The 3D phenomenon is still a lost cause in my mind. Most films shot in 3D use the technology in such gimmicky ways they can’t be taken seriously, and all post-converted films just looks like trash. With Hugo, Martin Scorsese has not only used the 3D technology in an artful and mesmerizing fashion, but also conjures a multi-layered theme to compose one of the best films of 2011, and quite possibly the most well-rounded film of Scorsese’s historic career.
Hugo Cabret is an orphan living inside the walls of a Paris train station in the early 1930′s. Left to live with his Uncle who maintains the station’s clocks, Hugo spends his time doing all the work. When he can get away, he steals small parts and gears from a toy merchant whose shop lines the halls of the station. While Hugo is adept at eluding the slightly bumbling Station Inspector, he’s not as lucky avoiding the toy merchant. Confronted by the merchant, Hugo is forced to give up all the items he has stolen as well as a small notebook that’s important to the boy. Needing the parts to repair a special item left behind by his father, Hugo agrees to work for the merchant to pay back what he stole. With the help of the merchant’s niece, Hugo repairs the item he’s been working on for too long and discovers that it may be more than chance that crossed his path with that of the toy merchant’s.
Hugo tackles a number of thematic issues that are bundled into a story of wondrous mystery and heartbreaking catharsis. A story in which every main character is emotionally damaged, Hugo brings hope to them all, whether they’re looking for it or not. Largely searching the idea of resurrecting dreams and searching for something to make one whole again, the film doubles as love letter to the movies and all the magic and beauty of whimsical film making; the same feelings that drove Mr. Scorsese to be a film maker or even for me to write about them.
French film maker Georges Méliès (the man behind such groundbreaking works as 1902′s A Trip To The Moon) is a major focal point of the film. Méliès broke ground in terms of genres and photography. It’s only prudent, with his work being so important to the story, that this be Scorsese’s first 3D film. Like Méliès, Scorsese is taking a burgeoning technology and creating something spectacular with it. The pure depth and scale of Scorsese’s sets allow the action side of the 3D to take on a whole new shape that fully draws the audience into the life of Hugo and all it’s characters. Even the flattest shots of the film gained a new roundness when comparing them with the glasses on or off.
Supported by fantastic performances from Sir Ben Kinglsey, young Asa Butterfield, comically grounded Sacha Baron Cohen, and well versed Chole Moretz, Hugo is practically perfect. Some people might complain about its length and non-film buffs may not get as much out of it as all of us, but Hugo is an instant masterpiece and stirs up every emotion possible, even as I write about it now. Like The Muppets that also opens this Wednesday, the film appeals to kids and adults on the same level. 13 year old lead actor Asa Butterfield put it perfectly in a recent press conference, “For younger kids, they can connect to the adventure side of the film, but for kids my age and older, they will connect to everything the film has to offer.”
While Scorsese will always be known for his more violent films, there’s no doubt that they’re all powerful pieces of work. Hugo on the other hand hits so many bases and emotional angles, yielding a fascinatingly complex piece of art told through a very straightforward yet symbolic story. In the future, when I look back at the career of Martin Scorsese, Hugo might very well rise to the top of the list, and to fans at large, it might remain that way well after I am gone.
Rating: 4 and a half out of 5 ‘Staches