The following review has a minor spoiler
Hugo has many great touches to it. Scorsese and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker are adept at giving his movie great touches. There is a moment where Isabella falls down amongst a sea of people and they walk over her is extraordinary. The moment where Hugo jumps down onto the train tracks to retrieve a key somehow breathes suspense into a scene where only cynics could believe anything bad could happen. Scorsese’s films are always a cut above the rest because of these little touches.
And yet, the writing isn’t the greatest. It isn’t that there is anything bad in the writing, but that the writing itself isn’t wholly inspiring. That is the great thing about Scorsese: even in a movie where some characters make turns that don’t feel genuine, or know things they can’t know (how does Papa Georges know that Hugo knows the book isn’t burned?), Scorsese’s visual flair and Schoonmaker’s editorial finesse make the flaws fall by the wayside.
The love of early cinema is everywhere in the visuals. In other 3D movies, the fake backgrounds look like fake backgrounds. In Hugo, the backgrounds still look fake, but somehow they look like old-fashioned matte paintings, albeit ones that are moving and in 3D. The train windows are tinted so as to make the trains themselves look sepia-toned. 3D movies were not invented by Mr. Scorsese, but they were clearly invented for him.