Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Movie Review: Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth

In Brief: What's Good

  • Great cinematography, special effects, and makeup.

  • Great performances were obvious even though the film is in Spanish.

In Brief: What's Not So Good

  • Hyped as a "fairy tale for adults" but feels like 25% fantasy / 75% reality. Too much Spanish Civil War aftermath; not enough labyrinth.

  • The movie does seem to drag in spots.

In Brief: Warnings

  • This movie is pretty violent, and a few scenes are gruesome. There are also scenes of fantastic creatures that may be creepy or even disturbing to kids. If "fairy tale for adults" is the description you hear or read about this movie, don't take the "for adults" part lightly. It is rated R for violence and language.

  • The movie is in Spanish with English subtitles (another reason it's not great for little kids).

B- Story
A- Acting
A- Directing
A Visuals

In the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War in the mid-1940's, a girl named Ofelia occompanies her mother to her new home with Captain Vidal, her mother's new husband and father to Ophelia's unborn step-brother. Ofelia, who is obsessed with fantasy and fairy tales, meets a faun named Pan in a labyrinth near Vidal's estate.

Pan tells Ofelia that she is the immortal princess of the underwold, and that if she completes certain tasks, she will be returned to the mythical world from which she originated. On top of these tasks, Ofelia must also keep in balance the care of her ailing mother, the protection of her little brother from the cruel and murderous Captain Vidal, and keeping the secret of guerilla rebels hiding in the woods nearby.

Pan's Labyrinth is definitely an original story told with obvious love and care from its screenwriter and director Guillermo del Toro. After a few minutes, I didn't mind at all having to read subtitles to understand the dialogue, and it was easy to tell how good the performances were, despite the language barrier. The fantasy portions of the film excel with superb makeup, costumes, and special effects, and the war elements are intensely delivered with a sense of harsh realism.

However, if I had to nitpick about this movie, I would say that it does not have quite the story you might expect nor one that is being publicized by the media. The movie is being marketed as a "fairy tale for adults" and as having some of the same elements that made Lord of the Rings so popular. But, I felt that too much of the movie centered around the story of Captain Vidal and the remaining civil war rebels hiding near his estate, such that the fantasy portion had only a small fraction of the scope and wonder of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

If images of Pan, the Pale Man (the faceless creature with eyeballs in the palms of his hands), fairies, spooky gnarled trees, giant frogs, magical books, etc., make you want to go see this movie, be sure you also prepare yourself for gun fights in the woods, torture scenes, multiple executions by gunshot to the face, and a scene of someone stitching up their own major facial laceration. Some elements may be inspired by fairy tales, but a hefty portion of the film is still based in a cold, violent reality.

Oscar Awards

  • Win - Best Cinematography

  • Win - Best Art Direction

  • Win - Best Makeup

  • Nomination - Best Foreign Film

  • Nomination - Best Original Screenplay

  • Nomination - Best Original Score

Golden Globe Awards

  • Nomination - Best Foreign Language Film

Fun Fact from Wikipedia

Ivana Baquero, who plays Ofelia, is a few years older than screenwriter/director Guillermo del Toro had envisioned for the character. After casting Baquero, del Toro re-wrote the script to adjust for the age difference.

Fun Facts from Internet Movie Database

Doug Jones, who plays Pan and the Pale Man, was the only person on set who was American and did not speak Spanish. Jones learned his lines in Spanish and memorized Baquero's lines for Ofelia in Spanish as well because the machinery inside the Pan costume was so loud, he could not hear her lines. Del Toro thought he'd never get the story told because he once left his books of notes & drawings about the story in a cab. However, the cab driver found them, thought they were important, and at his own expense, tracked del Toro down to return the books. Del Toro took this as a blessing and was even more determined to make the movie.

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