This film portrays a poor, thousand-year old man who, devoted to telling stories, travels around London with his sideshow. He has a tendency to make pacts with the devil and, as a result, is just days away from losing his 16-year old daughter to hell. In his efforts to save her, creates a new gamble between him and the devil where the first one to collect five souls within the Imaginarium wins. Although entertaining, this movie is rife with stereotypes, contains a confusing plot, and has a nigh- incomprehensible ending.
One major issue with the flick is its inability to establish backstories for its characters. A fourth of the way into the movie, we meet a charming man hanging by his neck. Apparently, he used to run a charity for children, but disgraced himself by either accepting laundered money or selling organs. It’s never clarified, and we hear different stories up until the end. A young man also accompanies the group, and although he is identified as a love interest for the 16-year-old girl, he becomes extraordinarily jealous upon the arrival of the hanging man and proceeds to interfere with the protagonists until he unceremoniously dies at the end of the movie. The 16-year-old’s worldview is dominated by her supposed childhood trauma of an insecure household, and the 1000-year-old is depressed and drinks constantly. Three of these characters die off at the end with barely any acknowledgement from the film, however, one is inexplicably resurrected. I found this highly unsatisfactory. I feel that, to depict the decadent and ambiguous world I think the director was attempting to produce, characters with clearer backgrounds and motivations are necessary.
This brings me to a final point- the moral ambiguity of the film. This is not the good kind of ambiguity where you see shades of grey and find the actions of the characters questionable. Instead, we are presented with a drunkard, fallen monk who happily makes deals with the devil, and a “pure” collection of travelers who alternately become disloyal, sex-crazed, or apathetic throughout the film. Additionally, Despite the original obvious setup for claiming souls- where people within the imaginarium end up choosing between a “good” and “bad” choice- the doctor switches up the options in way that is very difficult to sympathize with. From profit-oriented actions to jealous rages to unsolicited abortion references, this movie lacks the moral structure that could have saved its incoherent plot. Instead, the film is wholly unconvinced, and you are almost happy to see the main characters go. Although attractive, I recommend seeing a different pretty film, such as Avatar.