I would like to pick the brains of Martin Scorsese and the other filmmakers of Hugo and ask them how much 3D technology encouraged and/or inhibited their creativity during production. Although I think Hugo makes the best use of 3D to date, I believe 3D contributed to the film’s glaring artistic errors, mainly pacing and plot.
The film’s story is very charming: a child discovers the wonderful world of George Melies and effectively the history of early cinema. The graphic novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret inspires the idea for the film, and Scorsese’s love for cinema and cinema history is the driving force behind the project. 3D technology truly helps transport the audience to another place and time and does not rely on the usual 3D gimmicks (e.g. projectiles being lobbed at the screen). Yet the 3D technology seems to have been a hindrance on the final product, especially considering the pacing of the film.
Thelma Schoonmaker is the editor for Hugo and is a long time collaborator of Scorsese, working with Scorsese on such films as Goodfellas and The Departed. However unlike those two pictures, the newest film’s 3D-induced long takes and lack of coverage does not allow Schoonmaker to cut through the twists and turns of the plot, nor sprinkle the plot effectively with its characters and their interweaving stories. Hugo plods along and the characters are uninteresting and seem rather flat (or, more appropriately, 2D).
This uninspired characterization also stems from misplaced plot points and character relationships, the best example being the relationship between Hugo and Melies. The film’s story relies so much on this relationship, yet the old Melies (played by Ben Kingsley) is gruff and quite absent from the film while Isabelle, Melies’ goddaughter, takes center stage in Hugo’s life. The character of Melies needed to be an ever-present, stand-in father figure for Hugo to make up for the recently deceased Mr. Cabret (played by Jude Law).
Did the 3D cameras and their set-up limit the shooting schedule? Did 3D motivate the need to display a sense of space within the frame through long takes? Did spectacle and the technology of 3D take focus away from storytelling and character development? Answers to my questions would still leave me wanting more…