Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

One of the more anticipated films of the year is Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. The main point of interest is that it happens to be Heath Ledger’s final role. The story follows a theatre troupe who travel around performing for money... and souls. In their possession is a magic mirror that can transport people into a world of imagination. We’ll see if the film is deserving of the hype.

Cook on Storytelling

Being that storytelling is the focus of the film, one would hope that Terry Gilliam would have a good story to tell. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The plot of Imaginiarium is a disgusting mess of tired fantastical elements and paper-thin characters. It is a movie that means to pay tribute to creativity, yet is itself a creative failure. Rather than using interesting sets and props, Gilliam banks on tacky CGI to do the work for him. Imaginarium is almost paradoxical in that it looks to have been a film that required lots of work from lots of people, yet it comes off lazy.

Walker on CGI

The film enters numerous CGI set pieces once characters step into the magic mirror. These scenes look like something you'd see on the family channel: garish colors teamed with preposterous logic. The heart of Gilliam's film is within these sequences, yet the heart is created by the worst trend in modern cinema: CGI. The spectacle of Gilliam's past epic productions has been replaced by a cheap trick to stimulate viewers' need for something 'special' instead of sincere.

Cook on Acting

One of the more atrocious aspects of Imaginairum is found in the performances. While it is Heath Ledger who is being sold as the top bill, the actors featured most prominently in the film are Andrew Garfield and supermodel Lily Cole. Both of these young performers are hopeless in the film. Garfield damn near ruined the otherwise solid Boy A when he was cast in the lead, and here he proves once again to be nothing to write home about. Cole is used, misused, and overused. Gilliam’s script gives everyone very little to work with, and clearly he isn’t able to inspire his actors on set. The big names all struggle with the material, and perhaps do their best with what they are given. This includes the late Heath Ledger, and his “replacements” played by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell.

Walker on Ledger

Imaginarium's only good scene is not a result from the director’s intents. The scene in question is the introduction of Heath Ledger's character. The protagonist and her bohemian friends find him hanging by a noose from the foundation of a bridge. The scene conjures countless cultural connotations, which add an emotion to the film that every other scene fails to achieve. This small accidental feat never helps the film ascend from what it is: trash. Pumped out by a director who made the wrong decision by becoming a director in the first place.


Gilliam's film is an atrocity to cinema and storytelling, which seem to be the two things he intends to celebrate. Gilliam has abandoned his outlandish and unique set design for cheap CGI thrills. Whereas his past features' heart is located within its spectacle, Imaginarium is vapid and without heart simply because it fails to be spectacular in the first place.

Cook’s Rating 1.0/5

Walker’s Rating 1.0/5

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