There are two major shocks to get over before and during viewing one of this years planned biggest family films - it's directed by the man who gave the world Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and Raging Bull - and that he's filmed it in 3D (his first foray into the medium). Not too mention the likes of Cameron and Spielberg are stunned by his use of it is no mean feat!
Scorsese is a director with a true passion for cinema which can be seen in all his previous works. This love is poured into every frame of his 2 hour interpretation of the little-known children's book that tells the tale of an orphan who struggles to stay out of the clutches of a train station guard whilst trying to finish his late fathers last project. A short and simple story that in the hands of any other director would be full no doubt with product placement, tunes from the latest tween band and chases that would translate well into some form of console game.
Here though, within the first ten minutes you have two long (but not Goodfellas long) tracking shots that wondrously introduce the city of Paris in 1931 and the makeshift home of Hugo in amongst the pipes and clockwork mechanisms of the train station where he lives/hides. There are two stances regarding the use of 3D in modern cinema - the in-your-face tactics of the likes of the Final Destination franchise, and the subtle depth-of-field immersion from such films as Avatar. There is now a third - an effect where even though you accept the scenes shown in the third dimension as something to add to the story rather than drive or smother it, it never, and I mean never, ceases to stop making you catch your breath and continuously mouth the word "beautiful"at every well-crafted shot. For the first time in the recent rebirth of the format, Scorsese's Hugo shows how 3D should be used. It's quite simply put, that great. If you don't find yourself grinning at the imagery every now and then, please take off your 3D glasses and leave the cinema.
Now that doesn't mean that it is without its flaws. You see, this still a film from a man who normally deals with Cert 15 and above movies. This is not going to be an easy film for younger audiences to sit through. There's fun, and funny stuff for them but inbetween its long running time - 126 minutes is very long when compared to normal 90 minute family faire - its the gracefully camera moves tied in with the love-song to the birth of cinema itself that may cause severe fidgeting. This is a film that will find itself woven into the hearts and minds of those who can connect with their inner child or who can and want to educate the young of something other than music videos and games consoles. The first people who screamed over 100 years ago at the sight of a train pulling into a station upon a cinema screen are the target audience here it seems - trying to recreate the wonder of an art-form that has the power to bewitch its participants.
If this sounds all too heavy, then fear not - unrecognisable Baron Cohen and his made for 3D dog are great as Hugo's foil (their bath sequence is a genuine laugh-out-loud moment) with him delivering "mouth open" jokes that only the adults will truly understand whilst the secondary characters bring an Amelie-esque element to the proceedings with their stories playing out under the watchful eye of the little hero - De La Tour and Griffiths' slow-burning romance is surprisingly touching and funny.
Simply, this is THE most beautiful film of the year and the best use of 3D to date making it a movie to see in the cinema with people who still want to or who can believe in the power of wonder and imagination.
UK release date: 02.12.12