Well, I hope you’re satisfied. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo arrived on DVD and BluRay this week, and at that moment you missed out on any chance that you’ll ever get to see it the way it was meant to be experienced: On a floor-to-ceiling movie theater screen in glorious 3-D.
Forget the film’s 11 Oscar nominations (and five wins) and the countless “Best Director” awards that were heaped upon Scorsese. The inconvenient fact remains that Hugo wasn’t seen by very many people, and yeah, that means you. More people went to see Adam Sandler’s mind-bogglingly awful Jack and Jill, for crying out loud. Can you explain that to me? ‘Cause I’d sure like to know what you were thinking.
I understand why Hugo was a hard sell. Paramount tried a few different tacks in attempting to tell you what kind of movie Hugo was, and that’s completely understandable. Was it a kid’s film? Was it an adventure movie? Was it a director’s self-indulgent paean to the early days of moviemaking?
I’ll admit, the night I went to a preview of Hugo, I was not looking forward to it. The commercials I’d seen made it appear to be a wild chase flick with a child at its center. “Great,” I told myself, “Scorsese’s slumming with a Nickelodeon movie.” Of course, I won’t recap my review (read it here), but I could not have been more wrong.
Now the Red Box and Netflix crowd will finally get around to seeing Hugo. Just maybe they’ll get a hint of what they missed in the theater. But it’s too late now. Martin Scorsese’s sprawling, dazzling fantasy will be reduced to, at best, a 50-inch screen. That’s better than nothing I suppose, but even though I now have a copy of the Hugo BluRay disc, I’m reluctant to slip it into my player. I know I’ll miss that sense of plunging, headfirst, into a vision unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
This will, of course, all change one day. The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, Fantasia, they all lost money when they opened (although Hugo, which deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with those classics, is in a much, much deeper hole, having recovered barely one-third its production cost). It may take 20 years, maybe 30. But a big-screen Scorsese retrospective will inevitably mount a 3-D revival of Hugo. Afterward, audiences will wander, awestruck, into the street. They’ll read somewhere that in 2011 Bad Teacher made $30 million more at the box office than Hugo. And they’ll shake their heads and ask each other, “What were they thinking??”