With everything going for it, you’d imagine that The Invention of Hugo Cabret would jump instantly to any Most Anticipated List for next year. First of all, the source material is a children’s novel by Brian Selznick that has enough pictures in it to keep Rob Hunter interested. It’s a historical fiction featuring the father of film – Georges Melies. Second of all, Martin Scorsese got his hands on the rights. Third of all, the Sacha Baron Cohen, Sir Ben Kingsley, Chloe Moretz and Asa Butterfield (the kid who played little Bruno in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas).

So we have a book inspired by the birth of film being adapted into a movie with a great cast and a master filmmaker at the helm. Now Variety is reporting that, on top of all that, it’s coming to us in three dimensions.

As much as this makes me rethink my position on the film, I’m starting to see 3D a lot like remakes. We all bristled at first, which is the natural thing to do, but I’m beginning to see 3D as an avoidable problem. After all, there’s always going to be a 2D option in theaters, and if the only press screening offerings out there are for 3D, I’ll pay to see the film instead.

On the other hand, Scorsese isn’t a victim here being shoved into this gimmick by studio pressure. Or at least he isn’t appearing that way in his interviews. He seems genuinely enthusiastic about the technology, and he speaks out against using it purely as a gimmick, but when he starts to speak about using it for dramatic purposes, my natural disinterest in 3D turns me off.

At best, we’ll see a depth of field on screen that adds a bit to the story. At worst, one of the best visual filmmakers still working will be hobbled in what he’s able to do inside the parameters of a gimmick.

In all honesty, it feels like Scorsese will have to change up his style considerably. Think back to some of his recent films and question if they would have looked great in 3D based on the shots given. A disorientating angle from the cliffs in Shutter Island? Sure.

But a bottle smashing across a guy’s face in The Departed? A tiny plane against the clouds in The Aviator? A march of thugs in Gangs of New York? The imagery may seem beautiful, like anything being applied to a Magic Eye book, but it’s because Scorsese doesn’t need 3D. He has a greater depth of field in his films than most 3D pictures can even dream of achieving, and we don’t need the glasses for it. If anything, he’s going to be held back here.

With any hope, this is the right project to do 3D with. It has a pop-up book feel to some of the drawings, and since it’s being produced in 3D, there’s a chance that it could be utilized as a tool instead of a hindrance. Perhaps Scorsese can use it to deliver an added sense of childlike wonder to the project without falling prey to the gimmickry.

The film has a lot going for it. Hopefully 3D won’t ruin that.

What do you think?


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