Reviews: Pans Labyrinth

One of the best fantasy films ever.

Guillermo Del Toro is my favorite film director who's still alive. While he is celebrated by geeks for his fun popcorn movies like Hellboy and Pacific Rim, it is his spanish language dark fantasy films that won me over and made me fall in love with his work.

Pan's Labyrinth is almost certainly his best and most sophisticated film, and rightly deserves its critical acclaim.

The film's plot is thoroughly fantastical, with fauns, mandrakes, horrible demons, giant frogs, tests of character, etc. Not only that, but it's not just any kind of fantasy. This is DARK fantasy, a genre that is woefully under-represented in cinema. It is frightening, oppressive, and morbid, but remains beautiful. The prosthetics, special effects, CGI, costumes, etc are incredible and extremely convincing, making it a gorgeous film.

But what really makes Pan's Labyrinth shine, and elevates it from simply just another horror/fantasy flick and into a legitimately great drama is the backbone of the spanish civil war that frames the whole story. As horrible as all the things Ofelia suffers through are, the horrific cruelty of Captain Vidal, and the very real, human horrors of the war trumps them all. This ends up giving the film an immense narrative weight that is so lacking in most fantasy movies, it grounds the story and permits the viewer to become attached to these characters in a way they otherwise wouldn't.

All of the actors in this film are great; I especially have to congratulate Sergi Lopez for his unforgettably chilling and mechanical performance of Captain Vidal.

Overall Pan's Labyrinth succeeds in pretty much every area and is a must-view for any fan of fantasy, as it brings the genre to a height it very rarely achieves.

This film is gross and confusing

I mean... UGH.

Someone's face gets smashed in by a bottle early-on, and only goes downhill from there.

Imagine if someone mixed up Schindler's List and Alice in Wonderland together into one film. That would be rather foolish and perverted maddening-of-the-senses wouldn't it? Yet that's Pan's Labyrinth for you!

Seriously, who is the target audience for this? WHO?

It alienates people who want a fantasy/adventure story because it keeps jumping back to a reality where the human heart is at its very darkest with confrontations with fascists and torture scenes. Then it manages to alienate those who want a gritty and serious depiction of a war film, because it keeps jumping back into a children's fairy-tale with magical creatures.

WHO green-lighted this? Its not suitable for children or adults. Who am I supposed to recommend this film to!?

The last task is for the viewer

(This review contains some spoilers)

"Pan's Labyrinth" is one of those movies that deserved all the praise that it receives. Now imagine if a movie has the cruelty and the horror of movies as "In Company of Wolves", the dark beauty of Tim Burton's films and the nostalgic tone of the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen. "Pan's Labyrinth" has all that and more. The story could be taken literally as the way that everything that happens in the movie is real, but also could be seen as a symbol of the feelings of the characters in the hard times that they live. Ofelia, the main character is a girl that dreams with her own world of fantasy when the reality fails her miserably. And after he mets the strange faun (played wonderfully by Doug Jones, who also made a great work playing the terrifying Pale Man) she finds her hope, but also learns about all the evilness around her, the cruelty and the lack of humanity of the world that she lives, something that seems more terrifying than giant frogs or strange monsters. At the end, the faun offers her chose between her dreams and what is good. And she chooses, and then the ambiguous (and yet, somewhat hopeful) ending came. So here is a last task for the viewers of the film made by Guillermo del Toro: If that those viewers are able to accept the fantasy or if they will reject it considering that everything was in Ofelia's mind. Many theories have been mentioned in different web sites, some trying to prove that everything related with the fantasy (the faun, the fairies, the monsters and the magical kingdom) were only imagination, while others are convinced that all the events of the movie were real. However, there is nothing to prove: The film's tone is ambiguous, letting the viewers chose whatever they want according their perception of the reality.
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