Today’s commission post is a little special! Amanda has commissioned MANY MANY MANY things from me, so I made an exception to my normal guidelines. She wanted me to watch a movie I’d never heard of that Neil Gaiman wrote. Okay, that’s good enough for me. And so I settled down for a morning full of WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST WATCH.
So, here’s the video evidence of my brain breaking:
- HOLY CRAP, THIS MOVIE IS GORGEOUS. First and foremost, I want to talk about the fact that this looks unlike any movie I’ve seen in a long time. Even the Henson animation/puppetry is very odd and bizarre for… well, I realize saying that is probably absurd, but y’all. The creatures in this film are unreal. And that’s a positive thing, ultimately! Because the mirror world is so fucking weird, this really does feel like the people behind MirrorMask created an entire fictional world.
- This cast is full of people I don’t recognize, and all of them are FUCKING INCREDIBLE. Stephanie Leonidas, Gina McKee, Rob Brydon, and Jason Barry largely carry the film entirely by themselves. Gina McKee plays THREE VERSIONS OF THE SAME CHARACTER. It’s stunning!
- The shift into the alternate world is immensely jarring, but this is not a complaint. It happens so suddenly that you’re just forced to adapt. I like that Gaiman doesn’t give us the logistics of this place until nearly the last twenty minutes. Oh, we get bits and pieces along the way, but for the most part, we are left to our own devices.
- THE CATS THE CATS. HORRIFYING. UTTERLY HORRIFYING.
- This is a story about identity, doppelgangers, and happiness, and the three themes/motifs are interwoven together seamlessly. Amidst this is the idea that we all wear a mask, a way to tell the outside world who we are and what we are feeling. It was fascinating to me how rare it was for the masks within the mirror world to ever change, especially since everyone who lived here was horrified by Helena’s lack of mask.
- By and large, MirrorMask unfolds like a traditional fantasy. There’s a lot in common here with Alice in Wonderland, but it’s not the same story by any stretch. Lots of parallels, yes, but once you get into the doppelganger business, this is clearly its own thing.
- Oh my god, the Orbiting Giants sequence might be the best part of the film. Gorgeously rendered and super haunting, it’s a great example of just how weird and immense this world is.
- The only complaint I have about this is that the ending is very satisfying for Helena, but downright terrifying for the Princess of the Land of Shadows. The Queen of Shadows is a manifestation of how Helena perceived her own mother at the beginning of the film: an unflinching matriarch who refused to consider her own daughter’s feelings at all. She was unable to let go of the Princess and let her live her own life. Now, it’s entirely possible that the Princess destroyed all of Helena’s drawings, thereby extinguishing the entire mirror world, but if not… um. The Princess is sent back to her world with her borderline abusive mother and that’s it. There’s absolutely no resolution for any of these characters. The Queen doesn’t change, and the Princess is dragged back into her own world in fear. That’s just weird.
- Despite that, I really enjoyed this film. It was a treat to watch, and then it made me want to watch Dark City and Labyrinth again. WHICH IS ALWAYS A GOOD THING.
Thank you, Amanda!
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