29 January 2005 | kerecsen
Labyrinth for the 21st century
The audience that showed up for the Sundance premiere of this gem was quite diverse. Some came for Neil Gaiman, some for Dave McKean and the rest for the Jim Henson legacy. Based on my informal polls conducted in waiting list lines around Salt Lake City, everyone got what they wanted.
The visuals -- as you would expect from a move involving Henson's company -- are simply stunning. Most of the movie is blue-screen, which is quite unbelievable for a movie made for a mere $4 million. The human actors blend into the gorgeous painting-like backgrounds (google McKean's art and you will understand that this is quite a feat), and do an outstanding job of interacting with the digital characters.
Only 17 people -- all freshly graduated students -- worked on the animation, but the result looks like 170 professionals did. It should be noted however that Dave McKean spent 18 months in post-production, pretty much 24/7.
The weakest part of the movie is the story. Dave and Neil came up with the outline over 3 days, and worked out the details as they filmed. The end result is a run-of-the-mill Alice in Wonderland rip-off, with some elements from Labyrinth and other familiar children's tales.
I have to give extra credit to Stephanie Leonidas, who does a great job bringing Helena, a girl who ends up lost in the world of her Dali-meets-Picasso-meets-McKean drawings, to life.
I hope this movie will get picked up for theater distribution, because it deserves to be seen on the big-screen. In any case, McKean fans will be happy to hear that a Mirrormask picture book is in the works that will contain the 1700 drawings produced for the movie...
If you get a chance, go see this movie. It should be fun for children of all ages. If it comes to theaters, I will go see it again, and will give it an A again :)