Pan's Labyrinth Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ March 21, 2007
A little girl and her pregnant mother are relocated to an army camp to be with the unborn baby's father, an officious and sadistic captain in Franco's fascist military. Pan's Labyrinth is a gothic fantasy that sees a young girl escape into a world of fauns, fairys and political allegory to escape her cold, cruel, clockwatching, jack-booted step-father who is a kindred spirit of Schindler's List's Goethe. Once again Del Toro blends beautiful imagery with an affecting war story and the result is an enchanting experience that mirrors the fight between good and evil in both the real world and a young child's imagination in a way that reminded me a lot of the work of Hayao Miyazaki. Young Ivana Baquero puts in a performance that belies her tender years and the stunning visuals create a fantasy world that is beautiful yet conveys a suitably dark and disturbing undercurrent in Guillermo Del Toro's inimitable style. The two stories didn't quite gel together for me, feeling more like two separate stories told in parallel and so I must admit I prefer The Devil's backbone, but fans of Tim Burton and Jeunet will adore it.
Super Reviewer
January 16, 2013
Finally got around to watching this in November 2013!! Late to the party I know. This film was very well rounded and pieced together. It's not often (or ever) that an adult/mature fairy tale film is made that garners such high scores and ratings. The thing I loved the most about this film though, was the emphasis on making "El Capitan" such an evil character. Antagonists will be antagonists in every film, but the role of Vidal was excellent.
Super Reviewer
½ May 28, 2007
Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth lives up to its "fairytale for adults" tagline.Running at 110 minutes, there are roughly 2 plot lines running in parallel; the military-resistance story and the princess fantasy story. Both move back and forth as needed; although it feels as if the fantasy portion ends up as the lesser of the two, which is a disappointment because it holds more entertainment value.The creature effects are fantastic and smothered with creepiness from top to bottom. The violence is harsh and definitely worthy of its R-rating.A little bland in nature, Ivana Baquero is still adorable on screen. Sergi Lopez is one brutal and cold-hearted jerk; just as his character is written. Doug Jones pulls off the creatures without fail.Pan's Labyrinth takes it slow at times, but it is a well directed piece from start to finish.
Super Reviewer
November 11, 2012
I really liked this strange (but not unsettling) Spanish film. It was mystical and magical...and very dark at the end. Del Toro's masterpiece.
Super Reviewer
March 28, 2013
Despite being quite a prominent name in cinema just now, director Guillermo del Toro hasn't actually made that many movies. He came to attention in 1993 with his excellent feature debut "Cronos" before Hollywood quickly took note and employed him on such films as "Mimic" and "Blade II". However, his strengths lie in his own original work where he retains creative control. Of which, there are three that really stand out; the aforementioned "Cronos" is one, "The Devil's Backbone" another and "Pan's Labyrinth" - which to this day, remains his masterpiece.
Following the Spanish Civil War in 1944, young Ofelia (Baquero) moves to a rural town with her pregnant mother (Gil) to live with her Fascist military stepfather (López) who is determined to weed out resistance fighters to Franco's dictatorship. It's in this remote town that Ofelia meets a faun in the centre of a labyrinth who tells her that she is a princess. However, to claim her rightful place in this magical land she must perform certain gruesome tasks to prove her royalty.
It's hard to pigeon hole a film like Pan's Labyrinth as there are so many facets to it's structure. On the one hand, it's a political/historical drama and on the other it's a fantasy/horror. Few (if any) films will spring to mind when these genres are mentioned in the same breath which reflects the very craftsmanship that's at work here. One thing that you can undoubtedly count on, though, is it's highly imaginative nature. Sure, we've had fantastical stories before where a young girl escapes her constrained life to enter bigger and more possible worlds. We've also had commentaries on the brutalities and restrictions of fascist regimes but to combine them into a wondrous journey of life, struggle and imagination is an amalgamation that I have rarely witnessed. Such is the case with this film and such is the skill of del Toro in his writing and handling of the material. He incorporates an abundance of childhood fantasies, from delving into books and mythology - that feature fauns and fairies - to the power of a piece of chalk on the wall. This may be built around the point of view of a child's eye but its also not afraid to explore the darker recesses of that very imagination and construct some of the most monstrous creatures that can inhabit that realm. Del Toro is in absolute command here and he's aided, immeasurably, by cinematographer Guillermo Navarro in capturing and contrasting his world within a world; one is a visually striking and enchanting fantasia, the other a stark and brutal reality. It's a balance that's difficult to achieve but with deft handling of coexisting genres, del Toro's vision is able to come to fruition and manages to be both a reminder of the rigidity of fascism and the escapable ability of an imaginary youthful mind.
To embody the young protagonist, we are gifted an outstanding performance from Ivana Baquero who carries a heavy weight on her young shoulders and does so, with a skill beyond her years. Sergi Lopez also provides marvellous support as the bestial Captain Vidal who's a smouldering villain that's on a par with any of the war genre's nastiest characters.
It's very difficult to find criticism in this film as there simply, isn't any. The only one that stands is in the film's title. It's slightly misleading as "Pan" never actually features here. The original international title translates as "Labyrinth of the Fuan" which is probably the most pedantic gripe you'll ever hear from me.
A stunning piece of work that's both beautifully and horrifically executed. Modern masterpiece is a term that gets brandished around too often these days but this is one that's certainly deserving of such praise.

Mark Walker
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2012
Detailed review to follow.
Super Reviewer
½ October 26, 2011
Alice in Wonderland for grown-ups, with the horrors of both reality and fantasy blended together into an extraordinary, spellbinding fable. And great make up artist too.
Super Reviewer
August 15, 2011
Pan's Labyrinth is a fantasy film unlike anything you will ever see. We are given fantasy films such as Narnia, Harry Potter, The Wizard Of Oz, Alice in Wonderland where kids are taken to a mystical world, but Pan's Labyrinth is different than all of those combined. Its a bit of a horror fantasy, a mature work of art for adults who wish to enjoy a fantasy just for them. Although the protagonist is a young girl, this film is anything but a children's film. Guillermo del Toro has created his masterpiece here and not only is it a great fantasy, I predict in many years it will be treasured as one of the greatest achievements in film of the 21st Century. The plot of the film is so imaginative and fearful that it could get the attention of anyone with a sense of imagination and fear, its so dark yet so elegant and I just found myself getting into the characters and the creatures which made this unlike any fantasy film ever made. The cast is incredible, espically Ivana Baquero who plays one of the best roles of a young actress I have seen in a long time. I was captivated by everything in this film, from the Faun, to the Pale Man with hands for eyes, from the evil step-father, everything here is just so dark and masterful that I think its safe to say this is one of the most imaginative and best fantasies of all time. I know that is saying a lot, but with all those films I mentioned at the start of this review, its in the lines of fantasy greatness with the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings films. If wish you see this masterpiece, be sure to not let your kids see it because this movie is a much darker and twisted fantasy than you have ever seen.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
April 3, 2010
The first time I saw Pan's Labyrinth, I declared that it was on a par with The Lord of the Rings as one of the great works of fantasy filmmaking, not only of the decade but of all time. I wrote these words in expectation of Guillermo del Toro helming The Hobbit, which sadly did not come to pass, and subsequently compared the film to Let The Right One In as a demonstration of the worth and power present in seemingly familiar territory.

Having let the dust settle, and in anticipation of Peter Jackson's return to Tolkien, the time feels right to re-examine Pan's Labyrinth in a different context. And if anything, del Toro's masterpiece is even more astounding, astonishing and heart-breaking second time round. It is the pinnacle of del Toro's career to date, the culmination of all the greatness he showcased in Cronos and The Devil's Backbone, and proof that he is, to paraphrase Mark Kermode, the Orson Welles of fantasy filmmaking.

As well as being a sister film to The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyrinth draws on a number of influences from del Toro's formative years as a filmmaker. Its extraordinary special effects, a mixture of CGI, make-up and animatronics, recall his childhood love of John Carpenter's The Thing, while its strong-willed and inquisitive female protagonist hints at his appreciation of Lewis Carroll. It is also part of a rich vein in fantasy and horror filmmaking which explores past or alternative identities bubbling to the service, something David Lynch approached in Mulholland Drive and David Cronenberg depicted in The Fly and A History of Violence.

The comparison with Alice in Wonderland helps to illuminate the huge strength of Pan's Labyrinth, which lifts it far above the more standardised, condescending fantasy that Hollywood often produces. Terry Gilliam, whose works also blend fantasy and reality, has long argued that through the eyes of a child, fairies and demons seem just as real as anything we adults take for granted. While Gilliam faltered in his own approach to Alice (Tideland is at best an admirable failure), Pan's Labyrinth genuinely makes you see the world through the eyes of a child. It doesn't do this by referencing childlike imagery in a knowing, adult way: it does it by treating the child's viewpoint as the most reliable, if not the only reliable view on offer in a world which everyone is struggling to understand.

Within the first ten minutes of the film, Ofelia has been established as the only possible point of focus. The brief backstory surrounding Princess Moanna gives no suggestion that she and Ofelia bear any resemblance. After this we are thrust straight into the back-end of the Spanish Civil War, shown a world of brutality and ruthlessness contrasted by our early sightings of the fairies in the woods. Because Ofelia is the only other person who recognises seeing the fairies, and makes no effort to deny it to herself or her mother, we naturally gravitate towards her, taking her view as ours - something that never falters in the whole of the next two hours.

The world of Pan's Labyrinth is visually extraordinary, with del Toro and long-time cinematographer Guillermo Navarro working in perfect harmony to create a unique cinematic experience. The colour palette is awash with ethereal blue light and faded pastel and watercolour tones; the lavender purple of the soldiers' uniforms looks like colourised black-and-white footage. The make-up and creatures all have an unnervingly grotesque quality, whether it's the giant toad, the Faun, or the mouth of Sergi Lopez after it has been sliced open with a razor.

Pan's Labyrinth is a film which recognises and celebrates the darkness of fairy tales, emphasising that they are not, as Ofelia's mother believes, childish stories that one eventually grows out of. There are numerous moments in the film which are really scary or deeply uncomfortable, and none more so than Ofelia's encounter with the Pale Man. This terrifying creature with sagging skin, sharp teeth and eyes in the palms of its hands, is as creepy as the witches of Brothers Grimm and as brooding and sinister as Bluebeard. The film earns its 15 certificate for his scene alone, not so much for its graphic content but from the sheer terror generated from both the design and the brilliant performance of Doug Jones.

Like all the best fairy tales, Pan's Labyrinth has a deep moral backbone buried under its layers of magic and mystery. Del Toro described the film as being about "a princess who forgot who she was", with the lead character needing not only self-belief but self-sacrifice to achieve her goal. Ofelia begins to refer to herself as 'Princess Moanna' very soon after her encounter with the Faun, but she finds herself torn between her need to complete the tasks and the love she shows for her mother and unborn brother. Her capacity for compassion towards the human world is seen by the Faun as a weakness, but ultimately it is this which proves her worth and allows her to re-join her father in the underworld.

Del Toro contrasts the dark worlds of Ofelia's monsters and war-torn Spain to make a number of points about fantasy and human nature. Fairy tales, and by extension horror movies, have often been held up by their respective fans as mechanisms to cope with the horrors of the real world: by being exposing to darkness at a young age, within a carefully controlled environment, people are better equipped to deal with real evil whenever and wherever it emerges. Del Toro clearly agrees with this: the longer Ofelia spends carrying out the Faun's tasks, the less intimidated she becomes by Captain Vidal.

Pan's Labyrinth is structured in such a way as to draw parallels between the monsters in both worlds. This is not as direct or blatant as Peter Pan, where traditionally the same actor plays Mr. Darling and Captain Hook, to make a point about children fearing their parents. The point del Toro is making follows on from the observation about the cathartic effect of fantasy and horror stories. On the one hand, the creatures in Ofelia's 'fairy tales' are not simple, frothy and easy to dismiss: even those who are on her side are genuinely threatening. On the other hand, the real world contains characters every bit as monstrous and sadistic as the Pale Man. They differ in their methods, but share the goal of crushing the human spirit and imagination, whether through physical torture or psychological humiliation.

The film is a masterpiece of directorial skill which finds del Toro at the top of his game. His choice of shots and camera angles is masterful, maintaining intimacy with the characters even during the moments of great splendour or breathtaking human tragedy. Individual shots, like the blood trickling down Ofelia's fingers or the screaming mandrake root, are shot in intense close-up to emphasis the pathos of the situation. Equally impressive is the seamless editing, which allows fantasy and reality to blend without effort. In one memorable shot, we move from the toad's kingdom in the base of a tree to the soldiers in the forest through a simple pan of the camera.

Pan's Labyrinth is also a deeply political film. Set at the end of the Spanish Civil War, it shows how fragile and vulnerable fascist rule is in reality. The wellbeing of the base depends greatly on the personal strength and charisma of Vidal: when he begins to be undermined or express doubts, the whole system quickly collapses. As with Ofelia's storyline, it is a case of imagination and ideals triumphing over the cynical, the ruthless and the cold-hearted. The ingenuity of the rebels in the woods seems no match for military might, but it is this ingenuity, self-belief and self-sacrifice which ultimately eliminate Vidal.

Pan's Labyrinth is a peerless masterpiece among fantasy films, rivalling The Lord of the Rings for the title of greatest fantasy film of our time, if not all time. Del Toro's superb direction and incomparable storytelling are reinforced by amazing performances from Ivana Baquero as Ofelia and Sergi Lopez, following on from his villainous turn in Dirty Pretty Things. Its horrific beauty and overflowing imagination makes for two hours of mesmerising cinema, culminating in a final scene which is both heartbreaking and triumphant. It is one of the great films of the decade, and the jewel in del Toro's golden crown.
Directors Cat
Super Reviewer
½ October 29, 2011
Pan's Labyrinth is imaginative and spellbinding to the extreme. I've rarely seen any films like this with wonderful emotional depth. Guillermo Del Toro does more than help us manage crossing the language barrier but pulls us into a different world that helps us ignore it and fall to our feet with emotion as we express tender care for the little girl and even see the world's from her eyes. I cannot stress how exhilarating and stunning this magic motion picture is. Del Toro creates one of the darkest atmosphere's in the history of film and shapes innocence into it too, despite the fact we are watching an independent main character who is a great role model for children as well as adults. All this and more of its timeless majesty and ultimate entertainment experience help me conclude that Pan's Labyrinth is one of the best Fantasy films ever made.
Super Reviewer
½ June 24, 2007
A wonderful, imaginative movie that deserves to be seen. Absolutely beautiful, heartbreaking, and memorable tale of a broken family caught in the middle of war time, and the imaginative underworld that a young girl invents to help block out the horror going on around her. By far del Toro's best work, and a film that will not leave one quickly.
Super Reviewer
½ November 6, 2011
Okay, I will admit that I am a sucker for Fairy Tales. Always have been, always will be. But, while I love them, the only problem is that they have been so stripped of any true suspense and terror that made the originals wonderful that, now they have gotten kind of pathetic. Well, in 2006, director Guillermo Del Toro released this little gem that is, to be honest, unlike anything I have ever see or will see again.
The only way for me to describe this film is to think of the darkest, most richest fantasy that could surpass films like The Lord Of The Rings, The Chronicles Of Narnia, and Harry Potter. Being an adult (in terms of tone) version of Alice In Wonderland, this is a beyond complex film. How so? Because while all of the fantasy aspects are going on, there is this complete separate subplot going on about Spain during World War II and that is somehow mixed in with all of the Fantasy parts. Basically, this is a film that could of went disastrously wrong, but thankfully it did not.
Now, when I re-watched this film for the first time in a year and a half, I noticed something that made me think back to Marlon Brando. You see, with acting there are two eras: Pre Brando and Post Brando. This was because Marlon Brando invented new methods of acting that changed the way actors acted on screen. (For example, what The Godfather) The reason why I brought this up is because I noticed that, for one character, that this film created a new era in terms of enemies: Pre-Vidal and Post-Vidal. In the movie, the character of Vidal is portrayed by Sergi Lopez and he makes this character one of the most sadistic and down right terrifying war captains I have ever seen. This film, in terms of his character, is ahead of it's time only to be proven by the character of Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.
That is another thing that makes this film so genius: the characters. But the two (I would say three, but I already talked about Vidal) that just steal this film is Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and Pan (Doug Jones). With Ofelia, I am just surprised at how well acted her character was. I know for child actors/ actresses it is difficult, but with the material and the pure imagination of this film, she was fantastic and a bit heartbreaking in one scene. For Pan, Holy ****. I have no idea as to what to say about Doug Jones. But, if I had to say something, I would say that his performance reminded me of that of Tim Curry in Legend: completely breathtaking. But most of that has to go to the make-up effects team for designing this faun and making him look aged, terrifying, yet comforting. And with his acting, for having been through all of that make up, it was outstanding.
The look of this film is, without a doubt, one of the most important things to notice. Everything was the dark, gritty real world to the fantastic and terrying underworld to even the creatures that Ofelia encounters is, breathtaking. Del Toro has a wonderful eye for capturing the dark beauty of this film, and it just works.
That is probably all I can say about this film: dark, beautiful, near perfect in almost every category, and just a thrill to watch. But, best keep young kids away. Some of the torture scenes and dark imagery might be a bit too much. But for everyone else, this is a feast for the imagination.
Super Reviewer
October 19, 2011
del Toro does a masterful job creating this world, while magical it is still believable to the audience. The score, the cinematography, the imagination, the realism, the acting all come together in this film and leave us wanting more. Absoultely wonderful flick, so good that the we barely notice the language barrier. A film I will watch countless times.
Super Reviewer
½ September 10, 2011
Pan's Labyrinth is with an underlying social commentary on Fascism. Fantastic beauty and dreadful reality all in one masterful Guillermo del Toro work. Captivating artful visual invention that evokes the rawest of emotions. Exquisite.
Super Reviewer
August 4, 2011
I do like "Pan's Labyrinth" very much but I feel like it's a bit of a rehash of Guillermo del Toro's previous films. While the story is engaging overall, I just wish the fantasy and reality aspects had a more balanced presentation. For me, there was too much about the war and not enough about the fairy tale. Still these are minor complains because del Toro has a very strong hand over his vision. It's clearly the work it's meant to be. "Pan's Labyrinth" is the film that solidified del Toro as a auteur and finally made critics and audiences a like appreciate him as an artist and not just another genre filmmaker.
Super Reviewer
December 10, 2009
Del Toro creates such a rich imaginative universe, a sensational fairy tale for grown-ups where the innocence of fantasy collides with the horrors of war, and he ends his story in an immensely sad and beautiful conclusion. Everything is perfect here, from the astonishing visuals to the marvellous score.
Super Reviewer
July 2, 2011
Gloomy.Upsetting.Compelling.Magnificent. A true work of art from the mind of Guillermo Del Toro, one of the most creative and daring auteurs working today.
Super Reviewer
June 10, 2011
"Hello. I am Princess Moanna, and I am not afraid of you." Pan's Labyrinth is a beautiful movie that embraces all of the fairytales that have come before it. It makes direct quotes to some. Guillermo del Toro used these classic fairytales as the building blocks to making an all-time great fantasy. What makes the movie so good is how he incorporates three different stories that could all be a movie on their own. There's the fantasy aspect, the Spanish Civil War, and then there's a family drama sprinkled in there as well. All three combine together to make a very solid film. Visually the film is stunning. Guillermo del Toro will openly admit that he hates dialogue. He rather allow the story to unfold visually, then to just tell the audience what is going on. We see that with Pan's Labyrinth. There are long sequences where Ofelia walks down paths, looks at books, and goes on quests, where we learn a lot about what is going on in the movie through these shots. Guillermo has even gone as far as to say he would like to make a movie with no dialogue. I for one would enjoy to watch that film.
Super Reviewer
September 4, 2007
i was looking forward to this movie because it had an interesting concept that i thought i was going to like but i didnt enjoy this movie very much.
Although its visually beautiful and the storyline is unique and intriging i just didnt find it enjoyable enough to fully appreciate and enjoy this movie.
Super Reviewer
May 29, 2011
A gloriously captivating tale of a young girl's innocence as it clashes with the harsh realities of a war torn world and somehow, merges with it in a magical way. Not only is it morally engaging and a suspenseful thriller but also a visual milestone in artistry.

It's so raw, doesn't bother dumbing down or simplifying it's themes but still presents it with such majesty. Easily an all time favorite.
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