Credit: Paramount Pictures
from "Hugo" Credit Paramount Pictures

We took my 86 year-old mother to see “Hugo” in 3D yesterday, she had a great time, she enjoyed it just as much as all the young children in the theatre. Luckily, mom managed to keep the 3D glasses on and got to enjoy the amazing tricks this technology has to offer. I found the new 3D technology impressive, but what struck me more about the story is how it handled the “good” guys and the “bad” guys.

Spoiler Alert…. If you haven’t seen the movie, stop reading and go see it. Allow yourself to get lost in the world created by Brian Selznick, in his book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” (according to Wikipedia, Brian Selznick is a first cousin twice removed from David O. Selznick, the Hollywood producer of “Gone With the Wind).

I have not read the original book, but John Logan wrote Martin Scorsese film version and they managed to pull of a very interesting trick. As you know, a good story has a powerful protagonist pitted against an equally powerful antagonist. It is the protagonist’s struggle against the antagonist that forms the bulk of a well-told story. In “Hugo” we meet Hugo Cabret, a young man who lives inside a train station in Paris who runs up against the bad tempered Toy Shop Owner and the Station Inspector who comes with a fierce Doberman pinscher (who looks exactly like him, imagine that)

I won’t give you a complete plot summary here; you can find that all over the web. But really, don’t read about the movie ahead of time, just go and see it and allow the magic to work on you. What I admire so much about it’s that as the story unfolds, we come to see that the “bad” guys in the movie aren’t really bad, they are flawed. And the “good” guys don’t always do the right thing. But are trying to do good things for others. You need a “bad” guy in the story so the hero has someone to challenge him, so he can see that he has abilities that he never knew he had. That as in life, our struggles against circumstances, either makes us or breaks us. We either learn to rise to the occasion and rise above the challenge or we let life chew us up.

In “Hugo” you got to see that toward the end, even the “bad” guys have redeemable qualities; they had the capacity to be open and vulnerable and that they had to capacity to love others. For me, it is a far more refreshing “message” for children to learn and for adults to be reminded. We still live in a world filled “enemies” and “criminals” and “bad” people. “Hugo” reminds us that we are all struggling, struggling to understand why our lives have turned out the way they have and that you can appreciate that we all have reasons why we act the way we do. That you can’t take things at face value, especially when it comes to people. My own flaw is that I make snap judgments about people very easily and dismiss them, when I need to remind myself that I am no better than the next person and everyone has a story to tell.

Have you seen “Hugo” ? What did you think? Or do you like to see “good” guys and “bad” guys duke it out and see the bad guy get it in the end? I can think of lots of “bad” guys who deserved their “comeuppance” in the end. Do you have a preference? If so, I’d love to hear from you.