Just short of a year ago, I read a review about a movie called Mirrormask. Just like when Id read a review of a book called Coraline by Neil Gaiman, after realizing the creators were the same and considering how much I loved Coraline, I had to give this a look. That and I like strange stuff. I was not disappointed.
Helena is your average girl, except she creates a lot of interesting drawings and happens to be in a family circus. She resents this a bit, wishing she had a more normal life. But then, after an argument with her, Helenas mother falls ill and has to be taken to the hospital. Helena feels partially guilty, but her problems have just started, for later when she goes to bed, she awakens, only to find that she isnt in her world anymore sort of. Rather, she finds she is in a place strikingly similar to all her drawings.
This world isnt quite right either; shadows from across the border have been creeping into the city while the White Queen sleeps. It all seems to revolve around a princess from the shadow lands, a girl who looks a lot like Helena and who has apparently stolen the charm. Vowing to find the charm (whatever it might be) and restore peace to the world, Helena and her newfound friend Valentine (who, I might add, is a very important man he has a tower) travel the bizarre and intriguing world in hopes of waking the queen and restoring Helena to her world.
Helena is played by Stephanie Leonidas and Valentine (with that lovely accent of his) is played by Jason Barry. Both are superb in this picture. Why, you may ask? Aside from my unabashed love of actors and actresses that Ive never seen before in my life, both (and essentially anyone else not a CGI character) must act in a world that is not actually there. If you are familiar with the green or blue screen method, then you know that the actors have to react to items that they cannot truly see; everything from fish swim-flying down a street to giant statues orbiting in the air. Stephanie Leonidas is perfect as Helena and I just love some of her reactions to certain situations, such as when a book lands on her head (still CGI) or when talking to all the Bobs - and Malcom - Monkeybirds.
Jason Barry gets an extra point as well because no only is he too reacting to non-existant sphinxes and panicking at the sight of nasty creeping shadows, but he has a mask covering half of his face. You cant see anything of his real face except his mouth, but he still manages to pull off every single expression necessary, from disgust to pure excitement. The lines he was given are wonderful and I very much enjoy saying them or just thinking of him saying them because they make me giggle. Oh, Im a panther. I shall slip unnoticed through the darkness like a dark, unnoticeable slippy thing. Valentine is a fantastic character.
Kudos also to Rob Brydon as Helenas father (love it when he panics about the chicken possibly being the charm) and Gina McKee as Helenas mother/the White Queen/Queen of Shadows. Ive read elsewhere that Gina McKee had to deal with allergic reactions to her makeup as the Queen of Shadows. People who muscle through that get my respect.
Some have complained about the visuals, or perhaps the more precise problem is with the computer graphics. If you look at any screenshot of a sphinx, and some of the other wholly CGI characters, they can seem odd, somewhat 2D, or almost unfinished. People assume that means the budget was low and they got crappy effects.
Not so. The world Helena in is strange; everyone there wears masks and I think most of the weird CGI is done that way on purpose, like the sphinxes. Otherwise, if you take a look at the rest of that world, the colors have a precious metal-like luster, the texture of everything is more impressive than some other CGI Ive seen (I often complain that CGI is too smooth), and the scope is quite wide. I think the atmosphere the world offers, as well as much of the makeup and costuming youll see, actually tops some bigger movies. The sheer creativity and style of this place is completely unique and in some spots downright creepy. Some might compare it to Labyrinth because youll find this was also brought to you by the Jim Henson company, but I think theyre just too different to be compared.
I own the soundtrack. Ive listened to it about...ok, well, Ive lost count. And I just got it three days ago. What does that say about it?
I love the soundtrack. Its just as irreplaceable as the visuals, and what makes it even better is that half the time it meshes right in with the rest of the movie as an integral part; you know its there, but you can easily focus on the picture and action. Other times it pops up as an important part, giving that piece a bit of extra oomf. Iain Ballamy did a fantastic job and I love all the unique instruments involved to make this soundtrack completely different form anything Ive ever owned. One could compare it to pieces you might find in Cirque de Soleil. Youll get everything from circus fun to music box vibraphones to a few songs with lyrics. Theres the fascinating rendition of Closer to You for the semi-disturbing bit with the mannequins to a unique song thought up by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean called If I Apologised.
Just know its perfect for this movie.
I loved this movie the very first time I saw it. Some of the CGI styling did throw me off, but it works completely for this movie, and for those who thing the story is too simple, I think thats okay too. Im not sure of the age this movie is aimed at, but I think its fantasy-dreamworld-like in a way thats accessible to a number of people straight fun and imagination candy. Sit back and enjoy yourself by losing yourself in a completely unfamiliar world for a while. Why not? Heck, I wish I could do that for real...
Viewing Format: DVD
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