If you’ve not yet seen Martin Scorsese’s latest visual masterpiece, HUGO, I urge you to check it out–but in 3D. That’s right, Mr. “3D wastes my dough” is recommending paying the extra four bucks to put on the lame plastic glasses that make everything darker. Only because finally, I’ve seen a 3D film that not only works better with the effect, but to me serves as the epitome of what can and should be done with it. Even more than AVATAR.
Quite simply, this is the best use of 3D I’ve seen yet.
Scorsese said he’s been influenced by 3D since he was a little boy after seeing the ‘50s examples of the format like B’Wana Devil and House of Wax. It shows: he could teach James Cameron a thing or two!
However, there are a couple caveats: First, understand that the previews have little to do with the actual film. It is not a fantasy. Other than a couple dream sequences, the movie mostly takes place in a dreary reality and deals with very real subjects (including a real character).
Second, if you have little kids, this isn’t really for them. Not because of any inappropriate language, violence or nudity, but because of the pacing and subject–it’s more for kids who appreciate aesthetics, old movies, mechanical things, and would understand its inspirational message. If they’re easily bored or looking for the next NARNIA, forget it.
I’ll try to keep it brief. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first.
- Asa Butterfield turns in a great performance, but as an unlikable, unrepentant snot. Hugo’s behavior is often annoying. We’re given more than enough reason to sympathize with him, but he acts like such a jerk for so much of the story, I just didn’t care about him. He breaks laws and causes pain to others without once apologizing. He’s given various gifts, both tangible and not, yet he doesn’t offer even a simple “Thank you.” (We’re shown more than once he has “good manners” so there’s no excuse for such behavior.)
- The tragedy he suffers is never really explained. (That which we’re shown makes little sense.) Nor is he really shown grieving. It’s all a flashback afterthought, which also hurts sympathizing with the character.
- In his initial interaction with Ben Kingsley’s character, he remains mostly and unreasonably silent, only as a plot device. Far too contrived (and annoying).
- The time period at first looks like over a hundred years ago, which horses and carriages, then we’re shown “Safety Last”, the famous Harold Lloyd short, which dates the film to 1923 or later and suddenly we’re shown a few cars!
- If you’re the sensitive type (like my wife), you’ll need several tissues for your eyes.
- Marketing for this film is way off. The initial previews made it look like some wondrous fantasy flick for the Harry Potter or Narnia crowd, which it ain’t. And Entertainment Weekly among others ruined one of the big reveals that doesn’t come till nearly halfway thru the film! (Not the fault of the film itself, but someone obviously associated with it felt it wasn’t a big deal or it wouldn’t have been so blatantly revealed, at least not without spoilers.)
- No Joe Pesci or Bobby D. (Which could also be a “pro” depending on your tastes!)
Now for the good stuff:
- Excellent cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield, Helen McCroy (looking a bit like Sigourney Weaver) and others turn in typical Scorsese-inspired performances, some worthy of Oscar consideration. And of course, an all-too brief performance of one of my all-time favorites, Christopher “I’ll always be Dracula” Lee, makes it a must-see anyway.
- The opening shot alone is worth the extra 3D charge. So is the confrontation between Hugo and the Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), the views of the city from the clock, and even Ben Kingsley’s end scene.
- Unlike most other 3D films, this was not only shot in 3D, but just when you think you’ve gotten used to the effect and have forgotten about it, something cool comes along and reminds you in a wonderful, often awe-inspiring way.
- No one gets stabbed in the neck (or anywhere else) with a pen (or anything else)! Any violence is basically implied or mild.
- Not a single “F” word. Nor anything else inappropriate. (The fact that so much emotional power can be conveyed without so much as a “damn” says a lot about the director’s abilities–and the laziness of others.)
- A few nods (intentional or not) to Hitchcock and others. Lots of clips of classic silent movies and stars, including some brilliant material on/with Georges Méliés.
- The production design and art direction are simply brilliant. If this doesn’t win an Oscar for at least one of those categories, the awards are fixed!
- A strong but not too preachy message of hope, self-reliance and the beauty and power of imagination.
- A rare happy ending! (If you’re a stereotypical nihilistic type who thinks the world sucks, sorry. You still have about 80 percent of this century’s films at your disposal.)
I really hope Scorsese gets an Academy Award (or five) for this one. He said he made this so his grandkids could finally see one of his films, and I’d love to see him do more like it.
What did you think? What do you think about 3D overall? Let your opinions, good or bad, fly below.
P.S.: Speaking of time, isn’t it time for you to finally order a commission? I’ll use as little of that resource as possible to get it done and to you before the holidays. Treat yourself or a loved one now! Just ask Craig here.