where cats have wings and pigeons don’t

Spoiler alert: no plot developments posted, but you may not want to know anything anyway.

Mirrormask, yet another collaboration by Neil Gaiman and David McKean, was everything I expected it to be. And since I can’t write a review to save my life (argh, when will i ever finish that damn piece), here’s what the LA Times had to say about the movie. And being a lazy git (already established in previous posts), I shall merely comment on snippets of the review….

“Although the plot and motifs are largely borrowed from “The Wizard of Oz” and “Alice in Wonderland,” there is something oddly intoxicating about Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman’s coming-of-age fantasy “MirrorMask.” The teenager’s journey through a nightmarish reverie presents hallucinogenic imagery that simultaneously dulls the senses and hot-wires the imagination, but it never fully engages emotionally.”

It’s the first paragraph, and already I’m in disagreement. What I enjoy about Gaiman’s work is that he takes well-known/established stories, and gives them the subversive Gaiman treatment. Like a slightly warped mind telling bedtime stories with elements of Dadaism and stark reality. As for the lack of emotional engagement, it’s an oft-made criticism. But that, for me, is part of its charm. You are but an observer in this world of fantasy. If the reviewer was perhaps refering to a lack of empathy for the characters, then again I’d have to disagree. Right from the start, it’s clear that though our protaganist leads a life very different to her peers, the dynamics of her relationship with her mother are no different from the norm. That very ordinariness immediately endears her to half the audience (assuming it’s 50% female, with their teenage years behind them).

“As out-of-the-ordinary as the Dark Lands and its unusual inhabitants are, the realization of them fails to transcend the rather predictable story McKean conceived with screenwriter Gaiman (a novelist and comic-book writer with a large cult following).”
“Gaiman and McKean never successfully connect the kitchen-sink emotions of the film’s real world to Helena’s journey through the fantasy world. While a boon to special effects and low-cost filmmaking, digital images still largely project a coolness that keeps our feelings at arm’s length.”

Perhaps the reviewer has missed the point of the movie. It’s not about twists and turns in the plot (that M Night Shayamalan really has spoilt it for all the other storytellers), it’s about the journey, how things unfold. As for the digital backdrops, I rather think that was the whole point of them doing this movie now, when the technology has finally caught up with their imagination. These guys are graphic novelists after all. This movie is like a giant graphic novel, with moving bits and atmospheric music.

So, maybe not one for the mainstream audiences (it has a mere week’s run in LA; in only one theatre). But does a “mainstream” audience exist anymore? And if it does, what does it watch? Harry Potter and the difficulty-he-must-overcome-with-the-help-of-his-friends? Cos that’s fantasy too, dressed in Hollywood clothes.

But if you read comic books when you were younger (or graphic novels if you were posh), this is definitely one for you. If you can’t stand even the mild surrealness of Tim Burton’s creations, or don’t watch a movie unless it’s had the word “gritty” in the review, then you might want to watch something else. That maybe has Sean Bean dying in it. Again.

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