[to Isabelle] I'd imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn't be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason too.
Maybe that's why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn't able to do what it was meant to do... Maybe it's the same with people. If you lose your purpose... it's like you're broken.
Listen to me! Please! Please! Listen to me! You don't understand! You have to let me go! I don't understand, why my father died! Why I'm alone!
We feel a great artist has been given command of the tools and resources he needs to make a movie about — movies. ~ Roger Ebert
With Hugo, Martin Scorsese has accomplished what few in Hollywood are willing to try: make a movie for adults that arrives without sex, violence, or profanity and earns a PG-rating. It's a fairy tale for mature viewers, but the airy exterior hides emotional depth.
Hugo is unlike any other film Martin Scorsese has ever made, and yet possibly the closest to his heart: a big-budget, family epic in 3-D, and in some ways, a mirror of his own life. We feel a great artist has been given command of the tools and resources he needs to make a movie about — movies. That he also makes it a fable that will be fascinating for (some, not all) children is a measure of what feeling went into it.
Scorsese has made documentaries about great films and directors, and here he brings those skills to storytelling. We see Melies (who built the first movie studio) using fantastical sets and bizarre costumes to make films with magical effects — all of them hand-tinted, frame by frame. And as the plot makes unlikely connections, the old man is able to discover that he is not forgotten, but indeed is honored as worthy of the Pantheon.
Roger Ebert, in review in Chigaco Sun-Times (21 November 2011)
In Hugo, Martin Scorsese is hell-bent on bedazzling us, and Scorsese rarely doesn’t get what Scorsese wants — by any means necessary. The means in this case are to swoon over. Together with a bunch of A-plus-list artists and techies, he has crafted a deluxe, gargantuan train set of a movie in which he and his 3-D camera can whisk and whizz and zig and zag, a place where he can show off all his expensive toys and wax lyrical within the film itself on the magic of movies. Marty the film buff has built his own matrix. … this is one of those wonders of the world you need to see.
While Hugo is clearly a family friendly film that Scorsese’s daughter could enjoy, it really is a film for all ages. … make sure you don’t miss the chance to see Hugo on a big screen. Believe it or not, the director of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The Departed has made family adventure for the ages.
I think we have a responsibility, given the omnipresence of media in the lives of modern children, to not only encourage them with choices about what to watch, but also to teach them how to watch. Without context, how do you expect them to navigate the ocean of choice available to them at all times these days?
Martin Scorsese has spoken at length in the press about wanting to make a movie that his 12-year-old daughter could see, and how much he loved 3D in the '50s, and how this movie serves as, in some ways, autobiography because of his own childhood spent trapped by asthma in a private world, cut off from other kids. All of that is true, but the moment you start putting labels like "kid's film" on a movie like "Hugo," you are being reductive in your thinking, and that's missing the point entirely. … Early on, it's obvious that the film is less about the mechanical man and more about the way broken people sometimes need other people to fix them, how we can all play some part in the lives of others, sometimes without meaning to. … Hugo observes the daily life of the train station, the various people playing out all the various stories around him, never participating, trying to make sense of this world he watches. … People who think of Scorsese only in terms of crime films sell him short, and they are the ones who will miss out on this thrilling, beautiful movie that believes we each have a place and a purpose, and true peace only comes from finding it.
Belief in magic is a huge part of Hugo‘s theme. The precocious young boy knows its impossible, but somehow feels that if he can fix the automaton, it will send him a message from his father. Hugo makes a potent argument for films being the realization of dreams, and it doesn’t shortchange its characters either. There are real moments of danger, clear consequences, and sympathetic characters all around, so when tears come at the end of the movie, they feel earned. Scorsese’s love letter to the power of cinema is itself pretty powerful stuff.
The idea of a little boy living in the walls, sliding in and out of the innards of these clocks. It’s like people living in the ceiling of Grand Central Station, looking out through the painting of stars.
Well, “Hugo” is not really a fantasy film. It’s not a “Chronicles of Narnia” or a “Harry Potter” or “Lord of the Rings” type of fantasy. I would define that kind of fantasy as having viscerality. You’re intended to perceive events or people as very, very real. A dragon appears outside a window, and you can imagine it coming into the room, with blue flames and beautiful green emeralds for eyes.
With Hugo, the fantasy is very real, but it’s in your head and in your heart. It has to do with the mechanisms — whether it’s the clocks, the interiors, the locomotives, the trains, the automaton — with the inner workings of these objects.