Donning the MirrorMask

Back when I was a freshmen in high school, scrambling to class while clutching my Dungeons & Dragons rule books closely to my chest, one of my favorite movies was Labyrinth. In an era long before Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia had been filmed, in which the fantasy also-rans Willow and Legend were darkening theaters, it was the closest thing I’d found to a classic D&D dungeon crawl.

Plus, Jennifer Connelly was pretty damn cute. Oh sure, she was running around in those long dresses which revealed not a thing, and her best friends were Muppets, but she was a geek on a quest to save her baby brother from the Goblin King, and to me, that was beauty itself.

Years have passed, and I’ve grown up, and so has Jim Henson Company, the ones responsible for Labyrinth and all of its Bowie, Escher and Muppet glory. And now, as if they’ve been following the growth of my fantasy literature development, from Tolkien to Zelazny to Giaman, they’ve released MirrorMask.

Written by Neil Gaiman (American God, Sandman) and directed by his long-time illustration collaborator Dave McKean, the film echoes Labyrinth and a thousand other quest tales by following a teenage girl from our realm as she slips into another reality dominated by two warring kingdoms. She needs to find an artifact — the “MirrorMask” — in order to save the day and return to her own reality.

Or at least that’s what the press release says. I would never have gotten that from watching the trailer) but to be honest, I was too busy watching the eye candy to get much else from that bit of video.

The film looks surreally gorgeous, and occasionally downright strange, as McKean’s familiar (at least to anyone who’s read Gaiman’s comic books) images suddenly jolts into action. Watching it, I couldn’t help but think, “but that’s not supposed to move.” That it does only adds to the strange beauty and occasional horrors I saw on screen.

I haven’t seen enough of the film to be able to judge it good or bad, but I will say that I’m intrigued. It’s possible that the film could be all effects, and little substance, but my experience with Gaiman’s work in the past says that isn’t likely. Unfortunately the film is in limited release, and right now it’s only showings look to be about two hours away from me. But according to the Web site they’re slowly expanding the number of sites throughout October, so with any luck I might be able to catch it locally later this fall.

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