21.5.12

Is Hugo a kids film?


Is Hugo a kids film? I just spend the last two hours asking myself that question and really don't think I can come up with an answer. It was a bit strange for the world when we here the big cheese MartinScorsese, known for film topics like guilt and redemption not to mention his love of violence, is doing a family film. Although I have no 3D displaying devices in my home (other than reality itself) there's a chance I missed a big gimmick about this movie; maybe it was the one thing that kept the kids quiet for two solid story driven hours, because I couldn’t find anything.

A quick synopsis:
“Hugo is an orphan boy living in the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris. He learned to fix clocks and other gadgets from his father and uncle which he puts to use keeping the train station clocks running. The only thing that he has left that connects him to his dead father is an automaton (mechanical man) that doesn't work without a special key which Hugo needs to find to unlock the secret he believes it contains. On his adventures, he meets with a shopkeeper, George Melies, who works in the train station and his adventure-seeking god-daughter. Hugo finds that they have a surprising connection to his father and the automaton, and he discovers it unlocks some memories the old man has buried inside regarding his past.” [from IMDb ]

Now apart from lacking any sort of fast paced slapstick entertainment that seems to be the main thing holding kids attention spans in modern media, the two protagonists were both kids. Asa Butterfield playing Hugo and Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle, who both have a pretty impressive filmography already, are very much treated like adults in Hugo. While given emoutional breakdowns and dialogue heavy moments is great when helping to forget that they’re 'just kids', it ultimately points out some flaws in the young acting of Butterfield while further distancing any relation to young viewers.


Other than Butterfield's performances, the amount of talent on show is impressive to say the least. Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen are here playing two of their best roles to date. Christopher Lee deserving a special mention for completely dominating every scene he is in with his iconic characteristics and at age 89 (hitting 90 later this month) still holds as much on screen attention as he did as Dracula almost 50 years ago. Minor dialogue-less characters also help with some humour in between the drama of the film.

One particularly beautiful aspect in Hugo is that the story of George Melies(Kingsley) is almost completely based on his real life and his wiki is like reading the plot of the film. If I knew this beforehand I would have appreciated the character a lot more, as sometimes his story is so strange that you are taken out of the world and realise it has to be just a movie.

Also, the Oscar for cinematography is well deserved but with such smooth transitions between CGI and real shots it gets hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. The colour grading is a bit over the top, maybe to entertain the younger audiences, and ruins some of the scenes natural beauty in my opinion.

One of George Melies most famous images
The film also becomes very personal and starts to go into detail about the origins of film making and some of the rewards and consequences of being successful in the industry, which I'm sure the mighty director could relate to. It was also very interesting as a partial, and accurate, documentary on one of the founders of film making, George Melies.

While it is definitely not one of Scorseses most financially successful film, it is in the awards area, raking in nominations and awards from dozens of reputable events all over the world. It should be interesting to see how this furthers his career. Originally Chris Wedge (dir. Ice Age and Robots) was planned to direct the film so it's not like this was Scorcese love child all along. Is he just adapting to a new genre. Maybe he realised that he can only go on making similarly themed films for so long. I guess there's an even higher chance that, like Melies in Hugo, he's having little identity crisis, which really gives the film a whole new layer. Either way, should be interesting to see where he goes from here.

Hugo is out now on DVD and BR