Hey folks, Harry here... Saw this review come in last night, but was too tired to post it. Merrick got to it before me today. However, I felt the review lacked context. PAN'S LABYRINTH is one of the very few films that played Cannes this year that had near universal praise. Whether it's Salon declaring it, "Hands down the most exciting and original film I've seen here, and the one that had me in tears during its final scenes." or Hollywood Reporter calling it, "Engrossing mix of horror, fantasy and stark drama." or Variety saying, "There's plenty of blood coursing through the veins of "Pan's Labyrinth," a richly imagined and exquisitely violent fantasy from writer-director Guillermo del Toro. A fairy tale not even remotely intended for children, this entrancing magical-realist drama concocts a sinister spin on "Alice in Wonderland" against the war-torn backdrop of 1940s Spain, shifting between two worlds with striking craft and discipline." So - lest you think this one review below is "the word" on how the film played... check around. The word on this film is golden.
Merrick can't do mazes...
CS Lover sent (who made of point of telling us “CS” does not mean C.S. Lewis) sent in a review of Guillermo Del Toro’s PAN’S LABYRINTH from Cannes.
CS apologizes for the interview’s English – it’s not his native language. I’ve made a few editorial adjustments to his message for clarity (spelling, punctuation, etc.), but his review is substantively unchanged.
Here’s CS Lover…
Since I have not seen one single review of Pan’s labyrinth on the site and since I know you are Del Toro’s biggest fan and friend, here are my two cents on this long awaited film.
Pardon my French and please note it is a minor spoilers-filled review.
I have seen the movie this Saturday in Cannes and the reaction of the audience was really good. You should know that I am pretty well acquainted with Del Toro’s work, from Cronos to Hellboy, but I am no “geek”.
I am sorry to say that I was overall a bit disappointed. That is always the issue with great expectations. All Del Toro fans will appreciate the Del Toro specials (metal against flesh, ticking clocks with mechanisms, blood circles…), always as nifty as possible, but the movie is still a little bit too long, too rushed on the FX, too meaningless regarding the plotlines and regarding the people’s reaction to fully implicate the viewer.
The story does not revolve around some kind of Franquist Alice in Wonderland, but much more on the issue of a family and a small army with not much purpose in the woods against rebels without much more purpose around these woods.
Ofelia, the kid (not as good as Del Toro claims), is fascinated by fairy tales, sees fairies everywhere and is soon contacted by a fawn in order to save his kingdom as she is a princess who has to accomplish three feats before the next full moon.
Those three (rather two…) feats are the only fantasy moments of the film and last probably not more than 10% of the whole movie. They are each time beautifully shot, creative but hey, it’s Del Toro.
So the rest revolves around the family, how they cope with the small army, how they cope with a really villainous villain impersonated by French Sergi LOPEZ (Oh man, he’s really nasty), how they cope with the illness of the Mum who carries the Villain’s baby boy, how they cope with the traitors who spy for the rebels (the “good” people of the film)…
The letdowns are numerous :
- The film is certainly 15 minutes too long. The part with all the rebels is not very well understandable, even for a French man well acquainted with Franquism and Post-war Spain.
- The FX are not pitch perfect, the CGI is not well integrated and some effects could have been avoided (for example, Pan’s full body with goats legs looks too CG) ;
- The scenario regarding the character’s motivations or reactions to some events is very weak. For example, the maid won’t kill the guy that tortured her friends and probably killed her beloved brother. Or OFELIA will act positively on her instinct in one feat, then do something completely stupid (but that adds suspense, you idiot…)
There are of course great ups :
- The monsters (There are only three…) are fantasticaly good looking (as always plastic is better than computer graphics), the sets and lighting also ;
- All the gory moments are just fantastic, the crowd went ecstatic when the villain started to sew a wound by himself. You have to see it to believe it. The one great CGI moment of the film. Still can not understand how they did that one…
- Great cinematography ;
- Great acting from Sergi LOPEZ as the villain and from the maid and of course from Doug Jones in Pan.
- The end made me cry like a baby, so it should mean that I felt implicated. Still I believe that the film is not up to DEVIL’S BACKBONE, nor HELLBOY.
The end is really good - to have seen a nice fairy tale with a very harsh and realistic tone. Was Ofelia really seeing what she saw? Probably since some of the magical things she encounters have affects on “the real world”. Yet you still feel something missing.
Overall, some magical moments, of course a film much above average, but still a little deception for all people awaiting a perfect mix- up of DEVIL’s backbone with HELLBOY. Just kidding, but it feels that it is the way they sell it.
I still have wet dreams of more Kroenen’s action…