The 2011 Martin Scorsese directed film Hugo is billed as a family epic and won 5 Oscars including that for Best Cinematography. With a $170 million budget and a 93% approval rate by Rotten Tomatoes you could be forgiven for believing the hype, but what Hugo delivers instead is one of the most visually stunning yet ultimately dull experiences in the history of cinema.
The story is of an orphan boy Hugo (Asa Butterfield) living between the walls of a 1930′s Parisian train station, who is also a mechanical prodigy and maintains the station clocks, whilst in his spare time rebuilding a mysterious automaton that his curator father found at the museum before he died.
Unfortunately, not much else happens until midway through the movie when it suddenly shifts to being a homage to French silent film pioneer Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley). The style of the movie adds further to the general befuddlement by being too grown up for children but too childish for adults, thereby reducing its target audience to really old history buffs in love with movies made between 1896 and 1913. In other words, Betty White.
Scorsese’s historical cinema theme subsequently runs throughout the rest of Hugo, which all the while suffers from a lack of decent development of the less than engaging characters; Asa Butterfield, Chloë Moretz, Ben Kingsley and his wife (Helen McCrory). Moreover, despite the station Inspector’s (Sasha Cohen) performance being odd to say the least, his part was infinitely less bizarre than the mewing, fawning characters played by Francis de la Tour and Richard Griffiths which was baffling to say the least.
In the end, this movie subjects the audience to a 2-hour slow train going nowhere experience, which would have been better served had Scorsese made a documentary about Georges Méliès rather than this 128 minutes visual ‘treat’.
A Hugo Letdown
- Rated: PG.
- Adventure, Drama
- Release Date: 11/23/2011
- Directed by: Martin Scorsese
- Starring: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloë Moretz, Christopher Lee, Emily Mortimer, Frances de la Tour, Jude Law, Ray Winstone, Richard Griffiths, Sacha Baron Cohen
- Produced by: Graham King, Johnny Depp, Martin Scorsese, Timothy Headington
- Written by: Brian Selznick (book), John Logan (screenplay)
- Studio: GK Films, Infinitum Nihil