Children of the eighties were raised on some of the best fantasy movies ever made, things like Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Legend, and The NeverEnding Story. They were real, dreamlike, enchanting… and not without valuable lessons, like ‘the balance of good and evil,’ and ‘don’t sell your baby brother to goblins.’
Mirrormask is the first film I’ve seen in years that has this same kind of magic. I’d go so far as to say the overall atmosphere surpasses anything I’ve ever seen; the art, camera work, dialogue, story, and soundtrack all seem to work as one force. Virtually the only thing I can fault the movie on is a gradual and limited release. From now until Christmas, it will be gradually opening in theatres across the country, so I encourage you all to see this film the first chance you get (and the second, and the third…).
I’m not saying this film is the solution to life’s problems, or the greatest film ever made, or even the best movie you’ll see this year, but it left me in total awe.
Let us start with the story.
Helena is a circus performer, more specifically, a juggler. This is not her choice; her dad owns the circus and her mom helps to run it, and they all perform. Helena dreams of running away to join “Real Life,” and finds her only escape in her art, which she plasters all over the walls of her camper. As with all good stories, then something happens. As a result, her world is in jeopardy of falling totally and utterly apart. One night, she wakes up to the sound of a violin, and follows the sound into another world (more specifically, the world inside the drawings on her walls). She gets caught up in an RPG-esque quest to save this world from destruction, and real life parallels are played out beautifully and often subtly (less so if you read the book, which I do recommend).
Now, if you are a geek, and I’m assuming if you’re here, you are, then you know Neil Gaiman has a way with words. His style is unique and he has a definite brand of humor all his own. The dialogue in the film is all Gaiman’s (he wrote the screenplay in addition to the book) and while his voice is there in the background, the characters have a life and voice all their own. Helena is no damsel in distress, and Valentine, her juggling partner and only friend in the dream world, is no knight in shining armor. They both have their faults, some more pronounced than others, and it’s startlingly refreshing, to be honest.
And then there’s the art.
And now, the music!
On the subject of the book.
In conclusion, see this movie. I doubt you could be disappointed.
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