Helena : I don’t really know where I am.
Valentine : You’re in one of the other things to avoid in life.
Helena: What a junk room?
Valentine : No, trouble.
MirrorMask is a journey into the vivid imagination of Neil Gaiman and well worth the journey. Drawing inspiration form the Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Labyrinth, Dark Crystal and the Neverending Story a fantasy world is (computer) generated into existence.
Helena and her Mum and Dad own a struggling circus. We find Helena in her trailer surrounded by her surreal drawings. Not wanting to perform in the show one evening Helena and her Mum have a big fight (rendered wonderfully in split screen). In the heat of the moment, Helena wishes her Mum dead. The show must go on and Helena proceeds to the center ring, but as she performs her mother passes out back stage.
We then shift 10 days later from the bright, wonderfully chaotic world of the circus to the cold, grey world of an apartment complex that Helena and her dad are in while Mum’s in hospital. On the eve of Mum’s surgery, Helena wakes up and wanders into the apartment complex only to find that she’s in a completely different world.
She meets a street performer named Valentine and they proceed into the surrealistic city. They meet the Prime Minister who’s holding court to find a charm. It seems that the Queen of the City of Light has fallen into a trance and cannot be awakened.
The charm is needed to awaken the Queen. Helena learns that a strange girl came from the Land of Shadows (realm of the Dark Queen), had an audience with the White Queen, the Queen fell into the trance, and the girl disappeared. Oddly the strange girl resembled Helena. Helena must go on a quest to find the mythical MirrorMask to awaken the White Queen and perhaps even save her mother in the real world.
MirrorMask is a very creative collaboration between Neil Gaiman, the Jim Henson Company, and director Dave McKean. The results are strange and wonderful. The world they’ve created resembles something out of Salvador Dali and is enhanced by Gaiman’s witty dialogue and the performances of the British cast. There’s a scene using the Carpenter’s Close to You that is delightfully surreal. The effects use both real actors and entirely CGI created characters.
MirrorMask is presented in widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Bonus features include an informative commentary with writer Neil Gaiman and director Dave McKean. There are also eight featurettes that can be watched separately, but also have a “play all” feature. All together these featurettes total about 50 minutes.
The featurettes include conversations with Gaiman and McKean, the Genesis of MirrorMask, and a Q&A session from the San Diego Comic-Con. There’s also a featurette that provides a time lapse look at an entire day of production on the project. There is also a poster and cover art gallery.
Even though MirrorMask has touches of familiarity from other films within it, I feel that it is well worth the trip into Gaiman’s fantasy world. The bit with Close to You feels like it could stand alone as a creepy music video or short and stands out in my memory as I think about the film. There’s also a good amount of bonus features that if you enjoy the film, as I did, you’ll want to check out. Well worth the trip.