14 February 2006 | Polaris_DiB
Primal and True Fantasy
The medium of film is--like the medium of writing or other celebrated media--practically limitless in potential for fantastic creations. However, the fantasy (NOT SCI FI) genre is severely underrepresented in it. For every Lord of the Rings, we have ten attempts at The Matrix.
But what better alchemical mix to straight-up fantasy can we have than Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, and the Henson Company? One thing Henson could do with his puppets that many others never really aspired to do was create fantasy the likes that weren't really done again, and his legacy lives on, using the enriching and creative mind of Gaiman, the celebrated British fantasy writer and comic book artist whose vivid imagination was so perfectly translated into film using practically every chemical for fantasy possible: CGI, animation, painting, set design, split-screen, superimposition, saturated colors, I even think there were moments of stop-motion animation.
The story is about a fifteen-year-old girl named Helena who works for a circus. Her creative and artistic mind keeps her busy from day to day until her mother falls ill and has to go to the hospital. Blaming it on herself for a row she had with her mother, Helena "escapes" into dreamland... or does she? I think what's really refreshing about this film is that, despite what a lot of people say about it, it's NOT that much like Alice and Wonderland. I can't help but think that, despite the fact that this film uses a lot of tropes common to the fantasy genre, it's distinct and original, something to be admired and appreciated. I don't think anything in this film really came off as that clichéd, even though it did come across as familiar. It might even be possible to say that anybody who has a real problem with it is just taking it too seriously, but that argument always goes in the wrong direction so forget about it.
One of the things I think that's important about a film like this is that it's not really a kids movie. Children could watch it, easily, and be fine with it, but it's not directed just to them. It isn't really directed at a target audience in the genre sense. It is simply fantasy for fantasy's sake, going where a lot of filmmakers seem desperate to avoid because "It's just not real enough." That's why, despite the fact that this movie has pretty obvious CGI, it doesn't matter as much as the obvious CGI in The Hulk: it's so fantastic, it helps that it doesn't seem real.
Too bad it just won't get the marketing or the attention it deserves, probably ever. That's why if it's ever considered a classic at all, it'll be a cult classic. Such seems the destination of many things that dare to be what they want and not what others want them to be.