The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ December 21, 2009
A splendid film from Terry Gillam. Ledger was doing so well in the film and his unfortunate death does take away a tad from the scenes shot after his death but all and all a very good film. A very visually pleasing film.
Super Reviewer
½ October 27, 2012
Strange. Made stranger by the cobbled together reworking after Ledger's death. I could have done without seeing this.
Super Reviewer
May 26, 2009
Gilliam began with the idea of making a film totally from scratch, the eternal battle between good and evil, with the framing device being an imperfect father's perfect love for his daughter, an immortal valentine if you will. But then the unfortunate happened, and the story's focus changed. Adapting well with tragedy, still the valentine remains.
Super Reviewer
November 4, 2010
If you like Terry Gilliam it is exactly what you hoped it would be.
Super Reviewer
November 25, 2008
compelling story but non-practical VFX were uneven
Super Reviewer
½ May 4, 2010
Yes it's quirky and it's philosophical message gets a bit lost in the shuffle, but Heath Ledger is amazing again, as well as his imaginarium stand ins (is it just me, or does Colin Ferrell makes the best sleezeball?).Wouldn't put it at the top of my list, but definitely worth seeing.
Super Reviewer
½ August 13, 2009
Madness unhinged! Tapping the water from the deepest wells of his imagination, visionary director Terry Gilliam serves us a strange-tasting cocktail of fantasy world flavors. Some will likely find it much too exotic, while others, like myself, draw pleasure from its artistic and free-spirited nature. This was also the last movie to star the late Heath Ledger, as his tragic passing occured at the time of its production. That's why in some sequences of the film, his character suddenly switches form into Jude Law, Johnny Depp and Colin Farrell. I'm glad though that his final appearance is one that highlights his amazing talents as an actor. He left us at the peak of his career, with an imprint upon the realm of cinema that will never fade away. Words of praise can also be spoken about other cast members as well, which includes Verne "Mini-Me" Troyer, our new Spider-Man Andrew Garfield, musician Tom Waits, Christopher Plummer, Peter Stormare and the enchantingly attractive Lily Cole. But the best thing about this film is its unwillingness to conform to the long-established paradigms of Hollywood. For better or worse, it goes it's very own way. Not just for the sake of being original, but with the honest intent to celebrate the riches of the human mind. A visual extravaganza, brought to us by a man to whom the word "low-key" is completely inexistent. For once you enter his domain, there's no telling where the journey will take you.
Super Reviewer
½ July 28, 2011
An entertainer's pact with the Devil comes due on his daughter's sixteenth birthday after his theater troupe rescues a mysterious young man.
Fans of this film will probably say that it was highly imaginative and visually stimulating ... at least that's what I think Terry Gilliam is going for. I am not a fan. This seems like a rather old fashioned morality tale, a re-telling of Faust: immortality and deals with the devil usually come back to bite you in the ass. The added element is the "Imaginarium," a mirror into which people fall, and it takes them to another world where the person's imagination can run wild until s/he is forced to make a choice between the benevolent Dr. Parnassus and the devil. This seems like a concept that could be quite compelling, but the visuals of everyone's imagination are virtually the same. The room for creativity that such a concept offers is under-utilized.
The performances are fair. Christopher Plummer seems to be sleep-walking through part of his role and high on cocaine during other parts. Heath Ledger deserved a better send-off; perhaps it was his untimely death that gave his performance an uneven feel, as though the character is never fully realized. Tom Waits, Andrew Garfield, and Lily Cole were all good, but they didn't have very juicy parts.
Overall, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a mess.
Super Reviewer
½ March 7, 2011
Being a veteran of Terry Gilliam films, I was ready for a visual feast and flights of fancy, but once again all the imagination in the world isn't going to save you if there is no character growth or a story with characters you can care about.

As usual for Gilliam, the film, while brilliant in its cinematography, lacks focus while the characters are nothing more than pieces on Gilliam's chessboard - to be moved around, feinting here and attacking there, in attempts to support the visuals.

The main failing here as I see it, is that the character of Dr. Parnassus fails to elicit any pathos whatsoever. Here you have to potential of a tragic figure, on a level with King Lear, but Christopher Plummer plays him as a bumbling buffoon; a drunk who mourns his decisions and yet keeps repeating the same mistakes. He has every chance to become heroic, especially when he gets yet another chance at redemption and change the fate of his daughter, and yet seems oddly detached and unable to summon up the gumption to make any more than a half-hearted effort. I felt like reaching through the screen and shaking Plummer - wake up you idiot! The daughter you supposedly love needs you to step up! But no... even when what he has to achieve is so simple.

I can't really blame Plummer here, as I'm sure Gilliam scripted the character this way - leaving the major plot moving to Heath Ledger's character. Ledger is complex and interesting in what would be his last role; and I thought it very inventive how Gilliam was able to film around the loss of his lead character (inside the imaginarium, your imagination takes over, so of course it's not out of the question that your own image would change - and what a lovely surprise is in store when that happens!).

The character that really interested me however, was Mr. Nick, played by Tom Waits. He keeps winning bets from Parnassus, but then continues to offer him second and third (and 1,000th) chances. There is no profit in it for him to do so other than to continue playing the game. It's as if Nick is using Parnassus as a lab rat, just so he can watch the experiment continue to unfold.

There are scenes of true brilliance here, as when the reality created by Ledger's imagination gets assaulted by truth and begins to crack and shatter - but all these inventive scenes aren't grounded in anything to make you care about the characters - so you feel as if in a giant video game that's going to reboot regardless of whether a character lives or dies.

At film's end, a little boy asks Parnassus if there will be a happy ending - to which Parnassus replies that there are no guarantees... all as Mr. Nick smiles and suggests yet another bet. If only the possibility could have existed for Parnassus to rise above himself and defeat Nick once and for all - but I suppose that could be construed as the film's message - mankind has been blessed and has been given eternal forgiveness for our sins, and yet for all the grace we've been given we keep on sinning, and so the game continues.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
January 7, 2011
Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" contains some wonderfully imaginative images and creative designs, but the overall effect is somewhat weaker than his previous outings.

Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is a very strange man. A thousand years ago, he was the leader of a cult that believed their story-telling kept the universe from ceasing to exist. When the devil (Tom Waits) proves to them their stories have no bearing on the ongoing existence of the universe, Parnassus somehow unwittingly sparks the interest of the devil and is drawn into a thousand year relationship with him that consists mainly of (not so friendly) wagers. Perhaps it's Parnassus' knack for drawing souls into his imaginarium that so inspires the devil, whose wagers with Parnassus often involve the collecting of souls, and who can collect the most. After Parnassus wins the first bet, which allows him to be immortal, he begins to suspect the devil let him win, in order to keep him around forever in this fashion. Parnassus is then doomed to spend an eternity constantly making deals with the devil. His latest one involved a promise to be made mortal again, to marry a beautiful mortal woman, in exchange for the offspring of this relationship, to be granted to the devil upon it's 16th birthday. Parnassus, in love (or lust, the difference is never really clear), eagerly accepts, ignoring the consequences of his deed.

It is now many years later (modern day, to be exact), and Parnassus' imaginarium is a traveling medieval medicine show, comprised of a juggler, a little person (Verne Troyer) and Parnassus' daughter, on the cusp of her 16th birthday. Thrown into the mix is an amnesiac (Heath Ledger) that the group found hanging off the side of a bridge. The amnesiac proves to be a unique showman, and is able to draw crowds to the Parnassus' imaginarium (the underlying message being, without slick production and modern showmanship, even truly magical things are ignored in today's world).

There are elements of the Fisher King and Baron Munchausen in Doctor Parnassus, that in spite of his magical gifts, he's still somewhat of a tragic figure. The subplot involving Heath Ledger's character (the mysterious stranger joins the group and helps turn their fortunes around) has been done before and takes perhaps too much of the focus of the film, but the twist at the end makes for a pretty nice pay-off. I think more than any other Gilliam production, the reliance on computer-generated images may have lessened the overall emotional impact of the film, and the death of Heath Ledger (this was his final film), may have abducted the film from it's original direction. In spite of these critiques, it's still an outstanding film that fits well in the Terry Gilliam canon.
Super Reviewer
½ December 27, 2010
Plain and Simple. WTF I must have left my crack pipe at home. If you even enjoy this one more power to you 1/2 star
Super Reviewer
½ December 12, 2010
Beautiful to look at, but fails story-wise.
Super Reviewer
½ August 7, 2009
Gilliam, what could go wrong with that?

Very bizarre, if you're not a Gilliam fan and have no idea what kinda stuff he has up his sleeve you may or may not enjoy this one. Definitely not a film for the masses, and what a captivating story it the beginning it's hard to get into it on account of some many things happening but then you cannot tear your eyes away from it. You totally invest into it, done with an air of sophistication granted the circumstances in which this film was made.

Super Reviewer
July 28, 2008
What a big awful mess...

Heath Ledger's last performance was the only good part, even though this movie made him look so bad.
Super Reviewer
September 4, 2010
A host of really amazing ingredients, but it just doesn't come together. It's hard to describe why it didnt work. The visuals are very good. At the very least, Terry Gilliams pacing is off. Needed a round of tight edits. That said, the multiple actors way was really clever. All in all I just thought it turned out kind of strange.
Super Reviewer
October 14, 2009
The film is very beautiful, interesting and fairly unusual, but to be honest I just don't know whether I like it or not. It reminds me of two films that I like - Mirrormask and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (which was also a Gilliam film), but there is something about the film that stops me from being able to say that I like it, but I don't dislike it.
Super Reviewer
February 13, 2010
It took me some time to understand this movie (am I that slow or the movie itself?). It is very imaginative indeed. I kinda liked and disliked this movie (yes mixture feelings). The story was a bit messy. Well so is our imagination right? I'm not sure whether anyone will like it or not. I myself is still confused. But yeah, it won't kill you. Watch it at your own risk.
Super Reviewer
September 14, 2008

A star studded cast with a sexy model to boot, I find the story quite complex and extremely ambitious. The usual Good vs Evil, the right choice, the wrong choice, what is the right choice when you also want to be happy & succesful? At times may portray a conflicting message, and it may leave you face to face with a brick wall, which makes it a good "abstract movie". Rewatchability: Medium.
Super Reviewer
December 23, 2009
An amnesiac with a shady past falls in with a troupe of actors who are engaged in a wager for souls with Lucifer. I have long been a fan of Terry Gilliam's work and even his weaker films up to this point can be regarded as heroic failures that still have much of merit contained within. Up to this point. I'm loathe to say it because of my loyalty to him and respect for Heath Ledger's memory, but this film is an absolute disaster. It's an incoherent mess of weak ideas that lurches from one ill-conceived vignette to the next and is populated by utterly unlikable characters; Andrew Garfield in particular was so insufferably irritating I ended up wanting to gnaw his vocal cords from his throat with my bare teeth. Gilliam's work has always been identified with his wicked and surreal sense of humour and ramshackle, almost home-made visual effects that have huge idiosyncratic charm, but here there are no laughs WHATSOEVER and the scenes inside the imaginarium are represented by soulless, tacky CGI which seems the complete antithesis of everything a Terry Gilliam film is supposed to be about. The star names attached to the project are little more than cameo roles and by the time I was witnessing Lily Cole running down a corridor batting away shards of mirrors leading to a tango with Tom Waites my boredom had transformed into total incredulity. In fact her easiness on the eye is one of the very few redeeming features of this disjointed mess but even that is marred by the fact that she is playing a 15 year old which transforms any romantic interest into Gary Glitter creepiness. I'm sure fans of the ex-Python will refuse to believe that this film is as bad as I say it is so this is wasted breath, but PLEASE do yourselves a favour and give this one a miss. You have been warned...
Super Reviewer
½ August 17, 2010
The Imaginarium is pure random weird enjoyment all the way! Heath Ledger could not have picked a better movie to go out on. It's imaginative beyond recognition and it is completely underrated. The odd world that is created by Doctor Parnassus is wonderous to behold and will not be forgotten for a long time. The end had me in tears, but you have to see the film to see what I mean when the credits begin to roll. This is fantastically one of the most brilliantly creative films in years!
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