Talk about depressing. No, not Hugo, but the fact that 3 of the 5 trailers before the movie were rereleases of classic movies coming back to the theaters in 3D: Beauty and the Beast, Star Wars and Titanic. Unfortunately, I remain sure that 3D is in fact a fad and the sooner it dies a death, the better. As others have already pointed out, Scorsese does use 3D better than most thanks to including snow, dust and particles to add depth to the air (which was part of made Avatar's 3D so successful) and the way he moves his camera (and of course he moves his camera better than most anyway). In terms of spectacle, the shots which stick in my mind the most are the opening shots above Paris, along the platform and following Hugo through the walls - as well as the two close-ups which make both the Inspector and Melies appear larger than life. Those tracking shots would have probably looked equally awesome were they in 2D and the powerful close ups could have been just as impactful in IMAX. Maybe part of the problem with non-IMAX 3D is that you see the edge of the frame/screen. When the Inspector leers down over the audience, for example, it was certainly intimidating, but I was distracted by the fact that the top of his head was cut off, thereby ruining the effect of the 3D to an extent.
I don't know what Scorsese is trying to say with this movie. The Lumiere brothers thought (or said) that cinema was just a passing fad. Clearly that's not the case. Is Scorsese trying to make the statement here that 3D is not (as I've hopefully suggested) a passing fad either?
OVerall I liked the film, and I left the theatre with a sense of wonder as if I had fallen in love with film all over again, but I fail to recognize Hugo as a masterpiece. Don't get me wrong, the direction, the acting was all superb. Of course I love the cinephile elements to it (I had virtually not idea what to expect on that when I headed in) and seeing Melies' films rendered in viewmaster-style 3D was a magical experience. Maybe it's because I came to this with some expectations (or at least knowledge) that it would delve into the early history of cinema, but for whatever reason I really didn't feel that the film worked on a structural level at all. It just seemed too choppy and didn't really hold together for me. It would focus on the automaton for 20 mins, then Melies, etc. Yes, it was all ultimately connected, but watching it as a whole, I found it quite jarring how it moved from one aspect to another. The plummy British accents annoyed me too, IT'S SET IN FRANCE!!! In particular, SBC's voice constantly slipping back and forth between Inspector Clouseau and Russell Brand was quite annoying. When the kids were reading the book in the library and the film shifted into VO, it sounded and felt like we were watching a lecture. I wasn't particularly into the vignettes with the adults who spend their days in the station either. I get that those moments are supposed to be reminiscent of early cinema skits, but I didn't really feel they added a great deal.
All that said, however, my come away is that this is a good film. Not great, in my opinion, but I hope that it's a film that kids really truly love. They are after all the target audience, so for them it may be far more staggered by it than I was. I really hope so, because how many films nowadays really inspire a sense of magic or love of cinema? Incredibly few. In an age of digital effects and 3D, it's inspiring to feel such a rush from a film which pulls back the curtain on early cinema's magic and how groundbreaking effects of the time were achieved.
Of course, this being Scorsese, there were plenty of neat movie references hidden in there which I was able to appreciate even if I couldn't tell you what film exactly was being referenced.
To add further comment to the whole black and white argument, while I stand by my previous comments in the above post, I think it's important to note that when we see Tabard in flashback, the color is saturated to give it the feel of an early color photograph, yet when he enters Melies' studio he is met by a burst of color obviously meant to create a overwhelming brightness in comparison to the outside (non-filmmaking) world. Regardless of whether filmmakers would actually have painted paper mache lobster consumes in red for b&w movies back in the day or not, the colors in this scene are there because of production design to create a reaction in the Hugo audience more than anything else.