Hugo  Review: As Endearing As It Is Frustrating
An endearing love letter to the cinematic art form advertised as a big-budget, family-friendly adventure to its audience, Martin Scorsese's Hugo dazzles & captivates with its exquisite use of 3D photography but the wizardry it conjures in the art direction & cinematography section is missing on the storytelling front, for the narrative is slow, stale & devoid of compelling characters. And though the film captures the magic of moviemaking in all its glamour & glory, its wandering plot, clunky narration, bland characterisation, glacial pace & overlong runtime results in a dull, flat, tedious & emotionally vapid experience that will test the patience of many, if not all.
All the initial expectations & excitement set up by its impressive opening track shot is unfortunately lost in this long & lingering movie about movies advertised as a family-friendly adventure to its audience. Martin Scorsese’s love letter to the cinematic art form does capture the magic of motion pictures with its timeless qualities intact but Hugo is also one overlong, frustrating sit that will test the patience of many.
Set in 1930s Paris, the story concerns an orphan boy who resides alone within the walls of a train station. To avoid getting detected by the inspector, he makes sure all the station clocks are maintained. But his real intrigue lies in uncovering the secret of the broken automation device left to him by his father. His quest to solve the mystery is set into motion when he meets the adventure-seeking goddaughter of an embittered shopkeeper.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, Hugo dazzles & captivates with its exquisite use of the 3D camera, delivering the breathtaking effects with panache but the story itself is rather underwhelming and not as engaging, and if you are not invested in the bland characters that inhabit its period setting, then sitting through it is going to be one hell of a chore for you. It is slow, far too relaxed and at times so still that its 126 minutes runtime feels at least twice as long, if not more.
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However, with new storytelling tools & resources at his disposal, Scorsese conjures absolute magic in the technical department. The 3D rendering is spellbinding, to say the least, easily amongst the best use of the immersive technology to date. The production’ design is another standout, bringing the Parisian locale to life in meticulous detail. Its vivid, vibrant photography adds more texture & polish to the imagery while Scorsese’s heartfelt tribute to Georges Méliès’ works is beautiful & endearing to watch.
As a big-budget family-friendly adventure, Hugo is somewhat stale & uneventful. Even the characters aren’t much compelling, quite the contrary actually. Editing is definitely a mixed bag. Scorsese allows the story to unfold at an unhurried pace but fails to fill the space with enough adventurous elements to keep the interest alive n kicking, and whatever exciting moments do exist in the final print surface only in small bursts. Even the performances from the actors don’t leave much of a lasting impression.
The cast consists of Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Jude Law, Christopher Lee & some more. Butterfield does an adequate job at best playing Hugo but he is too easily outshined by Grace Moretz whenever they share the screen together. Amongst the adults, Kingsley delivers a balanced & well-reserved input as the toy merchant with an interesting past while Baron Cohen chips in with a fine performance in the role of the Station Inspector.
On an overall scale, Hugo is undeniably gorgeous to look at and finds Martin Scorsese quickly grasping the fundamentals of 3D filmmaking to push the available technology to new heights. But the film as a whole is lacking the gripping factor to make it soar and appeal to casual filmgoers. Those more attuned to Scorsese’s works and well-aware of his cinematic affections will be fascinated by what the director tries to do here but for others, Hugo will be an eye-popping delight yet a dull, flat, tedious & emotionally vapid cinematic ride.