Movie Diary: Mirrormask.

Oh hey, I almost forgot, I saw "Mirrormask" on Thursday. Not optimal viewing circumstances, specifically because I was falling asleep throughout the first half of the movie. I eventually woke myself up by chowing down on some overly sugary strawberry Whoppers candies, but there are still parts of the movie that are pretty unclear to me. I don't think it was nearly as big a deal with "Mirrormask" as it would have been with a lot of movies, though. To be honest, the plot struck me as incredibly cliched. It seems like every fantasy novel or movie aimed at the pre-teen set features the same basic plot (other than the Harry Potter series, which still contains some of these elements)--13 year old protagonist discovers doorway into alternate universe, must go on quest within alternate universe to save important alternate universe public figure in order to return home. Said quest generally ties in with the protagonist's real life, too. See "The Talisman," "The Wizard Of Oz," many many others. China Mieville's recent young adult novel "Un Lun Dun" actually pokes fun at many of these cliches, which is one of many reasons that I want to read it. But anyway, let's get back to talking about "Mirrormask." Specific details of cliched plot: Helena is a 12 year old British girl whose parents run a small-time traveling circus, and who grudgingly helps out with the circus as a juggler/errand girl, even though she'd rather be drawing most of the time. When not doing the circus, she and her family live in a totally grungy and bleak high-rise tenement building that looks straight out of a J.G. Ballard novel, and she papers the walls of her room with drawings of fantastic landscapes. One night, Helena's mother is taken ill during the circus, and is rushed to the hospital. She needs emergency surgery. The next day, Helena wakes up in an alternate fantasy world where she looks just like the Black Queen's daughter. Said Black Queen's daughter has apparently tired of her controlling mother, and used something called The Mirrormask to switch places with Helena and move into the real world, while pushing Helena back into her alternate fantasy world. Doing so has also caused the White Queen (who looks just like Helena's mom, as, for that matter, does the Black Queen) to fall into a coma. Now Helena must find the Mirrormask herself in order to set everything to rights.

The plot is ridiculously predictable from there on, and I think I would have liked this movie a lot more if I hadn't been able to predict every single thing that happened. That said, the point of this movie seems to be less the story (written by Neil Gaiman) than the incredible artistic set design and direction by artist Dave McKean. And it is a beautiful movie. Helena finds that the world she's been transferred into is much like her own drawings, only more elaborate and colorful. In fact, whenever she finds a window and looks through it, she sees out of windows in her drawings, pasted on her walls, and can watch the Black Queen's daughter living her life, behaving like some sort of evil twin and screwing everything up. The landscape she travels through on her quest is fascinating to look at, but now, thinking back about the movie and trying to write about it, I keep getting hung up on the cliches of the plot. I know I enjoyed myself while I was watching this movie, but I feel like it wouldn't hold up to repeated viewings unless you were strictly watching it to look at the art. Since I tend to have more respect for the writing talents of Neil Gaiman than to think he would turn out cliched crap like this (an opinion that I know is not universally held), I can only figure that he was more writing this movie to showcase the visual talents of Dave McKean than because he'd had a brilliant idea for a story that he couldn't wait to write down. Apparently McKean helped with the original story concept, too, so who knows? Maybe the cliched elements were more McKean's idea. Either way, though, this is not a movie for people who go to movies to hear new and original stories. If you're someone who can sit through a thousand iterations of the same basic story idea and love them every time, and/or someone who can enjoy a movie for how it looks even if the story itself isn't that great (fans of Michel Gondry's "The Science Of Sleep," I'm looking at you), go ahead and give this one a whirl. Personally, though, I wasn't exactly impressed.

Note: It actually took me so long to post this that the Thursday referred to in the entry is a week ago. I wrote the entry last Saturday and took 5 days to post it. The blog will probably carry on in this lackluster fashion for at least a little while longer, unless something really unexpected happens to pull me out of the depression I'm in right now. Sorry about that, guys. Maybe I'll feel better tomorrow.



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