The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Knocks All of Us On Our Asses

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Poster

The Wonder Emporium?

While its odd how little people have cared about this movie, but then again it made its money back outside of America, and wasn’t funded by American money so it makes sense.  With every Terry Gilliam film there is ALWAYS some drama with getting the movie to come to fruition, probably none as bigger as what happened during the middle of this movie, he lost Heath Ledger, which was probably how the movie got any funding in the first place. 



But Terry being the consummate professional that he is, found a way around it.  Luckily some big names came to bat in a big way and pretty much saved this movie from never seeing the light of day. 


There really is no other director out there like Gilliam, I don’t know what it is but no one comes close to making films that look like his, probably why he is one of the greats.  The closest ones I can think of are Dark City (but that movie is too serious for Gilliam) and The Hudsucker Proxy.  Gilliam movies play out like zany oddball fantasy dramatic comedies.  But they are thinkers, and I think that is what polarizes him the most.  Most people do not like to think when they are seeing a fantasy film (Avatar) they like the odd world laid out for them so things are easier to understand.  That is what I love about Gilliam’s films, you have to fill in some of the blanks yourself and you have to pay attention, also some of the blanks just don’t need to be filled it.


I think that this movie is probably the most surreal film he’s made, mainly because it seems to take place in NOW London.  Yet all the characters seem to be from a different time/place.  The basic plot is that Dr. Parnassus (played aptly by Christopher Plummer, who is the best actor in the movie) was a delusional monk who gets his eyes opened by Mr. Nick (the Devil played with a lot of fun by Tom Waits).  The Devil makes a deal with Dr. Parnassus in order to make him immortal.  The Devil being who he is, keeps making deals with Dr. Parnassus until the Dr. has really got himself screwed and is about to lose his daughter. 


The relationship between Mr. Nick and the Dr. plays out like most people who’ve made deals with the Devil.  The Devil likes them, they are friendly but you know the whole time that person is just trying to figure out a way to get this Devil off their back. 


During this time of immortality the Dr. travels around with his band of merry actors (Verne Troyer in a non sight gag role and Andrew Garfield, desperate for the Dr’s attention) now they may or may not be immortal as well (again it’s a blank that probably doesn’t need to be filled).  Along with them is the Dr.’s about to turn 16 daughter.  Once she turns 16 she belongs to the Devil though.  They travel about London’s night life in hopes of pulling in drunks for their Imaginarium. 


The Imaginarium is the place were people can live out their fantasy beyond their wildest fantasy’s, and while in the trailer the effects looked sort of hokey and lame really worked in the movie. 


Along their travels they run into the hanging off a bridge but not dead Tony (Heath Leger).  From

Heath ledger Hanging

Heath Ledgers final role

here the movie really takes off.  The Dr. manages to make another deal with Mr. Nick in that if he can save five souls before he takes five souls then he can keep his daughter. Now with the help of the charismatic Tony character who has a shady past (again blank to be filled in on your own with a little help), the rest of the movie is about that.


I’m not going to get into the ending of this movie, mainly because I’m not 100% sure about it.  I got it and understood the conclusion, but I’m not positive on how it happened. And should be seen on your own if you are interested.

This is easily Gilliam back in the early 90’s when he was at his peek.  Everything after 12 Monkeys has been a mess.  This movie is a lot more focused and despite the oddness and loopyness of how the Imaginarium works the movie as a whole flows well.  The fact that Gilliam had to do all the Imaginarium scenes without Heathcliff, he came up with the cleaver idea that once in the Imaginarium Tony is as however the other person who goes through the Imaginarium with him sees him as.  It works, as long as you don’t worry about it (afterward I thought it would have worked better if EVERYONE looked different when they went into the Imaginarium, but it also sets up the uniqueness of Tony for the ending).


The best thing I can say about this film is that is it good Gilliam, so if you like Gilliam you will enjoy this.  If you don’t like Gilliam, this isn’t going to convert you.  It’s a mad mad zany mind of his and we only ever get to see a glimpse of it, so he always makes for interesting movies, even his bad ones.  Hopefully Gilliam has found backers outside of America willing to put up with him.  Maybe he is a complete dick but he comes off as one of the most straight forward nice guys in the biz.  Maybe that’s it?  That he is sort of a no bullshit kind of guy, and Hollywood does not like that.


Either way I like him, and I like that this film turned out so well, makes for a fitting end for the interesting career of Heath Ledger.  Nothing would be worse for Heath then to have stared in some lame action movie or something that just got pushed through and edited terribly because he was not around to finish the movie.  Instead you have a movie that took his loss, came up with a way to work around it and not ruin the film and all the while managing to find a way to pay tribute to him in the mean time.

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About koutchboom

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21 responses to “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Knocks All of Us On Our Asses”

  1. koutchboom says :

    Check out this interview with Terry, its really good.

    http://www.avclub.com/articles/terry-gilliam%2C37194/

    • koutchboom says :

      FUCK!!! I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW!! I SUCK! God I got three netfliks at home. I will watch Ink this weekend I swear. I not really busy so I should get a lot of movie time.

  2. Jarv says :

    Well, this screamed rental at the time, and I still think it’s a rental.

    Good review- although Brazil is a fairly dark film.

    • koutchboom says :

      Yeah it is, but its also got humor in it. Dark City doesn’t have much in the way of humor, and its more of a Thriller.

    • koutchboom says :

      And yeah Jarv you are right, this is pretty much a rental. I just really wanted to see a Gilliam film in theaters, having never had the chance. And it was nice that it was a good movie. Though I wish I could’ve seen 12 Monkey, Brazil or Time Bandits in theaters instead.

  3. Droid says :

    I’ll see this one day. I like Gilliam to a certain extent. My fav of his are Fear and Loathing and 12 Monkeys. That probably tells you quite a bit.

    Good review, Koutch.

    • koutchboom says :

      My wife is 2 for 2 in Gilliam hatred, this and Brazil. I own 12 monkeys and I’m like ITS GOOD ITS SOOO GOOD! But I don’t know if it’ll change her.

      What I loved about that movie was when I first heard about it everyone was like “OH YOU GOTTA SEE IT TWICE TO GET THE ENDING”. I wasn’t that old when I first saw it and got the ending on the first viewing.

    • Jarv says :

      Fear and Loathing- I don’t like.

      I love the book, so that’s probably why. I don’t think they handled it well at all.

      • Droid says :

        I love the book too. I thought they handled it as well as it could be.

      • Jarv says :

        I know they did about as well as they could, but at the end of the day it isn’t a visual book- it’s basically 2 guys getting stoned in a room, and that gets dull fast.

        The best bits of that film are all in the first third.

  4. koutchboom says :

    Fear and Loathing I didn’t like. I need to go back and watch it, but with Gilliam films if you don’t make the leap of faith with him into his world you’ll be lost. I was lost in Fear and Loathing.

  5. Tom_Bando says :

    Fave of his? Time Bandits. I enjoy.

  6. lord bronco says :

    Given your spotty track record saying Blown Away is better than Hurt Locker, and your general naivete regarding current world events as well as preposterous comparisons in this forum as well as others…

    I am going to call bullshit on this review.

    I simply don’t trust your critical abilities as much more than a common internet troll, and for this reason I will not be viewing this particular motion picture.

    I honestly don’t believe you even watch the movies you review, nor that you even have the cognitive capacity to formulate a coherent thesis in regards to critique.

    It is only too sad that you are given a continuous forum to spout attention grabbing and immature posts as a means to draw attention to yourself in a pathetic and ham-handed attempt to justify your continued existence.

    It is fine that you have spent 20 minutes of downtime to string some words and phrases together in an attempt to sound profound, but at this point I seriously have to doubt the next word out of your mouth.

    To conclude, good job Sir.

    Submitted with utmost deference.

    • Tom_Bando says :

      Haven’t seen Hurt Locker-fully intend to change that when possible. Blown Away wasn’t that great, but we’ve already been over that. Blown Away is the sorta movie Mikey Bay SHOULD remake. You know I’m right.

      • koutchboom says :

        Should I put a picture of my ticket ala Harry Knowles? Seeing that I have trolls now?

        Having watched The Hurt Locker again, sure its a good movie just nothing special about it second time around. All the suspense was gone because you know it goes nowhere. And Antony Mackie does a much better job then the sort of ho hum performence from Renner.

        Blown Away isn’t a good movie, its just a shit load of fun.

        Was I trying to sound profound? I’m not sure you know how to read LB?

      • koutchboom says :

        hahahahaha He would get arrested for constantly being caught with his pants down wacking off in the middle of the street during all the explosions. It would drive him mad.

  7. Droid says :

    Frankie, what happened to your post? ’twas funny.

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