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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…

Dear Harry,

Long time…

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…

PAN’S LABYRINTH is slated for an October release here in the States.

We’re still waiting for a trailer of respectable clarity of size, but…in the meantime… HERE’s an unpleasantly distorted choppy/blocky version if you want to check it out.

The film’s official website is HERE.

Readers Talkback
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  • May 30, 2006, 9:49 a.m. CST

    Sounds like it is as big a disappointment as...

    by Atticus Finch


  • May 30, 2006, 10:05 a.m. CST

    Mirrormask 2.0

    by CrispyOne

    Or not?

  • May 30, 2006, 10:27 a.m. CST

    RE: GirthFerguson

    by Ingeld

    You can't expect Harry to have an obit for Mr. Gleason. It is not like he was the third stormtrooper to the left who got shot in the 12th scene of Return of the Jedi. RIP Mr. Gleason.

  • May 30, 2006, 11:10 a.m. CST

    Del Toro..

    by Hyphin

    ...I havent seen too many of his films...for instance, this Devil's Backbone you all speak of so highly...I respect that...should I really go out and look for it?...i dunno...i just find his film to be...average...i dont mean to insult his work...its just...yeah...and I am a HUGE SHOULD I like him?

  • May 30, 2006, 11:12 a.m. CST

    Del Toro..

    by Hyphin

    ...I havent seen too many of his films...for instance, this Devil's Backbone you all speak of so highly...I respect that...should I really go out and look for it?...i dunno...i just find his film to be...average...i dont mean to insult his work...its just...yeah...and I am a HUGE SHOULD I like him?

  • May 30, 2006, 11:19 a.m. CST

    "the film is not up to DEVIL

    by brycemonkey

    PASS! Is it me or is Del Toro going backwards not forwards in terms of the quality of his out-put? If it's not as good as Hell Boy then I for one am worried...

  • May 30, 2006, 11:38 a.m. CST


    by IAmLegolas

    One of my highly anticipated films of the year. I wasn't expecting it to be all fantasy, but only 10%? I'll still go see it. And anyone who hasn't seen THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, should. Come on, this is 2006, it's on DVD, go rent it (Netflix) for chrissakes, it's not like it's only available on bootleg VHS at the local monthly comic book convention.

  • May 30, 2006, 11:47 a.m. CST

    Where's the Paul Gleason obit?

    by Gandalf The Gaye

    Where???? ( ) WHERE?

  • May 30, 2006, 12:03 p.m. CST

    "spirit of the beehive" ??

    by Raymond Shaw

    This film sounds a somewht similar to a Spanish film called "Spirit of the Beehive" by Victor Erice. I don't think it has ever appeared on DVD but it was available on VHS. It's a very good film about two young sisters and their parents during (or shortly after) the Spanish Civil War. It must surely be a sign that we are living in The Last Days when super films like this (or another great little film by the same director called "The South") are difficult or impossible to find and "The Collected Works of Pauly Shore" or something can be found on any streetcorner. Raymond Shaw (with a P)

  • May 30, 2006, 12:04 p.m. CST

    CrispyOne and MirrorMask

    by I Own You

    I admit MirrorMask was not perfect, and I have only seen a few shots from Pan. For MirrorMask, it didn&#39;t reinvent the wheel... it took an old wheel out, gave it new tires and rolled it around for a bit. In that case (sad to say about Gaiman), and perhaps in Pan&#39;s case Story<Visuals. But can we not agree that we need new visions in the world of fantasy film (well, in all film, really). I would hope that at some point story will catch up again to visuals (Episode 3 was soooo close). My concern is that by general distain for new visions -- bizarre visions -- we will simply go back to the bad visuals tacked on to interesting ideas (Van Helsing, Brothers Grimm; bad examples, I admit). Let&#39;s support the bizarre and get the storytellers back at the table. My respectful submission.

  • May 30, 2006, 12:31 p.m. CST

    KNEW IT!

    by Sepulchrave

    The fantasy sequences that comprsie 99% of the trailer are in reality only 10% of the film. That&#39;s such a Goddamn swiz; I was expecting Coraline and we get a war story with THREE creatures in it, all of whom are shown, and shown and shown again in the prepublicity. So there&#39;s nothing fantastic in the film that we haven&#39;t seen? Piss off; I&#39;m sick of this kind of marketing scam. Del Toro won&#39;t be seeing a cent of my money anytime soon.

  • May 30, 2006, 12:31 p.m. CST

    "I still have wet dreams of more Kroenen

    by hktelemacher

    Well then, I was a little worried about this lukewarm review from a "non-geek" before reading that little closing argument. Now I&#39;m just aces.

  • May 30, 2006, 1:23 p.m. CST

    Pardon my French

    by Henry Jones Jr.

    Was that the funniest? "Pardon my French..." I&#39;m going to laugh at that all day. Also, I thought this was written by a girl- do girls have wet dreams?

  • May 30, 2006, 1:25 p.m. CST

    Devil`s Backbone is average and Hellboy sucked

    by chien_sale

    So what`s your point?

  • May 30, 2006, 1:53 p.m. CST

    Oooh, the big bad GDT-Haters line up

    by DerLanghaarige

    My del Toro Top 5: 1)Cronos; 2)Hellboy; 3)The Devil&#39;s Backbone; 4)Blade II (By the way: The only watchable part of the series!); 5)Mimic

  • May 30, 2006, 2:20 p.m. CST

    Wow, that sounds awful.

    by Trazadone

    Kind of a Dark Crystal meets Silent Hill, huh?

  • May 30, 2006, 2:52 p.m. CST

    Just for the record

    by Ashen Shugar

    I wrote the review, I am French and I am a male... Don&#39;t know where Merrick got the idea I was a female.

  • May 30, 2006, 6:25 p.m. CST


    by Joseph Merrick

    Your e-mail came from a female&#39;s e-mail address & nothing in your message suggested you were a male. The "wet dreams" comment in your article was the only know. Sorry for the gender swap. Will adjust in the article.

  • May 31, 2006, 6:28 a.m. CST

    Harry&#39;s update

    by Ashen Shugar

    I am a little pissed-off because if I felt happy to see that my mixed-up feelings on "Harry&#39;s friend" movie were edited on this site, I do not believe that Harry&#39;s update to try to save the film&#39;s ass is a good editorialist move. I gave you my two cents on the film, praising its good elements and I insisted on the fact that I was disappointed because I expected probably too much. I do not hold the Holy Grail of critics on this one, but for one that appreciates Del Toro&#39;s work, that admitted to be profoundly touched by the ending, I believe that putting such an update ("since all critics praised the film my opinion is probably BS") is not respectful of my submission. As regards the praises from the critics, I understand that some people would appreciate the aspect of fantasy meets harsh reality and the ups of the film, but in the end the film is still a letdown. I do not cry much seeing movies (First was Dead Poets society, then much later Requiem for a Dream and Eternal Sunshine...) and this one touched me. However I believe that the film is disappointing. If you wish to defend the film, there is TBs or other reviews such as the last one which is normal journalism. Putting this update was rude.

  • May 31, 2006, 9:21 a.m. CST

    Come on, Ashen Shugar.

    by CurryIce

    Don&#39;t take this too personal. I mean Harry just wanted to ensure that there were also different and more positive reactions on this film and wanted to let us know about it (which i still think was not really necessary &#39;cause we&#39;re old enough to know that a review is...well just a review and one opinion of one person...)But you never know when it comes to all the insane geeks, talkbackers and readers on this site (including me ;) ) who strongly react to different

  • May 31, 2006, 9:31 a.m. CST

    &#39;too meaningless regarding the plotlines&#39;

    by DannyOcean01

    This is a criticism I think applies to a lot of Del Toro&#39;s work. I think he&#39;s a fantastic visual director, but I kind of wish someone else would write his scripts.

  • May 31, 2006, 4:24 p.m. CST

    But girls have wet dreams too ...

    by godoffireinhell

    Talk to one sometime and ask her about it. But that would require social skills which you don&#39;t have and don&#39;t need in your parents&#39; basement.