A movie made by The Jim Henson Company, but done with mostly CG effects. Directed by acclaimed visual artist Dave McKean, and it shows. Written by acclaimed author/comic book guy Neil Gaiman, and it also shows.
Helena Campbell is a teenage girl who wants to leave her home at the circus to go and join real life. She gets into an argument with her mother, who then falls spontaneously ill with what is presumably a brain tumor. Helena blames herself, and dreams (maybe) that she travels to a magical world made entirely out of pictures she has drawn.
The City of Light is being gradually destroyed because the White Queen (who bears a suspicious resemblance to her mother) has fallen ill and the Charm to wake her has been stolen by someone called the Dark Princess, daughter of the Dark Queen (who also bears a suspicious resemblance to Helena's mother). Accompanied by a bizarre Irish juggler named Valentine, Helena journeys from the White City to the Darklands to find the Charm and save both the White Queen and her mother.
- A Darker Me
- Acting for Two - Stephanie Leonidas is Helena and the Dark Princess. Rob Brydon is Morris Campbell and the Prime Minister. Gina McKee is Joanne Campbell, the White Queen, and the Dark Queen. Jason Barry is Valentine and his equivalent in the human world.
- Action Dress Rip - Helena does this to the dress she aquired in her Evil Makeover.
- All Just a Dream - Although we know this from pretty early on.
- All Take and No Give - The Dark Queen and the Princess, one of the most dysfunctional family units in fantasy.
- And You Were There - All of the main characters including Helena, although Valentine's equivalent is met after the dream.
- Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering? -
Helena: Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
Valentine: Absolutely, if we put little wheels on the bottom of our feet we could just rooooooll around...
Guard 1: Shall we lock her up for you?
Guard 2: Extort a confession?
Guard 3: Deny her ice cream?
- The Baroness - The Dark Queen.
- Bizarrchitecture - Pretty much the entire City.
- Black Eyes of Evil
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick - 'I remember what my mother always said. "It's a dog eat dog world, son. You should get them before they get you. Eat your greens. Please don't do that. Don't embarrass me in front of the neighbors. IT WOULD BE BETTER IF YOU LEFT HOME AND I NEVER HEARD FROM YOU AGAIN!" She wasn't even my real mother. She bought me from a man...'
- Buffy-Speak: At being asked to sneak, Valentine says, "I will slip unnoticeable through the darkness like a dark, unnoticeable slippy thing." A notable example in that he doesn't hesitate at any point in the sentence. That's what he meant to say.
- The Cameo - Stephen Fry, Lenny Henry, and Robert Llewellyn pop by briefly.
- Chekhov's Gun - The doodles on the balcony
- Closer to Earth
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience - Played fairly straight
- Companion Cube - The Really Useful Book, and Valentine's Tower, which doubles as a...
- Cool Airship - Although it looks kind of like a giant vacuum cleaner
- Dawson Casting - While it's never made explicit what age Helena is supposed to be, it can be assumed to be her mid-teens. Stephanie Leonidas, however, was in her early twenties when the movie was shot.
- Development Hell - Supposedly there were plans for a prequel in manga form that has yet to be published.
- Down the Rabbit Hole
- Eldritch Abomination - A good summation of what the Dark Queen becomes at the end.
- Emotionally Tongue-Tied - "If I were to say... sssssomething apologetic! It would reflect my feelings in the matter... accurately."
- The End of the World as We Know It - The dreamland is slowly ceasing to exist
- Everything's Better with Monkeys - The Monkeybirds.
- Everything's Better with Princesses - Subverted, as the Princess is the Evil Counterpart
- Evil Matriarch - The Dark Queen.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin- "Really Useful Book."
- Fictional Document - The Really Useful Book and A Complete History of Everything.
- The Fool and The Trickster - Valentine.
- Forgotten Fallen Friend - "Who?"
- Fourth Wall Shut-in Story
- Gagging on Your Words: Valentine has a problem with "Sorry".
- Gainax Ending
- God Save Us From the Queen - The Dark Queen.
- Heroic Sacrifice - The Really Useful Book. That's right, a book.
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Valentine seems to have had one.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl - Valentine and Helena.
- Hypnotize the Princess- Hello, Uncanny Valley puppets.
- I Just Want to Be Normal
- "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight - Doesn't work. Juggling does.
- Ironic Echo - "You couldn't handle real life!"
- I Take Offense to That Last One - "I did not hog those cakes!"
- I Wished You Were Dead
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold - Valentine.
- Knock-Knock Joke - "You start."
- Lovable Coward - Valentine.
- Lovable Traitor - Also Valentine.
- Marionette Motion - The boxed singer marionettes.
- Marquee Alter Ego - The Prime Minister of the White City, where everybody wears masks, has much more of his face visible than any of his citizens. This was originally because the plan was to cast somebody famous in the role as The Cameo, and they wanted the audience to be able to see who it was.
- Mask of Power
- McGuffin - The Mirror Mask itself.
- Mind Screw - This movie's definatly got it, as well as much confusion as to whether or not this was an art film.
- Mix-and-Match Critters - Quite a few, most notably the Griffon, the Sphinxes, and the Monkeybirds.
- My Beloved Smother - The Dark Queen, in a subversion of the usual tradition that evil queens are unloving parents.
- To balance that out, we have Valentine's Parental Abandonment, mentioned above.
- Off-the-Shelf FX - The giant fleas, although you'd never notice them.
- Our Giants Are Bigger - And they float!
- Pajama-Clad Hero - Helena.
- Planet of Steves - Subverted: There is one Monkeybird whose name isn't Bob. It's Malcolm. And they hit him for it.
- "Reading Is Cool" Aesop - Courtesy of the Really Useful Book.
- Rebellious Princess - Is evil.
- Save Both Worlds - Emotionally, at least.
- Scenery Porn - If you've ever wondered what it would be like to live inside a Dave McKean drawing...
- The Scream and Screw Destiny - "That's not my future. That's not my future. NO, I DON'T WANT TO BE A WAITER!"
- Sealed Good in a Can - The White Queen.
- Soundtrack Dissonance
- Spiritual Successor - The Henson Company asked Gaiman for a movie that's "whatever genre Labyrinth is".
- Mirrormask has its own Spiritual Successor in Coraline.
- The Stinger - Gaiman and McKean considered running the credits after "It's over. She won," and then showing the ending. But decided against it.
- Strawman Political - The Dark Queen's advisers are parodies of British politicians on both sides.
- Squee - Oh, there are Valentine fangirls.
- The Show Must Go On- After Helena's mother passes out, another performer takes her place.
- The Tell: When Helena's father is trying to calm her about her mother's impending brain surgery, and unconsciously chews his lip, she blurts, "Anyway, you're worried. You only do that when you're worried!"
- This Is My Side: A damn heroic one enforced by Helena when she finally confronts the Princess.
- This Is Sparta - The Giants always talk like this.
- Voiceover Letter - Left by the Dark Princess and read by Valentine.
- What Could Have Been - Before it was decided that the Prime Minister of the White City should also be Helena's dad, they wanted to get David Bowie to do it, as an Actor Allusion to Labyrinth. Sadly, there were scheduling conflicts.
- Winged Humanoid - The Monkeybirds, although they don't really have bird-like wings; they actually have skin-flaps that stretch from their arms to the sides of their bodies, and they don't really fly with them, just glide really well.