I have been waiting for this movie, written and directed by Guillermo Del Toro, to be released ever since the first images from it were released back in late 2004. I was so ready to love this movie and I wish I could tell you I do. After the first viewing, I questioned myself for not being on the same bandwagon with everyone else regarding the grandeur of this movie, but after the second viewing its weaknesses became even more evident to me. I realize I am coloring outside the lines on this one, of course. People will disagree — c'est la vie.
I don’t consider myself a movie critic. In fact, I will be honest — this is my first serious attempt at a review for any movie. My reason for embarking on this one in particular is because in spite of the hoopla and the reception that this has film received wherever it was seen, I didn’t like it. For one reason, but for me, a ruinous one. While so many scenes in this movie are breathtakingly beautiful visuals, so too are the overplayed and gratuitously long scenes of cruelty.
I found Pan’s Labyrinth was tough to sit through in too many places. This disappointed me more than I can say. Watching a psychopath torturing or killing without compunction or remorse isn’t something I see as entertaining no matter how well the effects are done. An adult fairytale it is called. Well, there are fairies and it is a tale, so I can’t argue how it’s being promoted. But if you decide to see this movie, be prepared for these scenes.
Fairytale/nightmare might be a more apt promo.
The story takes place in war-torn Spain, following Franco’s victory in 1944. A young 10-year-old girl, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) travels to the north with her very pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil). They are traveling to take up residence with Ofelia’s new stepfather Captain Vidal (Sergi López), a man who takes great pleasure in torturing his captured rebels and insubordinates.
They arrive at the converted mill/garrison, and Ofelia quickly realizes she cannot accept this savage monster as her new father, so she looks for ways of escaping him.
She befriends Mercedes (Maribel Verdú), the housekeeper to Captain Vidal, and Mercedes, along with a mantis turned fairy, leads her to a magical old tree. Within the tree is a garden – the garden with the mystical labyrinth. It is guarded by Pan (mime Doug Jones) a faun – half-man, half-goat. Pan appears to be a friend and offers to help Ofelia out of her predicament. He tells her she is Princess Moanna, a lost spirit who must complete three very difficult tasks before the next full moon in order to regain her reign in the Underworld. If she succeeds in these tasks, each one harder than the last, then she might escape the horror that devours her life now. But the place she is escaping to proves to be equally as cruel as the world she’s just left behind.
I’m not sure I know just who the target audience was for this film. I admit I’m not a fan of slasher fare, but the excess of vicious violence in Pan's Labyrinth can only fit that category in part – emphasis on "gory". Faces being bashed in with metal hammers, or body parts beaten off, people subjected to a myriad of torture tools, a knife ripping through the side of a mouth or the sawing off of a leg – this may satisfy some horror fans, but unless you thought Schindler’s List was a fun and entertaining German romp, you’re going to be a bit nauseated by this flick.
I didn’t expect the movie to be Disney-esque in nature, nor did I expect anything with softened edges when I began watching, but I expected to enjoy it. Sadly, I only feel somewhat gypped by a push for sensationalism that really wasn’t needed here.