The Imaginarium Doctor Parnassus (2009) [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Adventure / Drama / Fantasy
Sony || PG13 - 122 minutes - $34.95 || April 27, 2010
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2010-04-07

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.

.:: A U D I O ::.

B L U - R A Y

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Terry Gilliam
Writer(s): Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown (written by)
Cast: Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Verne Troyer, Andrew Garfield, Lily Cole, Tom Waits, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jude Law

Theatrical Release Date: January 8, 2010

Supplemental Material:
  • Feature Commentary
  • Introduction
  • 8 Featurettes
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Heath Ledger Interview
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • movieIQ
  • BD-Live

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), Portuguese (DTS-HD MA 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Portuguese, Spanish, English SDH, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish

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.::THE FILM::.


If thereís one truths of Hollywood, you both know what youíll get with a director like Terry Gilliam and yet have no clue what youíll get from the man. Heís an enigma wrapped in enigmas. Is he insanely brilliant or brilliantly insane? Given his track record dating back to the infamous 2000 disastrous production of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote chronicled in the 2002 documentary, Lost in La Mancha. Though Gilliamís unique work ethic dated further back, this was the eye-opener for me. It should be noted that Gilliamís Don Quixote film is back in the works with Robert Duvall playing the title character.

Back on the topic at hand, Gilliamís latest, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus seemed to have struck its own terrible and tragic bad luck after the passing of Heath Ledger with only half of the film completed and more needing to be shot. Gilliam was in a precarious position. Does he scrap yet another film? Instead of abandoning ship, Gilliam chose to cast three other actors to take place of Ledger within Parnassusís Imaginarium, a brilliant move no doubt but one that took me out of the film.

The story is about a traveling sideshow in which those who enter Doctor Parnassusís (CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER) mind will have all their dreams come true. But there is more to Parnassus than some mystical magic. In fact, Parnassus was immortal until he fell for a vastly younger woman and made a deal with the Devil, Mr. Nick (TOM WAITS), trading his immortality for youth in exchange for the soul of his first born upon turning 16. Parnassus agrees and woos the young woman and they enjoy 60 years together when their daughter, Valentina is born, though his love died giving birth.

Now 16 years later, Mr. Nick has come back to collect. The 16-year-old Valentina (LILY COLE) travels with her father, a midget named Percy (VERNE TROYER) and their announcer Anton (ANDREW GARFIELD) who is in love with Valentina. To spare his daughterís life, Parnassus makes a bet with Mr. Nick: the first to woo five souls will get to keep Valentina.

One day, while on the road, Anton sees the shadow of a man (HEATH LEDGER) hanging off the bridge. Although Percy wants to just leave him there, Anton and Valentina manage to stuff the man in a trunk. The next morning, the mystery man wakes up supposedly with no memory of who he is or how he was found hanging by a noose off a bridge. We later discover his name to be Tony, but still his past is a mystery.

Personally, Iíve never been a big fan of Terry Gilliam the director and more interested in Gilliam as the eccentric man with visual flair and wild ideas. My first interest in him came a few years back with the airing of Lost in La Mancha and the disaster that struck the production followed up years later with the passing of Ledger. Iíve seen a couple of his films and while I admire Gilliam for not being a for-hire studio hack taking the hard and difficult road rather than the easy and mainstream one, his stories may not be for everyone. However, Imaginarium, for all the visual feasts it may provide, is actually a little more Ďnormalí by comparison to his other films.

The director aside, the biggest thing going against the film was taken out of Gilliamís hands when Heath Ledger died. How do you complete a half-done film without its star? Do you shut down production completely, flushing millions down the tube and hope to one day revisit (like Gilliam is doing with The Man Who Killed Don Quixote) or does one go on and complete the picture in honor of Heath Ledger? I say that Gilliam and companies plan was ingenious in theory by getting three well-known, A-list actors in Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Collin Farrell to play Ledgerís part within the Imaginarium. Unfortunately, and even though Gilliam adjusted the script to account for this change, I felt it was a big distracting. Again, this isnít anyoneís fault as it was a unique and difficult situation, but it was at the expense of the story overall.

As for the performances, no one really stands out. When you have a veteran such as Christopher Plummer, you expect greatness and for the part given, I think he did a great job. Verne Troyer, of Austin Powers fame primarily, gets to show some more dramatic acting chops to go along with his natural comedic timing while relative newcomers Andrew Garfield and model Lily Cole provide a jolt of youth.

I feel uneasy talking about Heath Ledger, though. Itís not because of his death per se but more because itís unfair to evaluate what amounts to a half of a performance, for which he disappears during the entire third act, taken over by Colin Farrell within the Imaginarium. For the scenes he is in, I thought he gave the emoted the same charisma weíve all come to admire in his career that dated back to his first major American role in 10 Things I Hate About You.

All in all, weíll never know how good this film couldíve truly been as we only really get a half of a performance from one of its stars. As it stands, I found portions of it to be entertaining with great visuals from the odd mind of Terry Gilliam and even though Ledger never got to finish his character, he too was charming as ever.


Feature Commentary Ė This track by Terry Gilliam offers up a commentary where he sometimes telestrates whatís going on onscreen. He goes through the various casting from Verne Troyer whom he worked with before on Fear and Loathing to Christopher Plummer and, of course, Heath Ledger. The track isnít an entire loss as he does provide some behind-the-scenes comments on the set design and where some of the story elements came from and the changes he made after Ledgerís death.

movieIQ Ė With this feature on, must be connect to the Internet and have a Profile 2.0 player, you can check out info on the actors in certain scenes or read bits of trivia and what not. Iím not a fan of this feature, but I guess some get some use out of it... ** Blu-ray Exclusive **

Terry Gilliam Film Introduction (2:57; HD) Ė Gilliam basically opens up on how the project came to be and while the project was to be fun and adventurous, all that changed upon the death of Heath Ledger.

Deleted Scene (4:25; HD) Ė This solo scene isnít anything incredible nor would it have added anything to the final film (though some of the visual effects werenít entirely completed). The scene is accompanied by an optional commentary from Gilliam.

Behind the Mirror (3:28; HD) is a short featurette where Terry Gilliam and others talk about the movie and explain the mirror or, for the actors, their characters. Really, this isnít very in-depth and made more to advertise the film than offer any insight.

The Imaginarium of Terry Gilliam (6:32; HD) Ė This is another featurette which expands on where Gilliam came up with the plot (and the mirror) and gets inside the mind of the director. Others talk about Terry Gilliamís talent. Itís another yawn-inspiring featurette where you donít learn that much more than you did before. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **

Building the Monastery (7:16; HD) goes through the process of creating the monastery from the models, to miniatures, CGI and live action elements. Again, I donít understand why this couldnít have been included as part of a larger Ďmaking-ofí featurette.

ďThe DrunkĒ Multi-Angle Progression Sequence (2:12; HD) is a fairly cool feature where you can watch a scene by storyboard, blue screen live action, pre-visualization and the final scene. Only complaint is the delay of going from one to the other is really slow. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **

Heath Ledger and Friends (5:46; HD) Ė This is a nice featurette where members of the cast and crew (Gilliam, Verne Troyer, Plummer, Depp, Law and others) remember Heath Ledger, their interactions with him and how Farrell, Law and Depp came in to fill the part. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **

Heath Ledger Wardrobe Test (2:03; HD) Ė Here we get to see Ledger try on some costumes and via a PiP window; there is also an optional commentary with Terry Gilliam.

Interview with Heath Ledger (3:09; HD) are ďsegments from a November 2007 interviewĒ with Ledger on a radio show set against production stills from the movie. Ledger talks about his excitement about working with Gilliam again (after The Brothers Grimm).

Doctor Parnassus Around the World (6:00; HD) examines the reception the movie had at the Cannes Film Festival and other places across the globe including other premieres (London, Rome, etc). This is all video with no cast or crew interjecting.

Cast & Crew Presentation on Stage (8:27; HD) Ė I assume this was part of the tour to promote the movie, in London members of the cast and crew come up on stage in front of an audience and talk about the film.

The Artwork of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (4:29; HD) has Terry Gilliam talk about the artwork done for the movie and where it all came from.

Lastly is the Original Theatrical Trailer (1:45; HD) and a BD-Live (** Blu-ray Exclusive **) portal.



The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is presented in its original 1.85 aspect ratio and 1080p high-definition. Although the picture at times has a softer look to it, once inside the Imaginarium, the picture does get to pop a little more versus the darker and grittier elements of real world London. The detail levels are pretty good for the most part especially close-ups on the actorsí faces while the black levels are also fine without being overblown.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track does a good job providing good levels for the dialogue via the center channel while some of the audio effects make use of the front channels while the rear speakers provide some depth with ambient noises. Also, Mychael and Jeff Dannaís score comes out evenly enough without being overbearing. I canít quite say this is a great lossless track Iíve heard, but itís not too bad.


How will The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus film be remembered? Will it be as Heath Ledgerís film or another visually interesting Terry Gilliam project? For me, I canít quite give it a full recommendation mainly because Iíve never really been a Terry Gilliam fan, but thereís no doubt he is on another level and isnít merely some studio hack, and for that I respect him.