Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn


Last night we went to see "MirrorMask," the new film written by Neil gaiman and Dave McLean. We found it excellent. The protagonist, Helena, (Stephanie Leonidas) is a young teenager whose parents (Rob Brydon and Gina McKee) run a small circus. Helena is fed up with the circus life and wants to "run away and join the real world," despite the fact that she has an active fantasy life expressed in her scratchy but vibrant ink drawings. She quarrels with her mother and wishes her dead, and is horrified when her mother falls ill during the subsequent performance. With her mother on the brink of surgery, Helena falls into a troubling dream, wherein the world of her drawings seems to be threatened with being overwhelmed by her mother's dark, smothering side (the Dark Queen) while the bright side (the Light Queen)lies in a Sleeping-Beauty-like coma. Helena decides that, since it is "her" dream, she will be the one to find the "charm" and waken the Bright Queen. Further than that I will not say, since the quest becomes enwrapped in mysteries, and things turn out darker and more dire than Helena expected.

Georgie described it as "an 'Alice in Wonderland' for the 21st century," and I concur. There are also distinct similarites with "The Labyrinth" (also a Jim Henson company production) but this dreamscape is informed by Freudian and Jungian concepts ("the shadow" is not just a dramatic phrase, here) and imagery from Breughel, Goya and Dali. One of the points of conflict is Helena's separation from her mother to become her own person--not an issue in "Alice."

One critic disliked the movie, which uses a mix of digital and traditional animation combined with live action, for not using "real" sets, models and puppets, instead of what were referred to as "blurry" special effects. That person did not get it. With mutiple visual textures and layered effects with backgrounds bleeding into foregrounds, the movie style is like some of the "Sandman" comics, with multilayerec collages and color washes in action. The occasional soft focus reinforces the dream-like effects. The one criticism we had was the soundtrack: occasional bits of dialog were hard to hear. Other than that, we considered it a masterful work and well worth seeing.

Rated PG for some scary images. The darkness effects and creatures are quite creepy. The subtext will be lost on children.
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