The last film from actor Heath Ledger (this film was completed after "The Dark Knight" and this production was in the midst of filming when Ledger tragically passed - the picture was completed with the help of other actors, CGI and other tactics), "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" is the latest from director Terry Gilliam.
The story follows Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), a street performer/magician whose magic mirror allows those who look into it to create a fantasy world of their own imagination. The doctor has been around for many years, having once made a deal with the devil, Mr. Nick (Tom Waits) that involves his now teenage daughter, Valentina(Lily Cole). The doctor and his traveling magic act are also joined by Anton (Andrew Garfield) and Percy (Verne Troyer).
The group is joined by the mysterious Tony (Heath Ledger), who they find under a bridge and take in as part of their own. Heartbroken about his deal with Mr. Nick, Dr. Parnassus comes up with a new wager for Nick: the first one to save five souls wins - if Parnassus loses, he loses the souls of all five of his group members.
"Parnassus" may be flawed in some regards, but the film - visually at least - sees Gilliam at the height of his powers. Trippy and awe-inspiring in terms of the amount of imagination on display, "Parnassus" sees Gilliam employ a mash-up of high-and-low budget trickery to develop inspired visuals that stay with the viewer long after the credits roll. Given the (unbelievably) trippy weirdness of parts of the movie, it's remarkable that the film doesn't veer into seeming weird for weird sake.
Johnny Depp (whose performance is pure Depp), Colin Farrell and Jude Law play Ledger's character during portions of the movie - a move that, given the scenes where the other three appear - actually does work, although it's tragic and saddening that the move had to be made in the first place.
As remarkable and engaging as the film looks - the visuals are almost a character on their own - the picture does have a few concerns. The film's first half does wander at times, and drawing the film down about 15-20 minutes could have allowed it to keep its power and energy consistently high. The film is never boring (in fact, it's often fascinating), but it could be a bit more focused.
Overall though, "Parnassus" is a wild, often breathtaking film from Gilliam with a terrific set of performances from the cast.
VIDEO: "Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 1.85:1 (1080p/AVC) and the results are splendid - the presentation showed terrific clarity and detail, with each detail of locations and sets (as well as finer items) seen clearly and cleanly.
A couple of minor instances of edge enhancement were seen, but the presentation was otherwise delightfully smooth and clean. No specks, marks or other debris was seen, nor were any instances of pixelation. Colors looked fantastic, appearing bright and lively, with excellent saturation and no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The film's DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack is as imaginative as the film itself, with plenty of instances of surround use for discrete effects and ambience to immerse the viewer in the magical world of the film. Audio quality is top-notch, with well-recorded effects, dialogue and score. Probably the most impressive sound mix for a Gilliam film yet.
EXTRAS: Commentary from director Terry Gilliam, who also provides an enjoyable and informative introduction to the film. We also get the "Behind the Mirror" featurette, "Building the Monastery" featurette, "Doctor Parnassus Around the World" featurette, "Cast & Crew Presentation on Stage" featurette, "The Artwork of Doctor Parnassus" featurette, "Heath Ledger and Friends" featurette and "The Imaginarium of Terry Gilliam" featurette. We also get a deleted scene, interview with Ledger, wardrobe test, trailer, promos, multi-angle sequence and BD-Live capability.
Final Thoughts: "Parnassus" is a wild, often breathtaking film from Gilliam with a terrific set of performances from the cast. The Blu-Ray presentation offers excellent audio/video quality, as well as a fine set of extras. Recommended.
The Film B+