This is topic Mirrormask in forum Books, Films, Food and Culture at Hatrack River Forum.

To visit this topic, use this URL:;f=2;t=038473

Posted by Book (Member # 5500) on :
There is an author in the world named Neil Gaiman.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, you probably won't like this movie.

Mirrormask is the child of the twisted but beautiful mind of Dave McKean and the eclectic and creative abilities of Neil Gaiman. Helena Campell is a young girl who works in her parent's circus and dreams, ironically, of running away and living a normal life. Right from the start McKean's tastes are obvious. The make-up of the perfomers and their strange, somewhat disturbing masks sing of his talents. Helena herself draws McKean pictures, coating her room in her sketches and writing on floors, walls, anywhere. Minutes into the movie Helena gets into an adolescent-heavy fight with her mother, with the usual screams we've all heard before. Her mother, disturbed, goes out to perform in the circus again, but falls ill and faints backstage. Helena, guilt-ridden and shocked, is forced to live in a dreary, run-down apartment while her mother gets better. The day of her mother's operation, she falls into a deep dream and wakes up in a different world.

The world of Mirrormask plays on the edges of cultural myth, pop psychology, and popular culture. Helena finds that this world is divided down the middle. There is a city of light and a city of shadow. The queen of the white city (played by Gina McKee, who also, in a Peter Pan like fashion, plays her mother) has fallen asleep, and the queen of the dark city (Gina McKee again) is taking over. As it turns out, the Dark Queen had a daughter once, too, but she left by using a magicla charm, which both put the white queen to sleep and ensured the doom of the world. Of course, this is Helena's doppleganger, and when Helena passed through to Mirrormask the Anti-Helena went back to the real world and begins to run amok.

Gaiman, as usual, does an excellent job with the characters and their eccentric dialogue and conversations. However, his greatest skill remains his ability to create mind-turning innovations that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. For example, at one point in time Valentine, Helena's Irish sidekick, picks up a book, shouts insults at it, and throws it on the floor. It slowly levitates into the air, and he steps on it, and begins to float away.

"You try," he says.

Helena picks up a book and throws it down, but nothing happens.

"No, no, no," Valentine fusses. "Swear at it. Insult it."

Helena looks at it uncertain, but then says, "You're an awful, shallow book with a terrible ending and I didn't believe a minute of it!"

She throws it down and it begins to float away.

"How is this possible?" she asks.

"If they think you don't like them, they go back to the public library. It's a bit of a cold-hearted thing to do, insulting a book, but it gives you a free ride," Valentine tells her.

Another brilliant idea is the Really Useful Book, which always has a helpful suggestion whenever you open it, from "Look out the window" to "Remember what your mother said." Stephanie Leonidas does a good job in her role of Helena, giving heart and a sort of brash sweetness to the role, but the real star is Jason Barry as Valentine, the Irish juggler. You rarely see his face in the movie, as he spends almost all of the time behind another one of McKean's strange masks, but his comic delivery and physical acting (lots of hand motions) really bring a sharp, hilarious wit to the movie.

However, we can't be amazed throughout the entire movie, so halfway it begins to lose its magic. I find this tends to happen with some of Gaiman's work. When Helena is tempted by the Dark Queen and is transformed (during a creepy musical of "Favorite Things" being sung by twisted mechanical mannequins, if I recall), the movie loses its Alice in Wonderland appeal and slightly stagnates. It then delivers a very deus ex and sort've short climax which feels mildly superficial.

But the magical tempermant of the movie really is what makes it fantastic. It is eerily beautiful, strange, disturbing, but graceful all at once. It's all very Gaimain-esque, and those who aren't familiar with his style will probably find themselves strangers in a strange land. If you liked Sandman, Neverwhere, and American Gods, you'll enjoy this odd juxtaposition of the fantastic with the mundane.

Definitely worth seeing, if not owning.



PROS: eye-blistering special effect, brilliant creative innovations
CONS: sometimes stretches itself out too much
Posted by Puffy Treat (Member # 7210) on :
The biggest Con? It's on a SEVERLY limited release.

Not playing near me, or even in my state.
Posted by Book (Member # 5500) on :
Yeah, if you can see it, do so. It'll get a wider release that way.

Ebert didn't care for it much, only gave it two stars. His review does have merit - superficiality is a problem in the film. But Gaiman's always played with the sort've superficial fairy-tale-genre. Thing.
Posted by starLisa (Member # 8384) on :
I wouldn't just call Gaiman an author. He is a creator. A Maker.

If you've not read the Sandman books, hie thee hence and get to it.
Posted by SteveRogers (Member # 7130) on :
Is it playing anywhere in St. Louis, Missouri? I can't find out anywhere.
Posted by Book (Member # 5500) on :
There was a thread a while ago listing all the places. Austin is always lucky with the indies.
Posted by Synesthesia (Member # 4774) on :
Wasn't Favourite Things, dude. It was Close to You and I liked that part. It was creapy yet hyper cool.
I loved that movie. It was so out there. I especially loved-


How the Dark Queen really wasn't evil, just smothering and controlling.
Posted by Book (Member # 5500) on :
Originally posted by Synesthesia:
Wasn't Favourite Things, dude. It was Close to You and I liked that part. It was creapy yet hyper cool.
I loved that movie. It was so out there. I especially loved-


How the Dark Queen really wasn't evil, just smothering and controlling.

Yeah, I couldn't remember that. I was too busy being creeped out by the freaky robots.
Posted by plaid (Member # 2393) on :
link to the thread with theatre listings.

Yep, St. Louis has one of the theatres, you lucky bastards...
Posted by ambyr (Member # 7616) on :
I enjoyed the movie and would recommend the movie, but I'm afraid my reactions were far less favorable than Book's. Here's my thoughts, copied from my Friday journal entry:

Because I am contrary (and also because the theatre it was showing at happened to be on my way home from work), I put off Serenity for later in the weekend and went to see Mirrormask tonight. I will hope that the empty theatre merely indicated that everyone else made the opposite choice tonight, and that they will not repeat the choice over the coming days, because with the sort of box office sales we had tonight those of you outside of the limited release area aren't going to get a chance to see it 'til it goes to DVD.

And that would be a pity, because it's one of the most gorgeous pieces of animation I've seen. There were moments when I laughed outloud for no reason beyond the sheer beauty of the imagery. Nor was I the only one who was struck by it -- as the credits began to roll, the man sitting next to me said, in the sort of small, soft voice generally reserved for religious revelations on the order of the Annunciation, "Oh, my God. That was beautiful" as he stared at the screen with his mouth hanging open.

Of course, at the same time, the woman on the other side of me was telling her companion, "That was really quite British, wasn't it? Not very beautiful, all that dirt and grime." But for those who haven't embraced Hollywood and its airbrushes as their personal aesthetic, trust me, this is worth seeing. I would name individual moments, but in terms of eye candy, I'm not sure the movie ever strikes a wrong note. No, it's not all polished and glossy. It's sharp angles and empty spaces and fuzzy layers fading in and out and constant, constant movement. It's the creepiness of the shadows and the sharp precision of the palace guards and the strange balance of delicacy and ragged edges of the sphinx. And, all right, if I had to name a favorite, it would be the giants.

The storyline was, well, slight. It felt more like a series of disconnected scenes than a single narrative, and the actors, while they did their best, often seemed a bit lost as to how exactly their characters ought to react. People have made a lot of Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland references, but I think a better comparison is Waking Life (and there's even a Waking Life reference, fairly early on in the film). Yes, there's a story, sort of. Yes, there are actors, sort of. But really, it's all about the animations -- and there's enough depth to that to hold attention well beyond the movie's hundred minutes.

If I'm disappointed, it's only because I really do think Gaiman is a wonderful storyteller, and I'm sorry that didn't come out better in this show. But there are many worse things that could have happened than giving Dave McKean a chance to shine on his own.
Posted by Book (Member # 5500) on :
I guess I'm not disappointed because I went in expecting the movie to be exactly what it turned out to be.
Posted by plaid (Member # 2393) on :
Updated list of theatres showing Mirrormask -- now in LOTS more theatres: link

OPENING 9/30/2005


Edwards University Town Center 6
Irvine, CA

Landmark Act 1 & 2 Cinemas
Berkeley, CA

Landmark Nuart Theatre
Los Angeles, CA

Landmark Aquarius Twin Theatre
Palo Alto, CA

Landmark Ken Cinema
San Diego, CA

Landmark Lumiere 3
San Francisco, CA

Rafael Film Center
San Rafael, CA

Landmark Esquire
Denver, CO

Landmark Midtown Art Cinema
Atlanta, GA

Landmark Century Center Cinemas
Chicago, IL

Landmark Kendall Square
Cambridge, MA

Landmark Main Art Theater
Royal Oak, MI

Landmark Tivoli Theater
St. Louis, MO

Landmark Sunshine Cinema
New York, NY


Landmark Dobie Theater
Austin, TX

Landmark Magnolia 5 Theatre
Dallas, TX

Tower Theater
Salt Lake City, UT

Landmark E Street Cinema 8
Washington, DC

OPENING 10/01/2005

Nickelodeon Theaters
Santa Cruz, CA

OPENING 10/07/2005

Charles Theater
Baltimore, MD

Regal Manor Theatre
Charlotte, NC

Landmark Greenway 3
Houston, TX

Naro Expanded Cinema
Norfolk, VA

OPENING 10/14/2005

Nickelodeon Theaters
Santa Cruz, CA

Charles Theater
Baltimore, MD

Landmark Lagoon Cinema
Minneapolis, MN

Little Theatre
Rochester, NY

Regal Fox Tower 10
Portland, OR

OPENING 10/20/2005

Hawaii International Film Fest
Honolulu, Hi

OPENING 10/21/2005


ARK Centerpoint 11
Tempe, AZ

LCP Catalina
Tucson, AZ

Enzian Theater
Maitland, FL


Chelsea Cinema
Chapel Hill, NC

Carolina Theater
Durham, NC

Colony Twin
Raleigh, NC

Ritz 16
Voorhes, NJ

Ritz 5 Movies
Philadelphia, PA

Fort Worth Modern Museum of Art
Fort Worth, TX

OPENING 10/26/2005

Hartford, CT

OPENING 10/28/2005

PFR Crest Theatre
Sacramento, CA

Regal Shadowood Square
Boca Raton, FL

Regal Southbeach 18
Miami, FL

Regal Hollywood 20
Sarasota, FL


DBT Mariemont
Cincinnati, OH

PFR Cedar Lee
Cleveland, OH

OPENING 11/04/2005

AMC Castleton Square
Indianapolis, IN

OPENING 11/18/2005

Flicks Movie Theatre
Boise, ID

OPENING 11/19/2005

Noble Theater
Oklahoma City, OK

OPENING 12/20/2005

Honolulu Academy of Arts
Honolulu, Hi

OPENING 12/23/2005

Red Vic Movie House
San Francisco, CA
Posted by prolixshore (Member # 4496) on :
So since Mirrormask made more money per theater than any of the top 20 movies last week, could we please expand the release? Please? I'd like to see it...

Posted by plaid (Member # 2393) on :

Out on DVD now. Just saw it -- neat animation. Story's a bit muddled, and the dialogue's hard to follow sometimes. (Next time I'll watch it with subtitles to try to pick up more.) Liked it overall.
Posted by MyrddinFyre (Member # 2576) on :
Out on DVD! Nice! Thanks for the heads-up [Smile]
Posted by kwsni (Member # 1831) on :
Woo! Neil Gaiman is a god.

::thinks:: There are a lot of gods in my world.

Posted by prolixshore (Member # 4496) on :
Based on Gaiman's stories, I think he would agree. [Smile]

Posted by KarlEd (Member # 571) on :
I just saw it today on DVD. It was neat. Really cool animation. I didn't think the story was "muddled" so much as it was just strange. Very dream-like.
Posted by Olivet (Member # 1104) on :
"Dream-like" is exactly right. I loved it.

Posted by Launchywiggin (Member # 9116) on :
Glad OSC finally saw it. Ironically, this was the thread that introduced me to the movie last year. Probably my favorite of 2005.

Posted by Chris Bridges (Member # 1138) on :
BTW - Gaiman mentioned recently that this was never actually intended to have a theatrical release. Tne idea was to make it for DVD, but it got such a strong showing at the screenings and (I think) at Cannes, they released it to a small number of theaters.

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2