Review: Pan's Labyrinth
I walked into this movie with the wrong idea. From the trailers, Pan's Labyrinth
, or "El Laberinto del
Fauno" looked like a darker version of Labyrinth
, with CGI instead of puppets, and some good old
fashioned mythology thrown in.
In point of fact, the vast majority of the movie has absolutely nothing to do with Pan or his Labyrinth. It is a war story between a remote outpost of
one of Francisco Franco's most ruthless Captains (played by Sergi López) and a group of rebels trying to survive in the wilderness nearby.
Within this real-world 1944 setting, Carmen (played by Ariadna Gil), whom has just married the Captain, and is pregnant, brings her daughter with her
to live in the outpost. Uprooted, scared, and not liking her new father very much, the daughter Ofelia (played by Ivana Baquero) begins to imagine
(presumably) a fantasy world opening up to her, fulfilling her fantasies of a chance to meet her real mother and father, and be the Princess of a
The movie strikes the same sort of cord with many who watch it that enjoy Harry Potter: the dream of a child to find out that they are special, and
that their parents are really someone else far more impressive than the people raising them. There are several plots within plots in this movie, and
one would have to see it several times to catch all the obscure references, subplots, symbolism, and ties. I was impressed with the movie, although I
kind of wish there'd been a little more Labyrinth, and a little less War Story. Still, to be fair, I walked into the movie with the wrong idea.
The acting in the movie firmly goes to Sergi López (Capitán Vidal). He was every bit as cold and inhuman as one would expect, yet confident,
graceful, suave, and intelligent. He made a fantastic villain. There was just enough connection to his humanity (the obsession with having a son) and
explaining of himself to make you believe he was a real person, but enough of a monster to make you hate him for it. Oh, and how I hated this man.
Second place in the acting would go to Ivana Baquero (Ofelia). All too often in movies, the kids are cheeky little bastards that run circles around
the adults, accomplish impossible feats of engineering in seconds, and have hackneyed acting skills equivolent to the part written for them. Ofelia
acts exactly like you'd expect a scared tomboy of a girl to act were she suddenly stuck out in the middle of a creeky old fort in the woods with a
psychotic father in law. She is scared of him, scared of the place, but brave in her own right as she combats the challenges from her fantasy world.
This girl has a bright future ahead of her.
The special effects were nothing to write home about, sadly. There was nothing I saw that couldn't have been done ten years ago, and perhaps better.
However, it's easy to look past this because, after all, the movie wasn't about the special effects. It was about the story of a girl trying to
survive a setting no child should ever be brought into. However,
really really creeped the hell
out of me, and actually showed up once or twice in a nightmare since watching the flick.
The music wasn't memorable, but neither did it detract. It's one of those situations where it was done adequately, but not to the extent I would go
purchase the soundtrack (which, incidentally, I did do for Henson's Labyrinth, but I was also much younger then).
The set and costuming seemed very believable, but never having paid much attention to that era of Spain's history, I couldn't possibly judge the
accuracy of any part of this film. Thankfully, I really didn't need to.
Overall I give Pan's Labyrinth a 7.5 out of 10. If, however, you are a fan of films like "City of Lost Children", "Labyrinth", and the like, then
give it an additional point, because of genre interest.
At the end I was left with two big questions. One was whether or not those Labyrinths ever really existed in Spain, and the other is whether or not
there was supposed to be a heavy Catholic undertone to the story (her Father's Kingdom), or if that's just my own interpretation...