Helena, a 15-year-old girl in a family of circus entertainers, often wishes she could run off and join real life. After a fight with her parents about her future plans, her mother falls quite ill and Helena is convinced that it is all her fault. On the eve of her mother's major surgery, she dreams that she is in a strange world with two opposing queens, bizarre creatures, and masked inhabitants. All is not well in this new world - the white queen has fallen ill and can only be restored by the MirrorMask, and it's up to Helena to find it. But as her adventures continue, she begins to wonder whether she's in a dream, or something far more sinister.
Directed by: Dave McKean
. Starring: Stephanie Leonidas
, Jason Barry
, Rob Brydon
, Gina McKee
, Dora Bryan
, Stephen Fry
, Andy Hamilton
, Simon Harvey
, Lenny Henry
, Robert Llewellyn
, Eryl Maynard
, Eve Pearce
, Nik Robson
. Music by: Iain Ballamy
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.
Review by Fan4562 from the Internet Movie Database.