"So what's this Hugo movie about?"
"Oh, the book is really cool! Parts of it are told in images instead of text, so reading it is kind of like watching a movie."
"Oh. Huh. But what's it about?"
The Invention of Hugo Cabret tells a good story, but when I talk about it, I usually focus on the aspect that made it so fresh when it came out: its form. Reading it really does feel like watching a movie, but it also feels like you're a real reader who can get through a a gigantic book (which does have sizable passages of text), and more than one customer has praised it to me as the book that infused his or her child with reading confidence. What happened to Hugo, though interesting, seemed less important than all that. (I'll admit that although I think Selznick is immensely creative, I can find his prose to be a little stilted and distancing, particularly in Hugo, which is probably part of why I didn't embrace the plot or characters on my first encounter.)
My first response to the announcement of Scorsese's production was, "But it already works like cinema. How are they going to turn it into a plain-old movie?" The answer, I found out yesterday, is that the story is awesome enough to stand on its own. With the elimination of the need for narration, all the words in the movie are dialogue of the sort that reveals, and usually endears, the characters, and everything else is left to the visual. And it turns out that a story largely about movies--silent movies, at that--is better the more visual it gets. Scenes depicting once-wondrous, now-cheesy pre-World War I films are, in my generation's parlance, uh-mazing in a way the book couldn't be expected to show.
Go see Hugo, guys. And then, come home and read Wonderstruck.