Poor Terry Gilliam, without a doubt the unluckiest active director. His persistent production troubles have been well documented ever since his late 90’s film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote became a catastrophic failure and never even reached the light of day. Health and weather issues, among many other things, killed that film, and since then Gilliam’s luck has only gotten worse. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is his latest, and Gilliam of course had the daunting task of finishing the film after its star, Heath Ledger, passed away midway through production. This turned Imaginarium easily into the most intriguing movie of the year if for no other reason than to see how in the hell Gilliam would pull it off.
Heath’s unfinished role was completed by Jude Law, Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp, and some clever rewrites. Of course, the result is pretty confusing. It’s impressive that Gilliam was able to finish this at all, but in the end even the characters don’t seem to know what’s going on, let alone the audience. The reasoning behind the constant transformation of Heath’s character is never fully explained, and as you might expect is quite distracting. However, what does remain of Heath’s performance is fantastic, and it’s wonderful to be able to see his last work.
So with all the aforementioned flaws in mind, I do have to say that I loved this movie. Gilliam hasn’t made anything with this much visual spectacle since The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and despite the mess of the story I was more than willing to go along for the ride, if just for all the stunning eye candy. Some of the sequences were so imaginative that I was in awe, which goes to show that when Gilliam’s at his best he’s hard to top.