CONTAINS SPOILERS BUT IT'S SUCH A HIGH-PROFILE RELEASE IT PROBABLY DOESN'T MATTER
I'm not actually the world's biggest Terry Gilliam fan. The film of his I probably liked the most seems to be the one generally regarded as one of his weakest: The Brothers Grimm. I haven't seen Brazil for so long I couldn't be relied upon for an honest opinion, though I know I half-liked it at the time; and I wasn't that excited by either The Fisher King or Twelve Monkeys. And strangely enough, I wasn't even aware my local were screening this one until I looked online to find out next week's times. Smallest screen, one week only, finishes Thursday.
The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus is a strange kind of soul-collecting travelling sideshow run by the immortal Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), his teenage daughter (Lily Cole) and assistants: you go through a mirror and it places you in a fully realised world from your own imagination. Lurking around on both sides of the mirror is Tom Waits as the Devil, making wagers as to whether he or Parnassus can collect the most souls in a given time limit. It's not doing very well, until the troupe rescues amnesiac Heath Ledger from a hanging and he eventually turns the sideshow into a more successful enterprise. But he has secrets....
That they managed to get round the death of Heath Ledger halfway through by having the character played by Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp on the other side of the mirror isn't actually a problem; as others have commented, it could have been conceived that way in the first place. The most striking thing about TIODP is the wildly designed imaginary worlds within the mirror, They're all done in CGI and are fantastic - perhaps they're too wildly designed as, like The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen, it gets a bit much in places, and at certain points, particularly in the last third, it starts to get a tad confusing as I lost track of exactly whose imaginary world we were actually in. And it's really hard to actually care about most of the characters. Still, I rather liked the end, though I'm not entirely sure how it actually got there. But it's visually staggering, always interesting and well worth a look.