The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus: Movie Review

Finally, it is here. After Heath Ledger's untimely death early in 2008, "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" has been widely anticipated (well at least in our case that is). And after watching Heath Ledger as the Joker on "The Dark Knight", the build up for his last film just got bigger and bigger. Even better, the best actors of his generation even joined the bandwagon to help finish the film in his honor. Three Hollywood superstars, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell all play different roles as Tony. Terry Gilliam is at the helm and has a momentous task to finish a film that will serve as an end to an actor's unexpected demise. Read on to find out if this will quench our expectations.

"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" is set in the present day. It tells the story of Dr Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and his extraordinary Imaginarium, a traveling show where the audience can get a chance to experience their most desired imaginations. This is possible because Parnassus is actually blessed with the power of guiding the imaginations of people when he is on a trance. Now, Doctor Parnassus has a dilemma as he has a long-kept secret that will affect his daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole). He made a deal with the devil to get back his mortality and youth to be able to love the girl of his dreams, Valentina's mother. In return though, any children that Parnassus will have will be given to the devil on their 16th birthday. Desperate to protect her from her fate, he has made a new bet with the devil - a race to get 5 souls. If Parnassus wins, he can get his daughter back and if not, the deal will still push through. All looks hopeless until one day, Parnassus and his crew happen upon a hanged man named Tony. Tony has wit and charm that might win souls on Parnassus' side. Can Tony (Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp,Jude Law, Colin Farrell) save Valentina's soul?

"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" is not for everyone. We are pretty sure that a lot of people will hate it and why? Because it is a deep film. It felt like we were doing philosophy and theology classes at the same time when we watched it. It didn't help that the visuals and characters used were sometimes confusing. Now do not get us wrong here - we actually liked the film. The visuals while surreal was truly amazing. All the actors gave their all (yet we feel that no other movie could surpass Ledger's performance as Joker) and we really liked how the Heath Ledger-Johnny Depp transformation happened. We thought it was Heath on screen but it was Johnny already - that caught us by surprise.

The biggest downer for the film is probably how the narrative was presented. It will make you scratch your head a lot of times and more so frustrate you - it will require some brain power to really get the hang of the story. This is most probably due to the fact that the movie's lead star wasn't able to complete the film and they did all their best to salvage what they already started. We were still impressed on how they were able to piece together scenes they've already finished with Ledger and scenes with the new actors. The ending was so-so at best which we really felt was out-of-place with how the story was going. Without revealing details, the ending was just a 180-degree turn from how the movie was going 90% before that. In the end, if you are patient enough to try understand what's happening on screen and what the heck the movie is all about, "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" will be a rewarding experience. But if you are a movie watcher just out for some fun, then maybe skipping this is a good idea.

Rating: 3 and a half reels

Why you should watch it:
- surreal visuals that just blew our minds away
- great acting from all actors, even those with minor roles
- if you want to see how they managed to save the film after Ledger's passing

Why you shouldn't watch it
- most people would definitely have a hard time getting what the heck is happening - it was like a philosophy class on screen
- it lacks polish on some areas especially with its narrative and ending

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  1. Got to watch it last night :) and tried analyzing it afterwards. i think it was mocking people's desire for immortality. (or eternal-life maybe if you're looking at it as an anti-christ movie) it was confusing actually coz the whole plot revolved around his playing with the devil. so whatever im just glad johnny depp was there. haha

    happy birthday jed!! - giapeps :)

  2. Hi Giapeps,

    We miss you! we hope to hear from you soon especially in our future prayer sessions! :D

    Anyway, great observation especially regarding immortality. Thanks for the birthday greeting too! :D

  3. Pretty good review. I disagree about the ending though. I think this was an excellent movie. I give it 5 stars! I would see it again. It does tend to be deep and a bit psychidellic so if you are not one who likes to look into deeper meanings of words then just being a spoken word then this movie may not be for you. Best movie I have seen in a long long time. Bravo to the cast and director, wish Ledger was still alive. I liked this better then the dark knight even.

  4. Hi SaintAnger,

    Thanks for the compliment. This was definitely a great movie but not quite perfect for us. But we have to agree, we wish Ledger did not die so young and this movie is one testament to his skills.

    Anyway, we hope to hear from you again!

  5. Hello,
    Nice blog i like it,
    Movies are also a source of inspiration to many. There are many people in this world who have been inspired by movies to do something big in their lives. For example, movie based on biographies of great people have influenced people to attain the same pinnacle in their lives. I still remember my friend who after watching the movie "The Mahatma" starring Ben Kingsley was forced to change her general attitude towards life.


  6. It's a great movie, with an original storyline(well it seams a little like it was inspired by Dr. Faustus-and this is a godd thing).
    I just love this movie 5* out of 5.

  7. I saw this film on the way home after a trip to Sydney. I was run-down, slightly feverish and head-achy, but none of that interfered with my enjoyment of the film.