Scorsese’s Hugo: The Thinking Man’s Real Steel?
Sometimes Hollywood gives us something we didn’t even know we wanted. And sometimes it gives it to us twice. Case in point: Until 2011 we hadn’t realized there was a demand for high-concept (and higher-budget) family-friendly movies about troubled kids who become bizarrely attached to talented, surrogate-parent robots. But, well, here we are! Today, auteur Martin Scorsese gave us our first peek at Hugo, a mannered and precious 3-D adventure in which a fresh-faced imp connects with his deceased father via a mechanized automaton that he accesses with a heart-shaped key. The automaton’s secret skill? Drawing! This, of course, made us think immediately of the upcoming Real Steel, fauxteur Shawn Levy’s tale of a fresh-faced scamp who connects with his estranged father via a clanky robot discovered after he steals some car keys. The robot’s killer app? Boxing!
It’s hard not to admire the way Hollywood played this, divvying up a single, unified theme into such perfect demographic slices. While Real Steel swings for the cheap seats (smiley Hugh Jackman does an American accent, inevitable images of metal men getting hit in the crotch), Hugo skews highbrow (prickly Jude Law maintains his plummy primary school tone, while Sacha Baron Cohen — as the antagonist — finds his crotch pelted by nothing more serious than a layer cake). Truly, this is niche marketing at its finest. Whether your tastes run more towards the New Yorker or the New Frontiersman, rest assured: There is a robot-befriending kids’ movie for you!