Pan’s Labyrinth is a pretty film. Gorgeous cinematography, great locations, intricate make-up (bad CG, but it’s only really noticeable once). Guillermo del Toro does a decent job directing the film but has these really annoying transitions–the back of someone’s head frequently becomes a tree in the forest in unending pans. His script is competent and, well, heartless. I was trying to work up some suspense, but since del Toro ruins Pan’s Labyrinth‘s suspense in the opening shot, maybe it’s appropriate. Pan’s Labyrinth could have been a really good war movie, but instead del Toro mucks around in fantasy. Bad fantasy.
I was hoping Pan’s Labyrinth would either use the fantasy elements as a metaphor (it does not) or would be a descendent of Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. Unfortunately, it’s neither. Instead, like I said before, it’s heartless. Only one of the characters is at all human and she’s just human by default. The rest are unbelievable, except maybe the bad guy (until the end, anyway). The lead character, the precocious girl, goes from being wise beyond her years to being inconceivably stupid. Del Toro never spends any time figuring the character out in any real sense, so there’s not even a surprise (by the time she got stupid, I’d already given up). There’s also absolutely no suspense in the film, thanks a) to del Toro giving everything away at the beginning and b) just some lame plotting.
The performances are fine, but not worth enumerating. Something does need to be said for the graphic violence, however. Instead of attaching any real emotion to Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro makes it frequently bloody to get the audience interested (Paul Verhoeven talked about this method in regards to Robocop–if you haven’t gotten the audience to care with actual character development, blood and guts can do it).
Pan’s Labyrinth is so artificial it’s hard to be particularly disappointed. While it’s boring and empty, the war aspect is so full of potential, you can just sit and imagine the fantasy thing being gone and the movie being good. Maybe it’s because del Toro doesn’t have any M. Night Shyamalan moments… well, until the end, but who cares by then? It’s almost over.
Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro; director of photography, Guillermo Navarro; edited by Bernat Vilaplana; music by Javier Navarrete; production designer, Eugenio Caballero; produced by Bertha Navarro, Alfonso Cuarón, Frida Torresblanco and Álvaro Augustin; released by Picturehouse.
Starring Sergi López (Vidal), Maribel Verdú (Mercedes), Ivana Baquero (Ofelia), Ariadna Gil (Carmen), Alex Angulo (Doctor) and Doug Jones (Pale Man).