Movie Marathon #2: Pan’s Labyrinth

by thethreepennyguignol

Now, I have an opinion about Pan’s Labyrinth. This won’t surprise you, as I have a fucking opinion about everything; only a few nights ago I had a balls-to-the-wall rant about urinary tract infections. But Pan’s Labyrinth, the Guillermo Del Toro fantasy romp set against the background of the Spanish revolution, is something I have a very strong opinion about.

I don’t really like it. And I want to; I really like Del Toro in general, especially the wonderfully creepy The Devil’s Backbone. I like films that use major historical events to tell smaller stories, and I love the kind of vaguely Grecian mythology that’s woven throughout the film. But I just-don’t-get it.

The film isn’t bad. It looks absoloutely stunning; visually, it’s a luscious film, whether it’s following an annoying little brat running around a maze (for some reason, I just can’t stand the little girl who is the focus of the film. It’s beyond the child-actor affect; she’s a fucking idiot) or watching a man sew his cheek up in brutally unflinching detail. But it feels unfocused; it wants to be a biting historical commentary, but it never really bothers to flesh out the relevant characters, with anyone involved with any kind of political intrigue essentially acting as a big cardboard cut-out with a smiley face and a funny mustache scrawled on them. The actors do their best, and manage to scratch out some genuinely affecting scenes from the messy script, but overall the film becomes lost in what it wants to be rather than what it can actually achieve. It is neither a brilliant historical drama or a magical fantasy movie; it is a reasonably average representation of both, mashed together with a big stick of fascism.

Del Toro himself said that Pan’s Labyrinth was the first film he’s ever had complete artistic control over; great for him, but for me it proved that the Peter-Jackson-alike is best when his genius is reigned in by someone to point the story and the characters in the right direction. Or just when he makes stuff like Pacific Rim. Which was incredible.

And yet Labyrinth is almost universally considered a genius piece of cinema. I’m not saying I’m right and the entire critical world is wrong. But then again, I’m not not saying that either. Ho hum.

Pan’s Labyrinth

Spectacle: 9
Script: 6
Acting: 7
Entertainment Value: 6
Influence: 8