For those of you that missed TCM’s great Movie Moguls and Stars, it’s available on DVD now. But if you want the children’s edition minus the whimsy, you may want to check out HUGO.
Hugo is essentially a self-masturbatory love fest of silent era films. I’m not even sure why the fucking character Hugo is in the fucking thing? He doesn’t learn/change/grow, he’s just a plot point to move Scorsese from silent film redo to silent film redo…in 3D! The whole movie plays out like some History Channel movie where they try to incorporate history lessons into some weak film narrative. Needless to say, the trailers for this film are misleading, but not in the way you’d think. There is no secret key, no cryptic message left for the kid, nothing at all to be gained from a hilarious death scene of a dad (Jude Law dying in a way reminiscent of the epically hilarious fatherly death scene from Green Lantern), there is just Scorsese’s grand silent film reenactment. From what I gather, it’s a fairly spot on adaptation of the book, maybe even too much so. The big reveal revolves around some kids going to the library to read a book about film history where they learn about the man that is Georges Méliès (which isn’t a big deal because Hit-Gurl is his fucking granddaughter, and she obviously knows him right away). Luckily, they just happen to be there ON THE DAY THE AUTHOR OF THE BOOK WAS TROLLING THE LIBRARY LOOKING TO GET INTO ARGUMENTS WITH ANYONE WHO QUESTIONS IT’S ACCURACY (I’m certain this is an attempt to knock fanboyism). So the author lets them know they got the last print of Méliès’ famous music video (Journey to the Moon) and at least Ben Kingsley has found his marbles.
That’s it, that’s the whole movie as far as plot goes. Yeah there is some peripheral stuff to bloat this thing out to 2 hours but most of it is inconsequential nonsense just so Marty can finally get to make a modern movie with over the head references to silent movies. The whole character of Ali G is fucking worthless. Now, if this movie does reach the hearts of kids and makes them want to learn about silent films, then bravo to it, I assume that’s the big idea behind it. Seems like this would be an interesting piece to show middle schoolers and then teach them more about silent films. But with a film so cut and dry plot wise, seemingly void of any emotion, there is no reason to care about any of the characters and their connection in this film. You don’t give a shit about why Ben Kingsley is some grumpy old man until the history lesson which is the high point of the film. Until then though he’s just a jerk jerking Hugo around, we only learn through his wife and his granddaughter that he’s upset over his past and rather not talk about it.
The biggest issue with this film is that this isn’t the best way to tell this story.
Ben easily could’ve become a mentor to Hugo and told him stories of the past. Hugo should’ve gone through the story, not realizing the old man was talking about himself all along; big reveal at the end that Ben actually iss this great director he spoke of. Also the whole silent film conventions shouldn’t have been as over the head as they were. In the movie’s budding romance between Hugo and Hit Gurl he takes her to see a movie (Ben doesn’t allow her to watch films, you see) and they watch Safety Last (the one with the dude hanging from the clock) but this film came out in 1923, Hugo is set some time in the 1930s, making the film around 10 years old or so. Oh! There is that anti-thrilling chase scene toward the end where Hugo ends up hanging from a clock, so they needed make sure you can put two and two together rather than showing something more period-accurate, like Modern Times. It also goes against the film’s ultimate statement, that films need to be preserved for future generations, but in this world we’re shown, a younger generation IS watching an older film, so the message is other films lasted but no one gave a shit about Méliès? That…or Edison was still alive. That’s another way they could’ve told the story with Edison fucking over Méliès (they already had Christopher Lee, I guess he works for Central Casting now doing background/cameo work?) and he could’ve been the enemy.
But in the end, who cares about preserving films when you can just blow 150 million dollars on recreating them for a modern era…and in 3D!
I’d also like to note that the music in this movie is fine, it fits but never soars. Toward the end, it becomes such mediocre white noise you don’t even notice when it’s gone, suddenly key scenes are just void of any music (you see, that’s Scorsese teaching you how silent films didn’t NEED a score to be magical). The 3D made me wish the movie had just been Mo-Cap instead of just looking like Mo-Cap. It’s fine, it seems a little over indulgent, and I don’t think this film will convert anyone to the 3D experience, it’ll just give the Hugo supporters more reason to bitch about it (because it’ll never be as good as when Scorsese used it).
What ultimately sucks is that there is a fairly good kid’s movie in here, they just needed to shave off about 30 minutes (X all of Sacha Baron Coen’s failed attempts to maintain one accent, again his whole role was too LOOKY LOOKY it’s like a SILENT MOVIE!!! DUH!! HURRAY FOR SILENT MOVIES! And they were fucking boring. I guess realistically those chase scenes are about as exciting as a bum leg chase would be) which would get rid of all the meandering bullshit and tighten it up substantially and the tiny plot wouldn’t feel so languished (like the whole useless fatherly back-story, but it is 2011 the year of the daddy issue).
But hey! At least the kid was good, he didn’t let the movie down….the movie let HIM down.
Here's Stuntcock on a set visit to Hugo getting a reach around from Borat.
FINAL THOUGHT: Why not just give Scorsese fucking
creative control of TCM?