The not-so-mystery screening last night at the New York Film Festival was an unfinished cut of Martin Scorsese’s upcoming 3D adventure pic Hugo. In the festival’s history, only one other unfinished film has been chosen and that’s Beauty and the Beast, so that was our first clue that Scorsese had something special on his hands. Reactions to the film ranged from wildly enthusiastic to cautioned praise. The 3D is apparently great, and Scorsese has turned what many believe to be a straight children’s film to an appreciation for the preservation and history of cinema. In short, film nerds should have this on their radar. Hit the jump for more detailed reactions to the film’s screening.
Before we go further, keep in mind that the cut of the film that was screen was unfinished. There could be some significant changes made before its theatrical release, so treat these not as reviews of the film but as first impressions.
First off, reactions to the 3D were extremely positive. Katey Rich of Cinema Blend heaps on the praise:
“The 3D technology links directly back to the wonder that French audiences felt when they first saw moving pictures, so lifelike they were convinced the train coming into the station would run them over; Scorsese looks at the people who call 3D a gimmick, compares us to those who thought motion pictures were a fad a century ago, then goes on to show us what’s probably the most gorgeous live-action 3D film ever made.”
Matt Patches of Hollywood.com adds:
“Hands down, this might be the best 3D I’ve seen in the technique’s recent revival. Yes, trumping even Avatar (two years later, lots of advancements!). Scorsese uses the stereoscopic imagery in order to emphasis every moment: he creates greater depth in the environments of the train station, draws our eyes to particular spots of the screen, even lands a few jokes thanks to Sacha Baron Cohen’s particularly long nose. “
Mike Fleming of Deadline agrees with the Avatar comparison, calling it “the most intriguing use of 3D” since Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi film. As for the story, the consensus seems to be that the film starts off fairly slow and finishes strong. Anne Thompson from Thompson on Hollywood tweeted “Lead kid + first half are stiff, but it shifts into gear by finale,” with Angie Han of /Film echoing the sentiment saying “For the first hour or so, it’s not quite clear where the story is headed, and the momentum suffers somewhat as a result…it’s not until the second half that Hugo really comes alive.”
At its heart, though, it seems that Scorsese has crafted a film for cinephiles. Scott Feinberg of THR says “At it’s core, it is the most expensive and creative Film History 101 course of all time.” Matt Patches adds:
“With the story’s direct connection to the films of the 1900s, Scorsese is given the freedom to tinker with old school techniques like stop-motion and over-the-top, silent comedy slapstick.”
Patches also mentions Howard Shore’s unfinished score, which harkens back to the Buster Keaton movies. Angie Han calls the pic “a love letter to old-school cinema” adding that “if you do happen to be into very old movies, Hugo will hold an added layer of appeal.”
As for the performances, Thompson was unimpressed with lead actor Asa Butterfield, but Patches disagrees calling him “the most magical part of the movie.” Rich sides with Patches and comments that Butterfield “carries the film with his enormous expressive eyes and minimalist acting,” making Chloe Moretz pale in comparison. Han was a fan of both Butterfield and Moretz, and singles out Sacha Baron Cohen as a standout in his comic relief performance.
Overall, it seems like Scorsese had made a grandiose, if uneven, adventure films that will catch the eye of film lovers. Erik Davis of Movies.com sums it up nicely, saying “Hugo is messy and beautiful and film nerds will love to show it to their kids, who probably won’t get any of it … yet”.
The film stars Chloe Moretz, Asa Butterfield, Jude Law, Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone, Christopher Lee, and Sacha Baron Cohen. Hugo opens November 23rd.