As a lonely child, I gravitated towards Dungeons & Dragons and have always been intrigued with fantasy worlds and the creatures that inhabit them. So finally, after seeing and hearing all the hoopla surrounding Pan’s Labyrinth or should I say “El Laberinto del Fauno” (real Spanish title), I finally got up the nerve to get off of my fat ass and see it. I must say, it wasn’t what I expected.
What I expected was a dark, foreboding fairy tale — basically a 180-degree turn from “The Chronicles of Narnia.” I instead, got a dark, foreboding story about people escaping a fascist regime in Spain (either through imagination or rebellion), headed by one sick, sadistic fucker. It is in these minor escapes, that the story and the moral of Pan’s Labyrinth is told. More evil world, less fantasy realm. Pity.
The good: The acting. Strong performances abound from people you’ve never heard of. The cruel Capitain Vidal is acted brilliantly by Sergi López. His portrayal of a power-hungry, psychopath rivals one the best sociopath portrayals ever — Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs.” I found myself cringing at the actions and heartlessness of this creature. Total disdain for his countrymen, his family (except newborn son), even himself. Ivana Baquero, plays the charming and innocent Ofelia. Her wide-eyed wonder of all things, even during times of monstrous distress, was truly something to applaud. It is a crime that older folks have lost the ability to see beyond the walls and are mired in the mess they call their lives. The inner child should never be lost or forgotten. I’ve asked that I get shot up with a lethal dose of methadone the moment I become one of the drones.
The bad. Pan’s Labyrinth looks like it was shot for $150. That in itself isn’t bad, as it great to see what can be created on a limited budget, but the creatures encountered by Ofelia looked like people in bad costumes. I guess I’m just so used to the seemingly limitless ability of computers to produce awe inspiring CGI, that the simple things are now lost on me. Shame on me. The movie also seemed to drag in places. Especially where it shouldn’t drag — during Ofelia’s forays into the magical world. The three tasks bequested to her, almost seemed to be an afterthought. While I should expect action and vivid imagery, I was left with 20 second escapades; just as quickly as the scene started, it ended.
When all is said and done though, I am still going to recommend Pan’s Labyrinth for your viewing pleasure. The story is well told and conceived. You will actually feel sorrow for everyone who comes in contact with the Captain and feel strength in Ofelia when she tries to save herself and her newborn brother from the evils of the world. By the end of the movie, you’ll be actively trying to find your connection with the fairies you pushed away so many years ago. There is no shame in it.
February 28, 2007 @ 2:47 pm Aaron P.
Interesting take on things, although I whole heartedly disagree with you. Looks like the Academy disagreed with you on all your bad points too.
It won for: Best Achievement in Makeup; Best Achievement in Cinematography; Best Achievement in Art Direction
February 28, 2007 @ 4:09 pm General Disdain
They can disagree and so can you Aaron. Doesn’t mean they are right. Afterall, the definition of a critic is:
I’m not a professional by any meaning of the word, but I do fancy myself as a person who can make informed evaluations. I’m also a damn good faultfinder!
July 21, 2007 @ 6:50 am Skinny
Even if it didn’t have a huge budget and very expensive CGI effects, it was still a very beautiful movie.
January 3, 2008 @ 6:21 am Genevieve
It makes me nervous how much other people want me to like the film. I just looked at someone else’s critical review and people were making personal insults. Whew! While the acting was superb, I found the tone of the film overtly simplified, the violence excessive, some of the characters, one dimensional and the magical incidents skimpy.
I can understand how del Toro was trying to underscore the message of war and fascism operates. For instance the Captain is not simply the leader of his troops; he is the leader of the home. His masculine presence is downright menacing to the pregnant, bed ridden mother and her preteen daughter. Also the message of selflessness was admirable. Ivana Basquero and Maribel VerdÃº steal the meaty parts of the film but their foils- Ariadna Gil as the weak willed mother and Sergi LÃ³pez i Ayats as the sadistic Captain/father- don’t contrast that well. Ariadna Gil’s character, little more than a weak, pregnant woman, carries less cinematic strength than Verdu who gives a solid performance as the compassionate and mothering housekeeper. And the contrast between Basquero and Sergi Lopez seems almost unfair and overtly simplified- she is innocent, female and vulnerable and he is corrupted, male and violent. She never seems to have a shot at defeating him or dismantling his empire (unless you consider martyrdom). It was also somewhat disturbing to see a child as the protagonist where violence seemed to be the currency of the film.
The film unnerved me because of the violence done to the young girl; she seemed to be an abused child. I didn’t really this was supposed to connect me to the greater struggle on hand.
February 9, 2010 @ 8:13 am donovan
I can agree with skinny’s point. Despite its lack of budget it came across as a great movie!
The big thing with this movie is the atmosphere surrounding the plot and storyline that give it its presence as a movie.
Its a movie that wound itself to be a great movie and met that expectation due to its actors abilities to portray each of the characters and their roles.
March 11, 2010 @ 3:18 am Kate The Portrait Artist
This movie was a visual delight I couldn’t disagree more with the review! I guess all this CGI stuff has numbed our senses. A beautiful piece of cinema with an asborbing narrative and atmosphere.
March 28, 2010 @ 10:50 am getmepleasure
I quite enjoyed this movie personally, i think kate makes a good point about CGI numbing our perspective on movies now as graphics and special effects are what a lot of us crave in a movie to enjoy it as opposed to a plot line taking more of the lime light.
Thanks for sharing.
July 28, 2010 @ 4:17 am Lynne
My husband and I absolutely adore Pans Labyrinth, it’s one of the most superb films ever made, acted brilliantly as you say by the Sergei Lopez, and not alll what we expected, far better. The fact that it looks like it was made very cheaply doesnt hinder it at all for me.