoying about it. This is definitely not John Logan's best work as a writer, the dialogue was for the most part very annoying, but I did like some moments, like how Hugo believes that the world is a gigantic machine, and that machines always have the exact number of parts they need to be made, and that each person is like a part of the machine with a special purpose. I think that was a sweet moment. With a knowledge of film history, I can appreciate the incorporation of Georges Méliès into the story, even if it was historically inaccurate (but if you want to talk about historical accuracy, we can talk about "Inglorious Basterds".)
Remember when I said that the costume and production design were amazing? Well I did say it, but the cinematography was also really amazing. The 3D was good too, (and it makes me want to watch all of Georges Méliès's films in 3D).
Some of the acting was really good, (even Chloë Grace Moretz who lost her British accent a few times). There was a few moments when the editing was weird (a scene when Hugo is trying to out run the Inspector guy and his dog and there's a half-second cut of an extreme close up of Hugo's face for no reason), but even that was good for the most part. There is a minor love story between the Inspector and some flower girl which I don't particularly like but I'll let it slide because it doesn't take up too much of the movie, and it gives the Inspector depth and complexity.
Overall: So on the whole check out "Hugo", it's a fun movie. I cannot guarantee that you'll love it, because it feels like a hit-or-miss film that some people will find annoying, but then again IT'S A KIDS MOVIE! I know it's not the best excuse, but it is made mostly for kids, however I think adults might like it too. There is so much to like about this movie, and where it lacks in story it makes up for in visuals. So I give "Hugo" an 8.9 out of 10, check it out because it is an instant classic.