January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Helena (Stephanie Leonidas) is a circus performer, but she wants to escape to a more normal life. This strikes her mother as quite odd, since the young audience members would like to run away to join the circus, while Helena seeks to leave it behind. As much as she would like to skip her performance, Helena puts on her act and juggles, much to the delight of the crowd. But when she returns backstage, she learns her mother has been taken in an ambulance. Now her father has to choose between staying by his ailing wife’s side or pushing on with the circus, so the performances can continue. At the same time, Helena is sent to stay with her aunt Nan (Dora Bryan) and there she begins to have unusual dreams. Already frustrated with her life, now she is consumed with fear about her mother, so her mind is very turbulent. She soon finds herself in an alternate world, one that resembles her own artwork, her escape from the circus lifestyle. But all is not well here either, so can Helena manage to stabilize this world, even if not her own?

Looks aren’t everything, right? That is the old adage, but can a movie succeed even if its visuals are by and large its greatest accomplishment? I’ve seen a lot of films with incredible, lavish visuals, but few can compete with MirroMask in that respect. This is without question a visual masterpiece, a unique vision that strikes us from the first second and never releases hold. As often as I have lamented digital effects, I’ve seen in MirrorMask how well the digital realm can be put to use. A surreal, dreamlike world is created, one that seems almost real at times, but at the same time, so different from our own. I found myself lost in the visuals at times, with so much detail and depth on showcase. The story here is a little pretentious at times, but is decent, though it takes a backseat to the visuals from start to finish. The cast is fine across the board, but like the story, the actors are overshadowed by the production design. In the end, MirrorMask is recommended thanks to the incredible visuals, even if the other elements come off as a tad thin.

Video: How does it look?

MirrorMask is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This movie is all visuals and thankfully, this transfer is able to let the visuals flow full force. The print is flawless, so there are no issues of softness or debris, which was very important in this case. The image is also very sharp, so detail is crisp and fine, down to the subtle touches, which are frequent in MirrorMask. The depth is good, but not quite up the same level as the more elite transfers, though few are. The colors are as intended, so hues sometimes have a specific tint, while contrast is excellent and never wavers. This is a superb visual effort and with such rich visual material in the movie itself, the transfer needed to be this good.

Audio: How does it sound?

The soundtrack isn’t as impressive as the visuals, but this Dolby Digital 5.1 option has enough presence to satisfy most ears. The film’s music doesn’t always seem appropriate, but it sounds terrific here and has a lot of life and presence. The background noise comes through well, but isn’t always as active as I would like, but I wouldn’t call it lacking by any means. A handful of scenes could use a boost of power, but by and large, the surrounds are used well enough. I found dialogue to be solid, but in a few instances the vocals seem too low, so you might have a touch of trouble in those sequences. This disc also includes Portuguese and Thai soundtracks, as well as subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai.

Supplements: What are the extras?

There is a lot of material to cover here, including a number of brief, but insightful behind the scenes looks at how the film’s visuals were created. You can watch as the magic unfolds, as well as check out interviews, watch a time lapse look at one day of production, and sit in on some Q&A sessions. The featurettes don’t run as long as I would like, but they do contain some worthwhile information. An audio commentary track with director Dave McKean and writer Neil Gaiman proves to be the best of the supplements, with quite a lot of great insight into the material and this production.

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