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|Index||151 reviews in total|
I was really excited to this movie after I saw the trailer. I was
convinced that it was the next best coming to theaters. I saw this
movie on a rainy day, however, and even though there was an awful
rainstorm outside--- I STILL contemplated leaving.
I started to have an inkling of how bad this film was when the credits took forever, but when I realized that most of the story took place in the "real" word I knew there was no hope.
The visuals are AMAZING, the story however it dreadful. I was actually falling asleep while watching this movie, and that has never happened before. EVER!
I love Labrynth (SP) and Alice in Wonderland both the story and Disney adaptation, so maybe I expected more then I should have from this film. But, I guess that is why this is such a let down for me.
No character growth, no ground rules, and worst of all no trace of an actual plot. But, if visuals are your thing then it is worth a look on DVD or netflix. Just be warned, it leaves more plot holes then answers.
With Jim Henson's name attached to it, I was very curious to see
"Mirrormask". After having seen it, I was very disappointment. While
the Tim-Burtonesque scenery was very original, the sub-par (for 2005)
CGI made it look like a mediocre computer game which took away much of
the magic this film could have had. Stop motion or the typical Henson
style puppets could have saved this film, however for some reason
(budget?) they did not pick that option.
Besides that, the main character had little personality and her behavior was not believable for someone trapped in a surreal nightmarish dream world. The plot wasn't really compelling either and the ending was just lame. Besides that, for most of the film I was wondering how long it would take until it's over and that's usually not a good sign.
"Nightmare Before Christmas" was a wonderful surreal and dark little story that captivated the hearts of many viewers and "Mirrormask" tries to be something similar but unfortunately it failed at many levels.
What amazing prospects for a fantasy film, to have two prolific
artists; Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman combining their talents to create
a work (in Gaiman's words) "sort of in the same style as Labyrinth." In
fact, Jim Henson's Workshop did a lot of the visual effects for the
film. The concept makes you want to drool with anticipation.
The direction was superb, the art was scintillating, and the dialogue was engaging. However, Mirrormask never really seemed to come together as a fantasy film in the way that Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal did. The story (though Gaiman has been and remains my favorite author of all time) seemed a bit contrived. That "through the looking-glass" trope has really been done almost to death since Lewis Carroll made it a literary fantasy staple. And Mirrormask, sadly, adds little to it. The film made me recall a lesser film, The Pagemaster, a fantasy footnote in the annals of film-making. The big lessons in Pagemaster were that reading is good, and you can do anything you can imagine; asinine little glossy aphorisms that attempt to convey meaning without doing the legwork. Unlike Labyrinth, where nothing could be taken for granted, Mirrormask asks the viewer to take almost everything for granted, including the fact that nearly every scene is green-screened to death. Again, I am reminded of a lesser movie, Skycaptain and the World of Tomorrow, which sacrificed substance for flashy (and fake-looking) CGI manipulation. Like the latter film, Mirrormask purports to show the viewer a fantastic reality by overusing a method we KNOW to be fake. The interaction between the characters and the fantastic environment, rather than bridging the gap between reality and fantasy, widened the rift by underscoring the "cleverness" of CGI technology.
All criticism aside, it really is a competent fantasy flick. The characters are multidimensional even if their surroundings are not. The dialogue is very well done, and the conceptual art is awesome. It's not the best fantasy film ever made, but I would watch it again.
I wanted to like MirrorMask, I really did. I appreciate Neil Gaiman's
work, I've enjoyed many projects associated with Jim Henson's studio,
and I like offbeat fantasy films from independent filmmakers. And in a
few respects, Mirror Mask was enjoyable. At times, the visuals were
stunning, a few bits of dialogue were amusing, the cast was largely
competent. But where, oh where, was the director?! And where was the
structure of the film? For that matter, where was the editor?
MirrorMask feels far longer than 101 minutes. Some films' pacing could
be described as "glacial". MirrorMask's pacing could be described as
being stuck in a bus in stop-and-go traffic on the freeway with a dozen
passengers that you begin to suspect have escaped from a mental
institution, who are having utterly banal conversations full of
non-sequiturs. A competent editor could've tightened things up enough
to hide some of the film's other failings. So could more believable,
smart dialogue. And for god's sake -- turn down the cheesy smooth-jazz,
in the mix! Much of the time, it drowns out the dialogue. On second
thought, that may be a blessing in disguise.
But ultimately MirrorMask fails due to its story. The rough framework is one that has been used hundreds of times, as far back as The Wizard of Oz, through The Labyrinth and including probably a dozen After-School Specials. You know -- the smart and spunky (but a bit headstrong and immature) boy/girl wants something different from what they have and does/says something thoughtless that sets inexplicable things in motion, and spends the rest of the film going through the motions of solving some big puzzle/going on a quest/defeating the malevolent king/queen. The plot can be reduced to two words: "utterly" and "trite".
The visuals carry a lot of the weight of the film but unfortunately, they have an unpleasantly harsh CGI tone that I find irritating when done on this scale. It felt more like a computer game than a film; I kept reaching for my nonexistent mouse so I could click on things. Sure, there are lots of interesting atmospheric sets, quirky characters, technically impressive computer-generated images, and so on, but one quickly gets the feeling that most of it was done just for the "Wow! -- that's weird!" factor. There's a sense that the filmmakers were sitting smugly in their seats in the screening room, saying "Ooh -- look at how moody and artsy and edgy it is!" But if you take away that visual weirdness, you're left with a totally generic cautionary tale. I reckon they could take any old story (say, a boy who needs to learn "the true meaning of Christmas"), run it through the patented Gaiman-McKean Weirdifying Filter and get a believable sequel to MirrorMask. But why would you want them to?
I usually roll my eyes at fantasy films. Well, The Lord of the Rings
was brilliant, but in truth it was based on a classic novel. Pan's
Labyrinth was too, but it was more than half war film. But, as for the
rest, like Harry Potter, Narnia and The Dark is Rising, well, I try my
best to tolerate and ignore them.
However, MirrorMask has shocked and surprised me. I have always had a passion for surrealism, delicate horror and bizarre creatures, and this film has it all.
The storyline, albeit not being the most original one in film-making, is filled with Neil Gaiman's quirky jokes and characters. It is suited for older children and adults alike, and is full of that elegant, dreamy horror quality that fantasy should have.
The effects, in producing the menagerie of fantastic beasts, masked people and quaint, charmingly old and dusty buildings, are amazing and original. This entire film resembles an animated Dali masterpiece rather than something from Hollywood's animation studios. It does all look rather raw, but, for me, this was much more artistic than the seamlessness of most modern day animation. At times, the weirdness of it all becomes almost too much to bear without a shudder, and this results in a surreal work of art that is both beautiful and whimsical, and chilling and terrifying.
Lastly, the soundtrack. The jazzy yet quaint music sounds like something you would hear at Cirque Du Soleil, and conveys the atmosphere in the best way possible. And the rendering of 'Close to You' with singing and dancing golden clockwork-eyed robots is truly something to behold.
All in all, if you have been continuously disappointed by fantasy, watch this saving grace of a film.
It's impossible to deny that we live in the age of McMovies, where 95%
of all films that are produced are either remakes, rehashes, sequels,
or carbon copies of other movies (which are, most of the time, far
superior). That is why when a truly cosmical event such as the planets
lining up or a movie like Mirrormask is released one should really stop
and pay attention. Simply put, everyone should see this movie. I am
well aware that most people will hate it, but it is a monument of
everything which the movie industry could be, maybe should be, and
isn't: sublime, heartfelt, intimate, and utterly escapist.
I am a fan of Jim Henson. I have seen the Dark Crystal and hadn't really liked it. However, I walked out feeling that it was something I needed to see, I didn't want my time refunded as with most movies I don't genuinely enjoy.
The story of Mirrormask is about a teenage girl who works with her family at the circus. Every kid's dream, right? WRONG. She yearns for a normal life, which is the reason for much dispute between her and her mother. After one particularly nasty fight her mother falls before an illness. As she dwindles between life and death Helena, our heroine, is sent to live with an aunt and gets a taste of the life she so desperately wanted. As she tries to come to grips with all of this she falls into a dream. There she is trapped inside a magical land. The dream world is divided in two, the "light" kingdom which symbolises Helena's idealized version of things, and the "dark" kingdom, that stands for all the aspects of her life she hates. Perhaps by walking through both of them she may come to understand the real world, which lies somewhere in the middle of the two.
Like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind did while exploring the murky depths of the human mind, Mirrormask does a sublime job of truly capturing the essence of a dream. The world that Helena walks seems to be without boundaries and undaunted by the laws of the physical world but at the same time it does operate under its own twisted logic and rules. This is where the film's top assets comes in: it's maverick and inspired art direction. Even in the real world there is a surreal edge that hovers over everything dominating our minds. But once you enter the dream world the wonder-bomb truly explodes in an orgy of CGI-madness. I think that every scene in the dream world has digital elements but it never felt overdone (I'm looking at you, Lucas). There's way too much visual flair to capture it all in one viewing, but you're not really meant to. You're meant to move through it, to be surrounded by it, and whatever you retain from your voyage will be more than enough. This pushes the envelope of the wonders that CGI can create. Many will say: it's a kid's movie driven by special effects so it can't be art. Yet art it is.
And that's right, it's a kid's movie. No matter how you cut it that is what it is. But still, it is a great movie that will be entertaining for the kids but provide something for the adults that will fly over the kid's heads. The film is an incredible analysis of the human subconscious. What makes it great is the fact that it is so intimate, everyone can identify themselves with Helena as she comes to experience the duality of her world, in a way it speaks to all of us. The actors are good, not great. But special mention must be done to the fact that most of them act their way through masks and we are still able to understand the emotions behind them.
Yet... the film is not perfect. It falls short on story. That is the one place where Mirrormask does not shine and is not original and unfortunately it is a big one. The story is a retelling of Alice in Wonderland. In addition to not being original, the plot is not exactly brilliant. The ultimate payoff is good and the voyage is a triumph of imagination, but the movement of characters from point A to point B is often without a strong motivation or flimsy reasons. And for anyone that does not bond with Helena the movie, no matter how visually original, will not work. Still, you should not stop these flaws from letting you give a chance to one of the most brave and unique movies of the 21st century.
At the end of the day Mirrormask feels like a good movie who had the potential to be a masterpiece but fell just shy of being great (allow me to clarify, 10=perfect, 9=masterpiece, 8=great, 7=good). It feels like a wondrous painting that had the misfortune of being trapped in a film, where it is still good but is weighed down by the other aspects of the medium, which ultimately muck up its glory. Nevertheless, it is a wild trip and I stand by my conviction that everyone should watch this film although most of the people won't like it. For those who will hate it: At an hour and half it's not a terribly bad waste of your time and at the end of the day you will walk away having seen a truly original piece of film the likes of which you won't likely see for many years. And for those that like it... well sweet dreams to you.
Mirrormask is not for everybody. The film has a fairly complicated and
multi-leveled plot for a family film, and the aesthetics and symbolism
are surreal, omnipresent, and just a little disturbing. A lot of people
haven't 'got it', and a lot more won't. This is not a film for hardcore
rationalists nor those addicted to linear narrative. Rather, it is a
series of images and feelings strung together into an Alice in
Wonderland story teeming with dualities where good and bad, wrong and
right, and other artificial constructs we take to be oppositional in
fact turn out to be different sides of the same thing - but also not.
You will have to see it - and pay attention - to understand my meaning.
Despite its complexity, it is pretty easy to ignore the narrative with
all of the crazy and dreamy visuals Mirrormask throws at you. Ignore it
at great peril if you do, you will miss out on a great cinematic
Yes, I like Neil Gaiman and I am developing an interest in Dave McKean. I also love the Henson Company.
I loved this little experiment, and - if I thought most people would feel the same way about it that I do, I would have given it a ten. And personally, I don't feel that saying a film looks like it was made by art students is actually any kind of an insult. Final peevish rebuttal - yes, the film involves CGI mixed with live action. Your point? Unlike most films that use a great deal of animation, Mirrormask's use of CGI has a special purpose. It is heavily exploited to create a sense of UNREALITY, not a cheap knock-off of the real. The animation is an integral part of the plot's context, not a cheap substitute for an impossible action sequence or set. Anybody marginally familiar with the Henson Company's productions would know that this is not a firm which does anything by fiat or without carefully thinking it out. And art (McKean's and Gaiman's) is not just part of the aesthetic of the film, but a major theme for the plot.
Helena (Leonidas) is a circus performer and artist in her teens who draws obsessively. One day, her mom collapses and is admitted to hospital for emergency surgery. Helena goes to sleep and finds herself wide awake in a vast fantasy world which she has drawn on her wall. She's not quite dreaming, however. What's going on is something different, and Helena - awake and asleep - is at the center of it.
The story is told solely from Helena's radically subjective, but somewhat dualistic, perspective - hence the perfectively appropriate unreality of the imagery, sets, and even the acting/characterization of the characters inhabiting her art. Too bad many of the critics couldn't figure this out!
Leonidas is charming, and acts her part very well. She occasionally runs into CGI problems, but given the purpose of the CGI in the film, even the scenes which look a little poorly choreographed work well. The rest of the cast is also good. Helena, her drawing, her mother, and the camera end up being the most important characters in Mirrormask. If you let yourself dissolve and flow downstream with the surreal current of this film, you will find Helena's world redolent with art, fascinating architecture and amazing and bizarre creatures.
There are some very neat ideas present in Mirrormask, but they never gel together and the film turns out to be an incredibly tedious bore that very nearly put me to sleep. The cast is wonderful, but they can't overcome the meaningless, meandering story. With nothing to drive it forward, and no real reason to care for the characters, the movie winds up being nothing more than an interesting "art flick" in the surrealist tradition, an extended children's version of "Un chien andalou", if you will. This is a visually stunning film, though, very beautiful, but the horrible saxophone and electric guitar noodling on the soundtrack made me want to poke sharp sticks in my ears.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was attracted to MirrorMask because I do love the film Labyrinth. I
actually first heard about MM on IMDb when I was reading some of the
Labyrinth discussion boards. I saw a lot of "if you liked Labyrinth,
then you should see this!" Likewise, MANY of the reviews on this board
mention how like MirrorMask is to other Henson films. Now I will start
by saying that it is not really fair to compare any film against any
other...each should stand as its own piece of work. But it would be
impossible not to compare MM with similar films of the Henson fantasy
genre, especially Labyrinth. So this review is focused on why Labyrinth
was the better film.
Before I begin, let me say that I mostly love Neil Gaiman, though I must admit sometimes he annoys with unintended(?) pretentiousness. And of course I love Henson, god rest his soul. And though I really love the movie Labyrinth on many different levels, I'll be the first to admit it is not the world's greatest film, and that not everyone loves it. Maybe this review is for those of you who did love it, and wonder if you should see MirrorMask, or why so many who liked Labyrinth did not like MirrorMask as much. With all that said...
First, the plots are very similar. The problem with MirrorMask is that while Sarah (in Labyrinth) makes some real and metaphorical changes throughout the film, Helena (in MirrorMask) doesn't really appear to change, other than the way she changes as the events of the film act upon her. You get the sense in Labyrinth that Sarah has changed, even though the change is still far from complete and she admits this readily at the end of the film ("sometimes...I do need you" etc.). That's REALISM, coming out of a fantasy world. I love it when everything is NOT just tied up in a neat bow, even though you may have slayed the dragon. For Helena, she hates the circus, she wishes her mom dead, her mom gets sick, her mom gets better and now everything is back to normal and she loves the circus (all it takes is one weird dream in sepia tone)! Sarah goes on a journey. The Labyrinth is very linear in that she is progressing forward -- or at least progressing. She has a goal in saving Toby, but she is not sure whether she can achieve it. The journey itself is the important part, along with all the self-discovery that occurs during her journey. Helena is also on a journey, with a goal, but there was not any clear progression. She just sort of jumped around from one strange iconic metaphor to the next -- no clear motivation except trying to make every "stop" more trippy and surreal than the last.
I was also not concerned in the least that there was any chance Helena wouldn't reach her goal (since it was HER "dream"). Maybe the tension is more important in Labyrinth because Sarah is seeking something she mistakenly gave away (and that wasn't hers), instantly regretting it. Helena is seeking something she knows and cares nothing about, other than its power to save the Light Queen and get her home -- and this is before she seems to have any more than a vague idea that the Light Queen is a metaphor for her mother, even though the rest of us knew that from square one.
The metaphors in Labyrinth are subtle. I'm still ruminating on them, even as an adult (kids undoubtedly miss many of them, and that may be a good thing). There is a ton on the net about the Freudian themes in Labyrinth and how Sarah matures in her perceptions of men. It's deep stuff, but it works as a kids' movie, too. The metaphors in MirrorMask are heavy-handed. Gosh, Helena's mom is both the Light Queen and the Dark Queen? You mean (gasp) sometimes she loves her mother and sometimes she hates her for being so controlling? Whoa! No one over the age of 9 could miss that metaphor, and really, that's all the meaning there is in this film. I mean, I didn't see any point to Valentine's character, except for exposition and comic relief. The bit players were visually spectacular in many cases (especially the Orbiting Giants) but they weren't interesting outside of the visual, because it wasn't clear what they were supposed to represent except some crazy images from inside Neil Gaiman's head (Film budget: $4 million. Wackyness allowance: $3.95 million. Hmm, doesn't leave much cash for the scriptwriters...).
There's just not enough "magic" on a kids level to make MirrorMask work, in my opinion. This is the kind of movie I might have seen as a child and said, "Wow, it looks like a lot of really cool stuff is happening, but I'm not smart enough or old enough to get it." Now, having seen it as an adult, I say, "Wow, there's a lot of really cool stuff happening, but I'm too smart and too old to get it." You see, Labyrinth works at almost every level, and MirrorMask doesn't really deliver on any level. Should you see it? I love film, so I'd say definitely yes. Just don't go into expecting miracles...even if that's what Helena is hoping for.
Having enjoyed Neil Gaiman's writing (especially his collaboration with Yoshitaka Amano in "The Dream Hunters") in the past, I figured Mirrormask to be a sure thing and was very disappointed. The beginning, live-action section of the movie was intriguing enough. The relationships between the characters was believable and easy to empathize with, and I loved the sets, the costuming, and Helena's artwork. The subsequent computer-generated scenes, however, were excruciating. The dialogue was awkward and pretentious, the interaction between the live actors and the CGI horrifying. Events occurred for the flimsiest reasons, and most events seemed superfluous to whatever plot may have existed. I only watched the first twenty or thirty minutes of the movie, so I'm not exactly an authority, but I strongly recommend that you don't watch any of it at all and stick with Gaiman's strong written work.
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