‘Hugo’ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated December 12th, 2014 at 9:36 pm,

Asa Butterfield in Hugo Hugo Review

Scorsese’s ode to the medium he loves so dearly will still be as poignant, rich and vital so long as film itself remains so.

Hugo is most definitely a Martin Scorsese film, and one of the better ones at that. But more than anything else, Hugo is a movie about the love of movies, crafted by a man who truly loves moviemaking, and meant for those who in turn love the art, spectacle, imagination, and soul-stirring joy of cinema.

In short: Hugo is another Martin Scorsese masterpiece.

The film has been sold as a “family-friendly adventure” full of whimsy and spectacle, and for the first act of Hugo’s two-hour runtime, this is absolutely true. The story opens on 1930s Paris, where we meet young Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), the orphaned son of a clock maker, living in the walls of a train station where he fixes and maintains the many clocks that need attendance. Hugo’s father perished in a fire, leaving behind the mystery of a strange automaton that Hugo obsessively tries to fix, as was his father’s wish. The boy’s unfaltering quest brings him into contact with many colorful characters around the station, including the orphan-hunting inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), a curmudgeonly old toy maker (Ben Kingsley), and eventually the toy maker’s bookworm goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloe Moretz). However, the quest to fix the automaton is only the first piece in a much larger mystery – one that involves a long-lost filmmaker, and a convergence of lives and destinies that will bring together all those who encounter young Hugo Cabret.

As stated, Hugo may at first seem like it is simply ‘Martin Scorsese making a 3D kids movie,’ but once the automaton is completed and the larger mystery revealed, it quickly becomes apparent what drew Scorsese to this film (based on the 2007 historical fiction book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick). But Hugo is not a kid’s film. Hugo is not even really a film for mainstream audiences. Hugo is, in large part, a celebration of the early era of cinema, centered around real-life pioneer filmmaker, Georges Méliés. It is this unabashed joy and celebration of movie magic that elevates Hugo as one of Scorsese’s most lovingly-crafted and imaginative films. It is also what will make Hugo a bit too heady and artistic for those hoping for a more mainstream adventure.

Hugo Martin Scorsese and Ben Kingsley Review Hugo Review

‘Hugo': Martin Scorsese’s love letter to the magic of movies.

Screenwriter John Logan (GladiatorThe Last Samurai) skillfully adapts Selznick’s novel into a film that works on a multitude of levels, offering one of the richest, most rewarding cinematic experiences I’ve had in a while. There is something for everyone to grasp onto and be moved by in this film – be it the idea of adventure and destiny (kids); the exploration of that in life which “breaks” us, and in turn, “fixes” us again (adults); or simply the meditation on what makes movies truly wondrous and transcendent (cinephilles). It’s all there in the story of Hugo’s journey – a journey that the script steers the viewer through with careful control and near perfect synergy of its respective parts.

The genius of what Scorsese has done, from a directing standpoint, is to craft a love letter to cinema’s past in the form of cinema’s present (and arguably its future): digital 3D. Hugo is the most accomplished and worthwhile 3D film I have seen – and yes, that includes James Cameron’s Avatar, the film which resurrected the 3D trend. Where Cameron used 3D as a highly effective and captivating tool of spectacle, Scorsese is the one who as officially elevated the technique to the level of high art.

From the onset, it is clear (in the choices of scene construction, set pieces, and photography) that Hugo is the work of a master filmmaker embracing a modern trend in filmmaking. Instead of using 3D as a gimmick, or even an augmentation of his already considerable skills, Scorsese boldly explores the new and unique filming possibilities offered by the medium. At times this movie is simply beautiful to behold (early scenes in the train station  come to mind), while at other times, the filming choices Scorsese makes are stimulating and provocative in their originality and creativity (later scenes set during the early days of silent filmmaking are, ironically, some of the best modern 3D scenes ever shot).

In short: with Hugo, Scorsese single-handedly makes a case for why 3D is worthy of living beyond the lifespan of a trend, as well as setting a new bar for what filmmakers should endeavor to accomplish with the format.

Chloe Moretz and Asa Butterfield in Hugo Hugo Review

Butterfield and Moretz in ‘Hugo’

Of course, no movie would hold itself upright without a cast of talented performers to bring it to life.  Scorsese’s name clearly commands a high level of respect in the industry, as even the smallest roles in Hugo are populated by some accomplished acting talent. There are appearances by Jude Law, Ray Winstone, Christopher Lee, Frances de la Tour, Richard Griffiths, Emily Mortimer and Michael Stuhlbarg – all of whom are bit players in this film, but manage to create vivid and lively characters, no matter how small their role. Every person we meet is an important cog in the narrative machine.

The central adult characters are also wonderfully realized, with Helen McCrory (Harry Potter) delivering great understated pain and longing as the toy maker’s loving wife; Ben Kingsley once again proving why he is one of the best actors there is, putting on a full display of emotion and complexity as the toy maker with a mysterious past; and even Sacha Baron Cohen showing that his comedic identities as Borat or Bruno are but exaggerated expressions of his true acting talents. Cohen’s arc as the station inspector is one of the more subtle (yet moving) performances – one that starts off seemingly one-note (comedic relief), but comes to a resounding finish that is in perfect fit with the many layered themes of the story.

As for the young leads: Chloe Moretz is already an established star, having broken in stardom via films like (500) Days of SummerKick-Ass, and her leading role as a savage vampire in Let Me In. As the precocious Isabelle, she is a perfect foil for Hugo – and though she is more reserved than usual in this film, the scenes of her and Butterfield going through the slightly awkward motions of boy/girl politics makes for some of the movie’s most endearing moments. Like Hugo, Isabelle is also an orphan, and the movie lightly touches on some serious subjects like death and loss, which Moretz is deftly able to deliver in a mature-but-not-too-heavy manner.

Ben Kingsley and Asa Butterfield in Hugo Hugo Review

Ben Kingsley and Asa Butterfield in ‘Hugo’

It seems safe to say that Asa Butterfield (Son of Rambow) has achieved a breakout success playing the titular Hugo. The opening of this film is an ode to the old silent movies it celebrates, and involves Butterfield onscreen for a good ten minutes without uttering a single word. Even without the crutch of dialogue to lean on, Butterfield manages to instantly establish Hugo’s presence and character, through skilled expressiveness and body language that most adult actors might struggle with. Later on, when he’s required to carry scenes of powerful emotionality, Butterfield again rises to the task set before him, making some of the story’s heavier themes and moments truly great and moving. Definitely a young star in the making.

Aside from its gorgeous 3D imagery, Hugo is not a film that bends to the tastes and trends of the times. The film sets its own pace and takes its sweet time building its story arc, subplots, character developments and themes – unafraid of catering to shallow desires for speedy payoff or empty spectacle. While that slower pace, and the sudden change of focus in the second act, may disappoint those who have been lured by the film’s ‘3D kids movie’ marketing (or even bore kids too young to understand the headier themes), there is no doubt that this is a film whose achievements will last well beyond the now. Indeed, Scorsese’s ode to the medium he loves so dearly will still be as poignant, rich and vital so long as film itself remains so.

Heck, by the time this movie hits home video, I may have to go out and buy a 3D TV, just to be able to recapture the full experience of seeing it. One of the year’s best films, in my opinion.

Hugo is now playing in theaters everywhere. Check out the trailer for the film, and rate it for yourself in our poll below:

[poll id=”218″]

Our Rating:

5 out of 5

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  1. Just got home from Hugo. It is a masterpiece, imo. Can’t believe some of the critics words on this, finding fault, picking at this and that. You’ve got to be cold as a stone and in need of being self important to criticize this movie.

    It is absolutely a superb and gorgeous movie in every way. It is a movie about movie magic that delivers movie magic, ironically, on a scale that the movies it pays homage to could not have done. The 3D effects here are more sublime than any I’ve ever seen. By far. They are not employed here and there, just for a thrill, but rather lovingly maintained throughout the movie—the depth and breath of 3D has never been seen like this.

    Martin Scorsese has always been a film genius, and imo, never more so than here. Don’t let any stiff necked critic keep you away from this movie. It’s pure magic, and that’s what you’ll be missing if you don’t see it.

    • Stella – you need to get a life!

      • Julia…

        Considering how arrogantly rude you were in your comments, you really have no right to give life advice to Stella. Just as you have every right to dislike this film and criticize it, Stella SHOULD indeed feel free to express her love of and praise for this film. Unlike you, she did not insult anybody, acting like a nincompoopish, slow-witted boob.

        For my part, I found the acting wonderfully dynamic, the cinematography beautifully expressed, and the story sweetly stirring. There was not an excess of action, but there WAS enough to keep the film moving along between dialogue-heavy and emotional moments. The film hearkened back to earlier films BY DESIGN and celebrated (quite effectively, I think) those initial and developing attempts at movie magic.

        You see, I loved “Hugo”, but, contrary to your low-class tirade against all of us who CLEARLY MUST be in the back pocket of the Hollywood studios and OBVIOUSLY be of substantially softer intellect than you (naturally), I simply very much enjoyed the film and understood its messages, both implied and overt…certainly at least the messages I needed and wanted to get from it.

        You didn’t like the film? Fine…give your critique, and move forward. Do NOT insult those who do not share your opinion. You believe yourself superior to us, for some odd reason, but you just come across as a programmed airhead.

        P.S. Sure, it would have been great to have French accents or even actual French with subtitles, but British accents (at least, in both recent and current movie-making history) seem to be the “goto” accents for everything from films about France to films about Mars. I have no doubt that this trend in American films will change or even disappear eventually, as trends tend to do. Until such a time, since you clearly cannot stomach such such an “atrocity”, stay hot home and watch dvds and and streaming video.

        • …sigh…My Hollywood mansion for an EDIT key…

          Of course, the post-script should contain only ONE “such” after “stomach”, and the “hot” before “home” should not exist.

      • LMAO so true

        • Who is speaking the truth…surely not that rude babbler, Julia R.???

    • 3d doesnt work for me (blind in 1 eye). id like to knw what your review would have been like had u been in my situation.. i thought the film was so dull n boring, some really bad acting. Everybody seems to be raving about the 3d effects rather than the actual film. Get your tongues out of scorsese’s arse n actually watch the film n not the 3d fx

      • danny…

        Earlier, I pointed out to someone trying to decide whether or not to see “Hugo” that I had seen and loved it WITHOUT the 3d. In fact, MANY people have said (including the reviewer, by the way) that they thoroughly enjoyed this film for reasons other than the dimensions shown or the effects used. Thus, you might consider removing your head from your own arse and rewatching the film with your good eye…and stop insulting people who have simply expressed how much they liked a film (and usually even provide reasons for that positive experience).

        You don’t like it? Fine…your right, certainly. Others do.

        • I thought I replied to somebody else’s comment but maybe your just an argumentative prick (yes I’m insulting this time as I don’t recall doing so on my last comment like u implied) judging from your previous. I simply said I disliked the film n should have said MANY of the reviews seemed to be praising the 3dfx rather than the film itself. Do me a favour n don’t reply cos I want to hear back from you as much as I want to watch this film again.

          • Danny…

            Too bad. No, I’m not argumentative, BUT I don’t like to be insulted: “Get your tongues out of scorsese’s arse n actually watch the film n not the 3d fx.” I truly do not care what you want; just think better about the words you write, and we’ll have no problem. The way you phrased it in your response (what you say you SHOULD have said) IS indeed more well thought out.

  2. Movie was fantastic, the only thing that bothered me was I felt like the kids were trying to hard to sound British, and came off a little heavy handed at times. Vexing as they are in France, why is it that whenever a foreign language is spoken in English it’s always with a British accent?

    • The kids aren’t trying to sound British, they ARE British.

      • Chloe Grace Moretz was born in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. She has lived in Georgia, New York, and LA.

  3. First, I want to begin by saying it was SR’s review that turned the tide for me in seeing this film. Most here have always been spot on. I think that is why I felt kind of cheated after seeing this movie.
    Even after a couple of days of reflection, I still think this movie was not that good. Without the 3D, the movie is just about a old guy who gets mad at everybody because they don’t want to see his “silly” movies after the horrors of WW1. So what does he do? Does he act like a hero coming back from war? Does he adapt his movies to his audience? No, he acts like a petulant child and burns all of his films and studio. After that “smooth move”, he ends up renting space selling old toys and feeling sorry for himself.
    Second, I would say the thing for me was the number of plot holes in the movie. The anamaton, which I thought was going to have a bigger role in the plot, was hardly in the movie. Jude Law’s character was not fleshed out enough to care a out him. Hugo is auppose to be manning the clocks, but is always running around. How do they stay on time? Kingsley gives away his most prized possession (anamaton) like its no big deal. The guy who loves movies can’t find any of Kingsley’s work, only to find over 80 of them by looking in every nook and cranny. I thought Kingsley burned all of them. The list could go on, but I think you get the point.
    The only things I liked about this movie were the 3D (though it was unnecessary) and Sasha Baron Cohen. He has come a long way and has a bright future.

    • I loved this movie and couldn’t disagree more, but you are entitled to your opinion. But your complaint that Melies didn’t act like a “hero” seems a little odd since he was an actual person and was actually broke and selling toys in the train station. Should they have rewritten him as a triumphant hero? I don’t know the complete true story, only what I happened to read and hear, but life seldom, if ever, conforms to our ideals. The fact that many of the characters could somewhat overcome their given circumstances is pretty much the definition of heroism outside of movies and mythology, which most often work by presenting a “heightened reality.” This movie asked us to recognize the small victories in life, and the shelter provided by books, movies, connections, and simply hope. You know, boring day to day stuff.

      Personally I was touched at how every character seemed to have some very dramatic experience with death and loss, particularly due to WWI, but sometimes simply just because life can be that way. Life can leave people feeling defeated and bitter, and it’s fortunate to find any small part that isn’t that way. The station patrolman was perhaps the most surprising and effective display of this (and for my money provided the absolute #1 3D moment of all time, and without any special effects).

    • I was also bothered as to why he decided to burn all his stuff after the war and everything and not just adapt or whatever like you were saying. After thinking about more (and a little researching) I decided that the turning point for him was probably melting down his movies and making shoe soles out of them (something that actually happened in Georges Méliès life). Of all the things that they could have used for the people to tromp on under their feet, they chose his films. His art. The thing that made him happiest. I too, would feel a little worthless and depressed if the things I poured my heart and soul into were considered only valuable enough to be put on the bottom of people’s shoes. That’s what I thought anyway.

    • Obviously you are not mature enough to appreciate the depth and complexity of this movie. Sadly, your writing is a reflection of the loss of critical thinking that liberal arts builds.

      • What! Hubris! Self-importance! Arrogance! For you to reference the “loss of critical thinking that liberal arts builds” in this context… I am almost speechless. I am a BIG proponent of liberal arts education, and I agree that it helps foster critical thinking skills, and more importantly, curiosity. However, for you to cite maturity and a lack of critical thinking as explanations for a negative review of this movie is asinine and foolish. I HATED this movie. It had more plot holes than swiss cheese. The characters had poor primary motivations for their actions. The pacing was at times both plodding and frenetic, and overall uneven. The British accents were contrived. I could go on. Just about the only thing going for it was the cinematography and the 3D, and I don’t generally like 3D (it just seems unnecessary). Just because someone has a conflicting point of view to your own does NOT mean they are immature, or incapable of critical thought. When you go to see this movie, keep track of the plot points and ask yourself, was this the carefully crafted masterpiece that everyone seems to be claiming (RT score is like 93%) or is it an iffy script badly in need of a rework/rewrite.

        • Fletch:
          It’s nice to see an actual “real” free thinker. I couldn’t agree more with you about this movie. A real drag of a movie for me too, I didn’t see any major innovation other than filming in 3D with probably 3-4 cameras and a slew of the best special effects people… so what’s so special here that money can’t buy. And those ridiculous English accents in a film about a French story. What a waste of $180,000,000 dollars and the box office for this movie sucks.

          The studio has spent a major fortune in the marketing cost of this movie. I have never seen so many full page articles week after week in the major newspapers and magazines. They are banking on clever marketing and buying the reviewers and audience since no one is going to see it, if given any real honest reviews.

          If you look at the box office revenue at this point(and one has to remember that a ticket to this 3D special effects movie cost an average of $16.00 a seat) means that the seat sales are in the toilet and the studio realized that they will not make back anywhere near investment, so they contrived a big “con”. I don’t like the B.S. associated with this film. Too many of the same adjectives by reviewers – “Masterpiece, Marvelous, Breathtaking, Superb”? The acting is modest at best, nothing special. Most of the reviewers have bought into the con and they will get this movie on the Academy Awards ballet and re-release it and try to recoup their investment with a second and third run. What a game!

          • This movie was totally ruined for me by the fact that it did not have French stars and was not spoken in French. Subtitles work and would have added to the authenticity of the story. The banality of the ridiculous English accents finished me and were an insult to the audience. It was also half an hour too long.
            Most disappointing.

      • What depth??? I found this movie to be so boring and the characters so unintersting that I nearly stopped watching halfway through. I only kept watching because it got such good reviews and I figured it must get interesting at some point. It never got any better during the second half of the movie. I can’t stand fake accents and the two child actors were really not that good, and special effects don’t impress me, I couldn’t care less about 3-D even if my tv had the capability. The plot was completely unbelievable and all the evil mean adult characters were completely unrealistic. It’s totally a kids movie and I hate kids movies. I can’t believe Hugo is being billed as a movie for all ages. I want my 2 hours back. Really glad I didn’t pay to see this movie and got it from the library. The only part that moved me at all was watching the two dachshunds befriend eachother.

        • Actually, there was a great deal of depth, both in the story itself AND the character portrayals. The entire film remained thematically consistent, while each character managed to show interesting emotional truth, often with a mere gesture or simple facial action. The sets and cinematography were excellent (and the sets and costumes AND characterizations were historically accurate and appropriate, respectively).

          I am not sure what film you watched, but it does not seem to be the one shown in theaters…but to each, his/her own. C’est la vie.

    • Couldn’t agree with you more Matt. A long drawn out, mostly boring story with so many holes in it that were downright distracting to the flow and continuity of the film. I see people attacking you, when you are pointing out the many flaws that the reviewers should have discussed, if given honest reviews of this Scorsese film. I pay for entertainment when I go out and see a film. I wasn’t entertained by this long drawn-out film.

      Money can buy alot – obviously – this film at more than $170,000,000 plus an inexhaustable marketing funds campaign – but money can’t buy class!

    • You think like my little bro who only watches super hero movies where the hero hits down the villains and saves damsels . Real people needn’t always be perfect . They don’t always find the perfect way to deal with their sorrows . This movie is about real life . Grow up .

    • I agree. I watched the movie on DVD and don’t have 3-D capabilities. I pretty much hated the movie. I found the plot totally ridiculous and the characters unrealistic and unbelievable. All the evil mean adults are so obviously meant as characters in a kids movie and yet the movie is being billed as for all ages. I almost quit watching midway through but because it got such great reviews I figured it would get better. It didn’t. I found it completely boring and uninteresting. The only part that moved me at all was the one with the two dachshunds. I’m so angry that I wasted 2 hours of my life on this movie when I could have been doing something else. Like sleeping.

  4. “Hugo” A portrayal of the Human Spirit! *****

    “We are not damage.” The message I walked away with is that it is never too late to complete your incompletes. Today many of us are living in quiet desperation, self-doubt, and lack of self-empowerment.

    This 3D format is absolutely exhilarating. It is up and close, and in your face. Suddenly, the quiet desperation melts away, and brings out the childlike magic of wonderment, and possibilities. You no longer feel alone, but rather part of something bigger. Yes, indeed entertaining, as well! Spectacular, Martin Scorsese, you outdid yourself on your first 3D. I give this film top honors.

    My request is to take your entire family and friends or just YOU to see this movie.

    Never ever quit on your dreams,

    • Yes, Leslie. Exactly!

  5. This movie was great, I can completely agree with that, however the praise it’s receiving seems a tad over the top. Yes, it had some gorgeous cinematography and the use of 3D was probably the best I’ve seen in film to date. And I absolutely loved how Scorsese let us experience something old in such a new way and still make it as enjoyable and mystifying as it must’ve been for people who saw it originally. But did anyone else think this movie draaaaaaagged? And I’m not even sure for just the first half, to me it felt like the first 2/3rds of the movie was slow. The characters were well introduced and it had a solid beginning, but after we had the introduction out of the way, everything just seemed to slow down and the characters and story began to lose their appeal. *SPOILERS* At the start I didn’t really care whether or not Hugo got his notebook back, or fixed the automaton, because I didn’t get any sense of WHY he was so determined to do so. After we learned more of WHY Hugo was so motivated to fix things, when he talked about people and the whole world working as one big machine (about 2/3rds into the movie) I started to sympathize with him a bit more, but it was an awfully long wait to do so. Did anyone else feel this way too? Or am I just too concerned with being instantly gratified? 😛

    • Yeah. I gotta say, you are too much in need of being instantly gratified. But don’t feel bad, most of America is right there with you. And yet, when we are instantly gratified, what pleasure do we take from it? A few seconds, maybe, before we’re on to the quest for more gratification. When you have been truly satisfied, even if some patience is required in the effort, you can feed on that satisfaction for a long time.

      I LOVED Hugo, in every way. To me, it is a gorgeous film, and I wanted every minute of it to be longer, not shorter. I guess, since nothing is perfect, one could find something to pick or peck about here, and Lord knows, many have on this thread.

      But I think to myself, how ironic, that this film about movie magic of yesteryear, that shows us the sheer delight of those then who were blown away by the simple compilation of frames to make movement, AND shows us that with all the razzle dazzle of current movie technology, garners so many shrugs.

      How cynical we have become. How large our expectations have become—like a greedy beast no one can satisfy. How much HARDER IT IS to make movie magic these days, despite all the technological treasures we enjoy.

      • That was a rhetorical question. I’m well aware I have a lot more patience than the average movie-goer. I already addressed the fact that I thought the movie was good and that I enjoyed it, I just don’t think it was a MASTERPIECE. I understand the importance of building something up slowly to create drama, but honestly, I don’t feel like this movie accomplished that. I feel as though Hugo’s motivations for fixing things weren’t fleshed out enough during the beginning. I didn’t get the sense of why he was so determined to finish the automaton, like, I understand it was him and his father’s last project, but since the father appears in literally one scene, it didn’t seem to carry much weight. The character/audience relationship didn’t feel as personal as it should have. We’re not in Hugo’s, or any of the characters’ minds, we’re just sitting there watching them do what they do while lacking insight of WHY they do what they do. Scorsese has made plenty of other pictures that have more intriguing characters, ones that develop and change over time. The only character that did that in ‘Hugo’ was George, but all we see of him in the first 2/3rds of the film is a bitter and disappointed old man, while AGAIN having no insight into why he is the way he is. So that when his character arc DOES come around it feels rushed and uneven. I’m not here to bash this movie. All I’m saying is that I think the pacing needed more of a balance. Very little happens in the first half of the movie and then EVERYTHING picks up at the end. I don’t like it when movies do this, I prefer it when they continually build to a climax. I don’t know, apparently no one else is having these gripes so I must not have understood the movie well enough. And on a side note, I don’t understand what you were trying to say in that last paragraph, since when is it a BAD thing that we have large expectations out of movies?

        • The “larger expectations” of which Stella spoke (if I understand her correctly) has nothing to do with the quality of the film being made (in other words, nothing to do with wanting to lower the quality) and EVERYTHING to do with instant gratification she spoke of earlier. People, whether on this site or any one of countless others, post criticisms of every tiny detail of a film AS IT IS BEING MADE (thanks to camera phones, movie blogs, etc.) then go to see the movie as if it can ever seem as fresh and new as in the “old days” before such technological jumps were possible (or, at least, widespread). Disappointment runs rampant as a result. People used to be surprised by films…this surprise translated, quite often, into pure, unadulterated magic. We will never again have that innocence…which, simply put, is exceedingly sad.

          You think Hugo did not maintain a consistent level of build-up…that it was too back-heavy. You, obviously, have that right and have provided your reasoning behind that critcism…unlike a few others who merely sounded like blowhards. Just realize that there are those of us who think the pacing was, in fact, quite appropriate and effective and made for a movie-going experience (along with a variety of other complementary factors) the likes of which is so unfortunately rarely seen anymore at the cinema…or, for that matter, at home on the small screen.

          You enjoyed the film but did not enjoy the particular flow of the story. Others did.

        • There is no logical reasoning for why Hugo is on the mission – just an emotional one. It’s summed up nicely at one point in the film when he alludes to the automaton being ‘something he can fix.’ It’s how he deals with his grief and loss, by trying to exert some kind of control over his world – if only through this small action of fixing this broken thing. The automaton is a metaphor for Hugo (and subsequently Ben Kingsley’s character) as a “broken” person. His quest makes him “work” again – i.e., transcend his grief.

          • Well-stated, Kofi…

            • Well put Archaeon, you give a good explanation.

              Kofi Outlaw, I understand everything being said regarding Hugo and his will to fix things, and I know the moment you’re speaking of and I also remember that’s the point when I started to enjoy the movie more. I felt like I could connect with the characters on a more personal and emotional level whereas I couldn’t before. But this moment doesn’t take place until after we’re long into the movie. I loved the second half of it, but the first half seemed to be lacking. And I just find it odd that I’m the only one who seems to feel this way because all I’m seeing is two extremes: It was a masterpiece, or it sucked. (Which is really just ignorance.) But as Archaeon said, it’s really just a matter of opinion. Perhaps I’ll see it again and see if I feel any differently the second time around.

    • ExistentialistMe…
      Your comments have nothing to do with instant gratification. You called it right, the movie is draggy, makes mostly no sense and goes off into subplots and subtext that go nowhere and are left unexplained and have no meaning to the end product of the movie. Don’t let the “bandwagon” joiners get you to question your own reality and truths…The movie was clearly not all it was cracked up to be!

      • I agree with Julia. The plot was unbelievable and ridiculous. The characters were boring and cliche. It’s clearly a kids movie with all the mean evil adults and children being scared and on the run all the time. Totally unrealistic. Very disappointing as far as movies go. Definitely not a deep thought provoking film for all ages like it was advertized to be.

        • Did you actually WATCH the film? I doubt it, if you really think the adults were portrayed as evil…or even bad. They WERE confused and frustrated and sad and even angry. In short, they were human. This was exceedingly clear as the film progressed…to those watching it. Perhaps, you did not pay enough (or ANY) attention?

    • Sorry for responding to this question only now, but I’ve just seen this movie now. Unlike you, I was gripped by hugo’s urgency to have his notebook back, for the simple reason that that was his lifeline to his dad, that was all that he had left of his father. Having a 3 year old boy myself I immediately identified with Hugo and his relationship with his dad and he had my overwhelming sympathy from the start. That strong emotional bond between a father and young son needs no more explanation or fleshing out. Mostly all parents will grasp what that means and why it was so important for Hugo to get his notebook back. Hope this makes sense…

  6. The opening scene, panning across the distance and entering the station, then on through the crowds is unprecedented, very exciting. I realized Scorcese was grabbing 3D by the throat, and just sat back to enjoy. I want to mention my thoughts on the PACE of the movie. I’d say it’s about a fifth the speed (unfolding plot, changes of scene, and so on) than most movies made today. This has two effects: many scenes will stay long in the viewer’s memory; the climax of the film, its purpose — showing the genius of the silent film maker — is showcased in contrast to the very slow pace of the film, and thus shines more brightly. If he’d filmed for attention deficit (our modern disease), the early films would have lost most of the audience.

    • Yes. Exactly.

  7. Terrible movie bored outta mymind I recomend you DO NOT see it, It made no sense my friends and I were stalling ourselves hoping for it to be over soon when in reality it took forever. Bad movie dont waste your time

    • I recommend you make up your own mind about this movie. I admit, I don’t get Malorie’s comment. I can only think what it takes to not bore her out of her mind is…I don’t know, maybe another Bruce Willis action movie. Whatever. To each their own.

      But imo, this was a most splendid movie, one not to be missed, unless you just hate gorgeous cinematography, multi layered message, and the best 3D ever. On the other hand, if you live for quick thrills and abhor anything that takes its time to build, if you need explosions and car chases a plenty, this isn’t for you.

      • I find it very insulting that you insinuate not liking this movie somehow means that one is only satisfied by explosions and car chases. I like neither and I still found Hugo problematic.

        • Why? Back it up, Sisi.

    • Explain WHY…if that is even possible.

    • Malorie…couldnt agree more. terrible movie. exposition when unrequired, and no exposition where required. the book is, predictably, better by far, as is the real story of mieles. there is more talk of the 3d and how it makes people feel, rather than the story itself.

      • As I pointed out earlier, I saw the 2D version and was STILL quite impressed with and appreciative of the film…The story IS what makes people feel (good or bad is another issue), not the visual dimensionality.

    • Totally agree! I hated this movie and thought it was completely boring.

  8. I have a question for people who’ve seen the movie. Is there any other movies you can compare or contrast it in terms of aesthetics, tone, and pace? (not story-line)

    Would someone who enjoyed Bicentennial Man probably like this movie? Or is Hugo more artsy? Is it worth waiting for the standard 2D DVD to come out if a person is on the fence about it, or does it lose too much without 3D.

    Trying to figure out if I should see it or not. Is there a few movies it can be compared against or grouped with to help a person decide?

    • Do yourself a favor and wait on this one. Very artsy. If you want high drama and great acting maybe wait for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” That one looks like it fits the bill.

    • You SHOULD see this.

      Actually, it’s great that you mentioned “Bicentennial Man” because that is, in fact, the case. This film has the same sense of whimsy in an otherwise realistic world (yes, I know BM had a fantastic premise…but only because it showed a version of the future, not because of any overtly unrealistic developments in human history).

      I cannot recommend “Hugo” highly enough. :)

      • Oh, and though I’ve heard the 3D is superb, I actually saw it WITHOUT the added dimension and STILL found it an excellent film.

        As for Matt’s desire for high drama, he is correct in that “Hugo” is NOT a high drama film. It is simply an extremely well-crafted, well-acted, well-made, beautifully-presented film showing a bit of the magic the current generation of movie-goers usually does not get to see.

        • Thanks for the input guys, appreciate it. Tickets and snacks arent cheap anymore so I take a little more time nowadays choosing which movie I’ll see every couple of months.

          • Save your money Vanguard…if you like real entertainment, this is not the movie. There are so many more enjoyable films out there today. You don’t have to disguise the wholes in this movie as “artsy”. This is a “wait for the DVD film”!

    • I would compare it to Finding Nemo. I hated that one, too. Just another boring kids movie with silly unrealistic characters and plot lines and lots of special effects. Waste of time.

  9. Thank you for saying it too, but I also thought this was the best use of 3D I’ve seen, and I think Avatar was spectacular. This, however used the 3D to emphasize real sets and objects, as opposed to the usual bouncing animated characters. This is the potential James Cameron speaks of (and achieves),and what I’ve only seen in Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” before Hugo. That is, the emphasis 3D can bring to the real world as it is. Just the clock and machine parts were a large part of what put me in a child-like mood, as I’m sure it did to others, because what child hasn’t at some point been fixated by intricate gears and mechanisms. And for all the technology it is ultimately a warm, intimate, and rather old-fashioned movie.

    I’m baffled by the few bad reviews and many unfavorable comments. But if I only looked at the poster and previews I might assume it was a movie about a time traveling old-fashioned looking robot, and something about a missing father. So expectations were denied. But come on, if I were expecting something like that, which is commonplace, and stumbled upon this, I’d feel I’d found a treasure. I do anyway. I think the majority of people want their expectations fulfilled with few surprises, but dressed up in a different way.

    I’m trying to urge any film aficionados to see this before it’s gone, but hopefully some Oscar buzz will give it some renewed life. It deserves it.

    Definitely the best large budget movie of this year at least. Maybe the best movie this year period, but I still need to see “the Descendants.”

  10. wooow, I just read this review, and i gotta say…i gotta go see this movie, now. Kofi, you have certainly put me over fence. This is the first time I’ve seen a 5/5 from you guys…have any other movies gained such a prestigious rating??

  11. Just saw this movie last night with my girlfriend, and it was amazing. This film makes you appreciate films. The only injustice I saw was that we were the only ones in the theater, and there were tons of people going into Breaking Dawn….ugh.

    • This is the case when I went to see it. It’s quite upsetting, really. :L

      • its always quite upsetting when a great movie like Hugo is being upstage by Tweelight: Breaking A** Part 1…oh well those movie goers that waste their money on a movie like Tweelight doesn’t appreciate art like Hugo and prefer a fantasy of sort :/

  12. Let me respond because some have inferred that I am a mindless drone who would love nothing more than to curl up with a Transformers movie and enjoy the senseless action and explosions. I enjoy an “art” film as much as anyone, but I found Hugo to be full of plot holes and dull. I could have been more respectful in my earlier comments, but I was still smarting from my initial disappointment in the movie. But I agree that Sasha Baron Cohen was great & maybe this would be a great rental. I generally agree with the Screenrant reviews, and in fact I would not have seen Hugo had it not been for their review. Reasonable minds can differ and Hugo was not for me. Hopefully those who see it enjoy it.

  13. for me the best way to enjoy A movie is to NOT see (or avoid as much as possible) any trailer that gives away too much of the movie OR not read anything about the movie. Up till last night I’ve hardly read or seen ANY type of trailer for Hugo and guess what? I L-O-V-E-D it. On a side-note this is/was my first experience watching a Scorsese movie EVER. I’m doing the same thing with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, because even though I’ve read both the book and the Swedish Movie version, it will be very interesting to see (what i like to call) the ‘Americanize’ version. I thought everything from the acting to the set pieces to the cinematography was: “Wowzers”. This is just my own opinion.

  14. Beautiful movie, excellent 3D, BUT way, way too long so that the story loses steam and doesn’t satisfy in the end. Wanted to love it.

  15. I was bored. It is a beautiful movie, and the acting was superb, but I should know better than to see movies about movie making. I’ve yet to see one that I enjoyed, as they always come off as aimed at insiders, which I am not. I liked that the story was different, and it was refreshing to see something a little off the beaten path. However, it felt very, very contrived to me, and I cared not at all about any of the plots. I know I was meant to feel wonder, but I was unmoved.

    Definitely not a mainstream movie. If you want to feel good about yourself, and rise above the plebians, then by all means, go. I spent a lot of money to see it in X3D. Should have known something was up when I sat in an empty theater.

  16. I took a date to see this movie and what a mistake that was. The movie was SO long and boring that she fell asleep on my shoulder and I couldn’t wait for it to end so we could get home and do more important things ;D We kep waiting for SOMETHING to happen in this film, some adventure, some magic perhaps but NOTHING EVER DID. This film was the only film I have ever seen in my life where I actually left the theatre mad and wanted my money back. Load of rubbish. Save your money.

  17. This, unfortunately, seems to be a “critics love it, but audiences hate it” kind of movie.

    I finally saw it today, and it blew me away. The only other movie that I can think of that has offered such an incredible experience is 2001: A Space Odyssey. And, like 2001, I think that if you go in looking for the wrong thing, you’re bound to be disappointed. Sometimes, you just have to sit back and let a movie take you away.

  18. Very dissapointing movie! Classic paid off hollywood elite. I had read all the reviews before going with my family and we all expected something incredible. That was not the case. My 3 kids fell asleep before the 1/2 way point. My college son, asked if he could see something else after 25 minutes.

    I have read the book and there were too many “off-roads” from the original story. The boy was also younger in the book and numerous aspects were changed. I don’t mind a director’s twist on a story, but be honest and cop to it in a review…no one comments on that. If you want to do an adaptation, then do it correctly or at the very least acknowledge your changing it for Hollywood.

    Also, this is a French story, why aren’t the actors speaking French or at the very least have French accents! That lost everything for me. You go to a restaurant and order a steak but they give you chicken, “hey that’s o.k. cause it’s artsy chicken and that justifies and substitutes for steak?” I don’t think so! Sasha Cohen did a mediocre impersonation of Peter Sellers as inspector Clouseau. But at least Sellers had a French accent!

    Hugo Cabret is French, the actor who played him spoke “British English” so did all the other main characters…Wheres the great acting there? At a cost of $170,000,000 dollars they couldn’t hire a French accent coach? Wheres the masterpiece of acting there? It isn’t even true to character. I don’t quite get that. If you realize and then accept the fact that all the main characters spoke heavy “British English” and didn’t even respond to that, then how can you justify yourself being an individual thinker. Chloe Moretz is American, she doesn’t speak British English, so if they had a coach, why wasn’t she speaking with a French Accent? That would have been better acting.

    When you say it’s an “artsy, fartsy” story and that justifies such a major exclusion? I don’t think so. In a movie where the characters were born and live in France, why aren’t they apeaking in a French Accent? That’s ridiculous. That lost all credibility for me.

    In addition, I see nowhere that any of the Reviewers make one comment about the fact that for kids to see this movie where the main character spends 1/2 his time stealing food, toys, parts, etc., yet no reviewers comment on this? This is what my kids should see and be told is great artistry? Baloney! In other movies where a kid is unlikeable because he behaves selfishly, the reviewers are all over it and spouting paragraphs about such a portrayal. But if you put the lable “artsy” on a $170,000,000 dollar long and boring movie, then it’s o.k.

    If this was any other movie besides a Scorsese, they would have attacked everything bad about this movie and pointed out all these issues. Instead most of you just ignored all of these important issues under the guise of “masterpiece, artistry, etc, etc.etc. But all of you who think it’s just wonderful obviously can’t think or react for yourselves.

    None of you make one comment about these important issues, which are very critical to the story itself. Yet you rush to defend every sentence of your “mind-blown” experience of this movie. Think about it. This is Hollywood bought at it’s best. In 4 weeks the movie has barely made $35,000,000 dollars in revenue. It was expected to be a big hit in Europe because of it’s French story background and it has bombed!! So it has bombed in America and also in Europe, that justifies awards for the Hollywood weirdo elite.

    So, I would think twice about seeing this one before it comes out on DVD. And who said the Academy Awards weren’t a bought off scheme of Hollywood. Look at the marketing games being played out on this movie, nominations and winning doesn’t mean anything to real free thinkers! They understand it’s just another way to increase revenue and payoffs!

    • Leslie…

      See my above comment to Julia R. Your blathering cut into those of us who DID enjoy the film is just…sad.

    • @Leslie H.

      Hey, Free thinker, check paragraph #4 – the one where I (in no uncertain terms) state that this is not a kids movie.

      I didn’t read the book, so I’m not judging the book vs. the film – just the film itself.

  19. Wow! I am always amazed that when someone doesn’t like something they feel justified in insulting everyone with a different viewpoint! We all differ in so many ways-from our upbringing to our education to our interests and what we do for a living-not to mention our ages. Just like we can’t all agree on politics how could we all agree on a movie? I personally loved this film and I thought it was beautiful. I agree there might have been a few places in the film where a little tweaking was due. I did not see it in 3-D because the theater was no longer showing it that way. I knew nothing about this film (had not read any reviews until now). So,yes,Lesie H. this is my true reaction! I went with my husband, 14 year old son and 10 year old daughter and her friend. We all liked it but they didn’t love it. I know it was long but I didn’t want it to end! Let’s just respect each others opinions-I didn’t berate my family for not loving it as much as me. I know we all walk a different road.

  20. This is the stuff that movies are made of: magic, mystery and wonder, and this movie gives it all to the viewer and then some. I was absolutely captivated and enraptured by this wondrous movie that is Scorsese’s love letter to the medium itself that has made his life and career. It pays very appropriate and necessary homage to one of film’s most brilliant and at times forgotten pioneers, Georges Méliès, who could most easily be considered the great granddaddy of science fiction films. His “La Voyage Dans La Lune” was made 110 years ago, in 1902, and watching it, one can still marvel at the special effects and shadowy figures moving across the screen. In “Hugo” we get to see a bit of how Méliès made “La Voyage”, as there are flashback scenes to the heyday of the making of his early films.

    “Hugo” is the story of an orphan, Hugo Cabret, set in a Paris train station in 1931, whose father dies in a sudden fire at the museum where he works, leaving him orphaned and in the care of an alcoholic uncle who works at the Gare Montparnasse train station keeping the clocks. The uncle disappears not long afterward, leaving Hugo to his own devices to fend for himself and keep the clocks on time. He is also trying desperately to restore an automaton that he and his father were working on together and he steals what he can from the train station toy store, run by a grumpy elderly man, “Papa Georges”, played by Sir Ben Kingsley. We also meet Gustave Dasté, a disabled World War I veteran who works as the train station’s inspector and guard, who nabs wayward children and sends them off to the orphanage. Other characters include Monsieur Frick and Madame Emilie, who own dogs that regularly keep these two people from ever being able to have any meaningful interaction even though you know they are both flirting with each other. There is also Lisette, a charming young woman who sells flowers at the station and who has eyes for Gustave, although he is too shy to approach her. We learn, in a very touching scene, when they do finally meet that her brother was killed in “The Great War” and his disability was also a result of that conflict. So we meet the regular denizens of the train station and learn something of their stories in addition to the main tale of Hugo, who has a notebook of drawings of the automaton that his father left him and that he is trying to use to solve the mystery of it all.

    Hugo gets caught stealing from the toy store and “Papa Georges”, who runs it, takes away his notebook and makes him work at the store for reparations for what he stole. Hugo pleads for the return of the notebook, as it is all he has of his father, but Papa Georges says he is going to burn it, and so the next day, he returns and hands Hugo a handkerchief filled with ashes, as Hugo weeps for what has been lost. Eventually Hugo meets Papa Georges’s goddaughter, who he is taking care of, and she reveals to Hugo that the notebook was not burned, but that she cannot retrieve it for Hugo. I won’t reveal much more of the plot because you have to see it, but suffice it to say that it is all about Hugo, either wittingly or not, bringing people together and helping to fix that which is broken, not only the automaton, but people’s lives.

    This is the stuff of a first rate, great movie that is destined to become a classic. It’s a love letter to the history of movies, an eloquent plea for the preservation of film history, and a lovely statement on how one individual’s interactions can fix so many things that are broken. Touching, sad, at times funny and just plain magical, this movie will make you laugh, make you cry, leave you on the edge of your seat in suspense and ultimately leave you smiling from ear to ear for a good long time after it’s over. It hits all the right notes at the right time and is perhaps Scorsese’s masterpiece after a lifetime of great movies that have entertained us time and again. No gangsters, baddies, guns or blood here, just pure, delicious, exciting, beautiful, moving and awe inspiring entertainment. It’s everything I look for in a great movie wrapped up in one big Christmas gift of a film. Thank you, Mr. Scorsese, for a movie that I will be sure to enjoy for years to come. This one’s going in my collection as soon as the DVD is available. Be sure to read Brian Selznick’s masterful book, too. That is the icing on the cake of a magical tale for both children AND adults alike. And thank you, Brian Selznick, for a book that has, I am sure, already become a classic, and rightfully so. It’s simply stunning and groundbreaking and has redefined what a book can be all about.

  21. I saw this film without seeing the trailer, and didn’t know what to expect. While it was pretty to look at, it was rather tedious and overblown. Don’t get me wrong: I love cinema history and children’s epic films such as “Narnia” and “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. I also loved Scorsese’s past work such as “Raging Bull”. That “Hugo” has received such praise only indicates that 2011 was indeed a very weak year for films. Should it get best cinematography? Yes, perhaps. Best Picture…please NO!

  22. I am a 28 year old male who is covered in tattoos. I really want to see this movie (at theatres, in 3d) but would have to go by myself… Which is awkward seeing as this appears to be a childrens movie.

    • Dont worry Pooper, I’m a 35 year old with a few tats but will be going alone to see it today. I actually enjoy going solo as then I can concentrate on the film and not be concerned when the person next to me is not enjoying it.But yes, it’s a bit sad that these days something so innocent can be percieved differently.

  23. Can’t wait to see this film. Yep, I’m behind.

  24. I was late in seeing it also–saw it Friday 2/17/12 at a second-run theater without 3-D. So, to the one-eyed man who wanted to know what we thought after seeing it in 2-D–I gave it 4 stars out of 5. It was beautiful and interesting, but didn’t deliver on the implied mysteries it left hanging at the end. Are they planning a Hugo 2?

    It seemed curious that Hugo’s dad saw the Man in the Moon movie first, then kept following Georges Melies’ footsteps. I thought maybe the celluloid films were burned in the fire which killed him, but no. The way the Melies were so secretive about the “secret” made me think the two children were half siblings or cousins. Apparently, they were not related at all. Much more was implied.

  25. I’m 14 and a very artsy person. I watched Hugo at my house, in 2d, with my family. I fell asleep in the first 20 minutes. I have never fallen asleep in a movie before, intil Hugo. The music was too much. It seemed like the film was made to show off special effects, and music. The characters fell flat. I could not relate to any of them. I walked out in the first 45 minutes. I went back to working on one of my painting projects, so I could actually accomplish something. Hugo is not worth seeing. Hugo, you better run from the creepy cop guy (that stalks kids) who wants to put you in an orfange (where you wouln’t have to steal food, and have a better place to live in.). Take your robot thing with you, so it can draw you a pretty picture. There is no way a robot could draw that, especially in that 1930’s. The tecnology was not that advanced in the 1930’s

    • It wasn’t a robot…It was a mechanical drawer working from a preset template. Yes, it was VERY possible in the ’30s…in fact, it was possible even earlier than that.

  26. Ok, I know this movie came out 8 months ago….. but I just have to get this out of my system. I did NOT like this movie. Everybody else seems to love it. Here’s my take on it:

    The good stuff?
    1. Great visuals
    2. Very effective 3D

    The bad.
    1. Asa Butterfield’s nostrils. Yes. I said nostrils. I saw this movie at a huge IMAX theater. As Hugo, Butterfield was the main protagonist, and had many close ups of his face. His nostril flexing was a major distraction. He did it a lot. Almost constantly. **Here’s a drinking game challenge for you. Buy this on DVD or Blue Ray and take shots while Hugo is flexing his nose muscles. I guarantee you’ll be drunk before 20 minutes has gone by, and passed out in your own vomit well before the movie is over.

    2. I didn’t give a crap about any of the characters. That whole Dickens, sad orphan cliche, is pretty well worn out by now. Yes, I’m a 53 year old man, so i can’t expect to identify with Hugo the kid. But I didn’t identify with Ben Kingsley either…. which brings me to my next point…..

    3. The acting was bad. Especially Kingsley. He was super hammy in this movie. I couldn’t get past Asa Butterfield’s melodramatic nostril flexing (see above) to judge his acting skills. The goofy cop character played by Sacha Baron Cohen was not funny at all. The girl character played by Chloe Moretz was just ok.

    I give it a 2.5

    There. I got that off my chest.