“Great, they can have my life. I want to run away and join real life.”
Mirrormask was reportedly first conceived by writer Neil Gaiman and director Dave McKean as a sort of thematic sequel to Labyrinth (with the cooperation of Henson studios), so it’s no surprise that it fits the Girls Underground archetype well. It is also a simply stunning film, with a very unique look and feel both in imagery and dialogue, but a classic plot underlying it all.
Helena, probably around 16, travels with her parents’ circus but wishes for a normal life. When her mother falls ill, she is transported to the world of her drawings, and embarks on a quest to save that world’s Light Queen from the influence of the Dark Queen – with a hint that her victory in that world will somehow also save her mother at home (thus fitting both the “rescue of a loved one” and “saving the world” versions of the Girls Underground story). Her sole companion is a jester (although she meets other creatures along the way). Together they search for the answer to the Light Queen’s illness. The Dark Queen sends her minions to spy on them, and eventually captures Helena, causing her to forget herself and believe she is the princess (who ran away and stole Helena’s life at home). Helena keeps catching glimpses of her home, watching the other girl tear her life apart.
Her companion temporarily betrays her, and she is left to fight the Dark Queen alone, but in the end she does receive some help too. She also not only solves riddles, but dishes them out as well, in a particularly funny exchange with a “sphinx.” While she returns to her regular life at the end (“it was all a dream”), there is an implication that her companion has followed as well.