Hugo (2011) is the first family film directed by Martin Scorsese, written by JohnLogan and produced by Johnny Depp. It is based on the Caldecott Medal-winning children's novel The Invention Of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, grandnephew of legendary film producer David Selznick. It stars Asa Butterfield as an orphan boy who lives in a train station in 1930s Paris and whose only companion is an automaton discovered by his late father. He devotes his life to making sure the clocks run on time and to gradually repairing the automaton, under the belief that the message it is designed to write is a message from his father.One day, he gets caught stealing a toy from Papa Georges (Sir Ben Kingsley), a melancholy man who runs a toystore inside the station. He finds the notebook Hugo carries containing drawings of the automaton by his father. Papa Georges takes the notebook, threatening to burn it. With the help of Papa Georges' goddaughter Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), Hugo tries to get the notebook back and use it to discover the secret of the automaton. Along the way, he discovers the secret of Papa Georges, including his real name.Also starring Sacha Baron Cohen, Christopher Lee, Jude Law, Helen McCrory, Ray Winstone, and MichaelStuhlbarg, it is notable for being Scorsese's first family film and the first movie he made in 3D. It is considered Scorsese's love letter to silent cinema.Brian Selznick also wrote a companion book to the film, The Hugo Movie Companion, about how his novel was adapted to the screen. By all accounts, he is very pleased with the result, calling it "the most beautiful thing that I've ever seen." The movie received critical acclaim and was considered one of the best movies of the year. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences even thought so, awarding the film five technical Oscars for art direction, cinematography, visual effects, and sound editing and mixing. It was a huge Genre Turning Point for the book-adapted sub-genre, so thank God for Hugo.Not to be confused with the Hugovideo game series.
Automatons, clockwork robots that could perform pre-determined feats, have existed since the 16th century. Cruder automatons powered by levers and wind existed before that.
Color movies during the silent era of filmmaking. As explained in the film, the filmmakers hand-colored each frame with ink. Actual color photography was possible even before this era, but it would have been impractically difficult to create an entire film this way.
Artistic License - History: According to The Other Wiki, sets and costumes for Méliès' movies were painted in shades of gray (not in their natural colors, as depicted) to avoid unpredictable tones in black-and-white film. The film did flip two things from Méliès' life. In reality, he burned his films and sold his props. The film shows it happening the other way around.
Author Appeal: All of the talk of the importance of early film and its preservation is pretty much Scorsese himself speaking to you. Michael Stuhlbarg even grew out his eyebrows for his character in tribute to him.
Hugo's clockwork boy is based on Maillardet's automaton, a real-life writing automaton whose history parallels its movie counterpart: It was built by a mechanical genius, damaged in a fire, donated to a museum, had its origins forgotten, and was eventually repaired by a clockwork enthusiast, whereupon its automated drawings provided a clue to its maker's identity.
Big Damn Heroes: When Hugo is going to be run over by an approaching train the Station Inspector pulls him off of the tracks just in time.
Body Horror: The dream in which Hugo turns into the automaton. It's not nearly as scary as it sounds, though.
Real-Life Relative: The daughters of Scorsese and assistant director Chris Surgent appear during the tea dance sequence, Ben Kingsley's son plays a cameraman, and the daughter of Producer Graham King appears at the party near the end.
Clock Punk: The massive station clocktower, Papa George's clockwork toys, Hugo's old home filled with clockwork, the clockwork automaton, and the clockwork leg brace. The heavy use of fantastical clockwork can make one forget that the film is supposed to be set in a fairly realistic 1931 rather than a Victorian sci-fi setting.
Contrived Coincidence: Oh, quite a bit of it. For example, the Automaton which was taken by Hugo's father, just so happened to draw a picture from the movie Hugo's father saw. And it just so happened that Hugo lived in the same train station where the man who made both the Automaton and the film worked.Justified though - Hugo believes that the world is a giant machine. There are no coincidences, but only parts moving as they should.
Cool Old Guy: Despite setting himself as a Grumpy Old Man for the first half of the movie, Papa Georges turns out to be this. Also Monsieur Labisse, the bookstore owner.
Dream Within a Dream/Dreaming of Things to Come: Hugo is having a nightmare where he gets killed by a train, which then derails and crashes through the station window. (The crash is based on a real one, and replicated in exact detail.) He has a false awakening in where he turns into the automaton. Then he wakes up for real. Later in the film, Hugo jumps in front of an approaching train, after he drops the automaton onto the tracks. The train crew reacts exactly as they did in the dream, but the Station Inspector pulls Hugo off of the tracks, and the train doesn't crash.
Evil Cripple: Played with where the Station Inspector is concerned - his bad leg is treated as one of his biggest humanizing elements.
Fake Nationality: All the major characters are French and played by British or American actors. Chloe Moretz and Michael Stuhlbarg hit the Fake Nationality triple play, as Americans playing French characters with a British accent.
Left the Background Music On: A few of the scenes in the station had their music provided by a band in a restaurant, most notably the first chase scene between Hugo and the Station Inspector.
Malignant Plot Tumor: The movie looks like it will be about mechanics and trains (and the former does play an important part of the plot). But then Hugo mentions seeing the film adaptation of a book and we eventually learn that this is really a movie about...movies. The transition is handled very well, as the film takes pains to show that a movie is like a machine with many moving parts.
Mood Whiplash: The Station Inspector's initial conversation with Lisette is played for broad laughs, until his leg brace suddenly locks up again. Cue the very not-funny revelation that his leg was badly injured in fighting during World War One, which is the first sign of his Hidden Depths.
Puppy Love: Hugo and Isabelle. Even when Hugo is adopted by Papa Georges at the end, the possible squick factor is still debatable since both kids are adopted.
The Queen's Latin: The entire cast speaks with British accents despite all of the characters being French. The actual French that they do speak, however, is spoken with a French accent. All of the written text is also in French.
Scenery Porn: Everything looks fantastic, particularly the train station.
Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Bookworm Isabelle clearly enjoys trotting out ten-dollar words. She compliments Hugo when he lets loose with one of his own.
The Un-Smile: The Inspector pulls one when trying to speak with the florist he has a crush on. At the end of the film, after they've gotten together, he claims to have "mastered three of them."
Verbal Tic: The Station Inspector has a habit of repeating what he is saying at least three times whenever he is making an accusation in slightly different words, presumably because it's the only time he gets to show off his vocabulary, as in another point he tries to pretend to have a wide understanding of poetry — he would really like to come off as intelligent and sophisticated.
At the end of the movie, even though Papa Georges and Hugo have developed a close relationship, the notebook that Georges took from Hugo never turns back up. This is an artifact of adaptation compression; in the book, Isabelle does manage to find it.
Word of Dante: According to Sacha Baron Cohen in The Hugo Home Companion, the Station Inspector's injury was caused by him accidentally shooting himself in the leg.
World War I: Part of the Station Inspector's backstory. Also Papa Méliès' background... until it turns out he's not really dead.