The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 1.85:1 1080p 3D and 2D transfer and is Region locked to B.
We have a new contender for best 3D picture and its name is Hugo. Filmed natively in the format and with clever and attentive detail to the framing, the picture is awash with 3D glory both into and out of the screen in an excuse to showcase just how amazing a spectacle can be achieved when the visuals are designed with total immersion in mind. Each and every scene is designed with an extreme foreground object, and moving back into the frame there is fore, middle, back and distance, really placing you within the picture; the many cogs whirring in the clock towers that overlook the distant station platform; Hugo looking through the clock face; layer upon layer of train passengers, distant promenade shops with their patrons; overlooking the landscape of Paris with its many streets and distant structures; the entire scope is epic and at once intimate. Every object is solid within its frame, look at the automaton, how the workings are inside it’s frame, how the pen sticks out of its hand as it draws. Faces look ‘real’ and have volume, see how people’s noses protrude out of their faces or how the inspector's cap pokes over his eyes. Snowflakes move into and out of the screen, the camera moves through stream, you feel claustrophobic in the crowds of people, the trains have tangible length, distance between characters is definite, Hugo’s winding of the clock’s handle is around (in and out of) the frame. And it’s not all positive parallax, there are plenty of instances of negative parallax, the aforementioned snow and steam, but dust, cinema lights, dog noses, shattered glass, pointing fingers all conspire to bring the screen out of the frame. But the beauty of the frame construction is that both negative and positive parallax are used consecutively to bring a truly immersive experience that both wow’s and feels natural at the same time. If all 3D films made such a use of the format as this, I’m sure the take up would have been much more positive. There are too many stand out moments to list, but favourites of mine would have to be looking up or down the large staircase of the clock tower, overlooking the city of Paris and, of course, the opening ‘fly’ through the station.
The rest of the picture fairs just as well, with detail being sublime, from skin pores to clothing weaves, from finite moustache hair to dog whiskers, from intricate cogs to the Eiffel Tower; there is a clear and defined edge to everything on show, even down to the rough surface of the parchment that the automaton draws on. The only softness present is that defined by the filmmakers themselves.
Colour has been digitally manipulated in post production to reduce the green, hence the picture has a very bronze look and feel, however reds and blues are still very vivid and distinct, especially Hugo’s eyes and the Inspector’s uniform. Flesh tones are remarkably natural despite the grading.
Brightness and contrast are set to give wonderfully deep blacks that help to bring out the 3D, there is no flattening of the image at all in the darker areas, which shows how lighting and composition can work together to really improve the depth; blacks of the clock tower innards at night, or the snowy nights, or the darkened tunnels in the walls of the station are the best examples.
Digitally there were no compression problems, no edge enhancement and no grading, banding or posterization present. Using passive technology I noticed no cross talk whatsoever and only the slightest of aliasing in one or two scenes. In all this is an incredible picture and one that highlights the format to the best of its ability – the new benchmark by which to measure a 3D picture.
Just the one track to choose from: English dts-HD Master Audio 7.1 and it's a doozy. If ever there was a sound track to enhance the immersion of visual splendour then this is it; with a rich and expansive sound stage to fully place you centre of the action. This is never more apparent than the opening ‘fly’ through the station with the myriad sounds passing you by – indeed before the film even starts the ticking of the clocks circle the room. It seems the surrounds are in constant use to really add to the ambiance of the piece; when our characters are on the station platform there are low level background noises typical of such a place, you feel like you are right there along with them. Dialogue is always clear and precise, very natural sounding, given a little directionality and always coherent. Stereo effects move from front to back as well as side to side with incredible detail to further enhance the experience. Howard Shore’s enigmatic score further places you in the centre of things with all the speakers getting to shine. Bass is well managed, though never plumbs the depths of the big actioners, but it’s not that type of film, the swinging of the pendulum and low thump of the steam trains providing some light LF effects, but for the most part this is about control not about bombast and rumble. The mix is tight and extremely effective matching the visuals in an excess of immersion, has to have a reference score. Excellent.
- Shooting the Moon (The Making of Hugo) (19.48, HD) – A brief making of featurette that covers all the basics; interviews with all the main cast and crew, including the author of the book, and looks at casting, set building, adapting the story, working with children and animals and a fair amount of the challenges of filming in 3D. Plenty of praise from everyone involved, though nowhere near long enough to get into the nitty gritty of the production.
- The Mechanical Man at the Heart of Hugo (12.45, HD) – A brief history of automatons, their sophistication and place in society heads up this brief look at the main prop of the film – based on a real automaton that can draw, even better than the one constructed for the film.
- Sacha Baron Cohan: Role of a Lifetime (03.33, HD) – A spoof interview with Cohan who behaves like a diva that is actually quite funny.
- The Cinemagician George Méliès (15.40, HD) – A retrospective of the ‘father of special effects’, Méliès, his influence, his career and life, all covered in the film, of course, but here presented as a celebration of his genius; with plenty of clips from his original films.
- Big Effects, Small Scale (05.54, HD) – An examination of the train crash scene as filmed by the model makers as they strive for accuracy and authenticity; a terrific watch to see the dedication of these technicians and the size of the model.
Hugo is Martin Scorsese’s interpretation of Brian Selznick's acclaimed novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret; it is his first ‘children’s’ film and his first to be made in 3D. Scorsese is a master storyteller, and with such a source novel, his own ideas, a class screenwriter and a crew committed to making the best film they can, he has produced a body of work that is full of wonder, immediately accessible and a joy to watch. The story is concerned with the titular character a twelve year old boy coming to terms with his place in the world, the examination of loneliness and acceptance of family – through Hugo’s eyes we witness how the world has changed, how it continues to change and how, with a little help, understanding and forgiveness, it can be changed for the better. As much an examination of characters it revels in its recollection of the very medium it represents: film – how modern film owes so much to the pioneers of the past. While the story itself is, obviously, fictitious, the fact that it contains actual historical details and some real revelations about one particular character make this film extremely emotional and eminently entertaining.
As a Blu-ray set, Entertainment in Video has released a pretty decent package, the 3D picture is out of this world and the new benchmark by which to measure the format and this is backed up by a stunning reference surround track; while the extras a few and far between they do cover most of the salient making of points and with the Blu-ray disc containing both 2D and 3D versions, this set is a sure fire future proof buy. Highly recommended.
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