[Review] Criterion Edition of ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ is a Must for Guillermo del Toro Fans

Jason McDonald

Guillermo del Toro’s body of work is one of the few collections of films where I feel hard pressed to think of one I don’t like.  It’s equally challenging to think of one that stands out as my favorite.  However, among the ones that I would consider, I know for certain that “Pan’s Labyrinth” would be among my top contenders for the title.  And just in time for the film’s 10 year anniversary Criterion has announced they were releasing a new edition of his horror-infused fairy tale.  How does this new edition rank up to previous versions?  Journey down below to find out.

Film Review

“Pan’s Labyrinth” is a wonderful blend of magic and terror.  The tale follows a young girl who moves out to the Spanish countryside with her pregnant mother in order to live with a tyrannical military captain.  The girl encounters a mystical creature known as Fauno who tells her that she is actually a legendary princess who can only return home once she has completed a trio of questionable and potentially dangerous tasks.  It’s an engrossing story where a dark fairy tale plays out against the larger tapestry of military fascism and war.

True to del Toro’s style the film is filmed with incredible imagery and character designs that’ll both capture the imagination and get under your skin.  Monsters like the Fauno and the Pale Man (both played by the talented Doug Jones) represent the interesting dichotomy of the film. The Fauno embodies the mystical beauty of the film while the Pale Man encapsulates the absolute horror at the heart of the story.

But, of course, the best monster in the film isn’t the mythical creatures, but the villainous Captain Vidal.  Played by Sergi Lopez, Vidal proves to be far more terrifying than any of del Toro’s fantastical creatures.  Vidal is a sadistic master of violence.  He kills without provocation and will utilize gut-wrenching methods like caving in a face with a glass bottle.  And what’s equally as chilling is the way Lopez plays the character.  In one moment he can be formal and courteous and the very next he is a calm killer, shooting people as easily as if he were pulling weeds.  The character doesn’t have a range of emotions, just a spectrum of rage that he exists in at all times.

And at the heart of all this madness is the young Ofelia, played by Ivana Baquero.  While there are a lot of large personalities and creatures at play around Ofelia, she still manages to be the films emotional center.  Baquero gives a memorable performance as the young girl and manages to ground an otherwise outrageously fantastical story.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” is a unique film that manages to strike a balance between the reality of war, the escapist power of fantasy, and the tension of horror.  If you’ve ever seen a del Toro film and found some enjoyment in his work you owe it to yourself to see “Pan’s Labyrinth” as it may be the most perfect representation of what the man is capable of.

Special Features

Now, it wouldn’t be a Criterion Edition if it didn’t come jammed with special features.  If you have other versions of this film, there isn’t a whole lot of new features to be had here.  In fact, if you already own this film then the biggest bullet point for you might be that the film has been graded as a 2k digital master.  If you don’t know what that means, then you probably won’t find find that a particularly appealing selling point.  However, if you’re the type that has to have the best looking version of the film then this is the one you’ll want.  It’s not the sort of difference that is drastically apparent, but I did watch an older copy and noticed that the color on the new edition was a lot richer and vibrant, which is what you’d want in a del Toro film.

Aside from that this edition also features a new “interview” with novelist Cornelia Funke interviewing Guillermo del Toro about fairy tales, storytelling, and “Pan’s Labyrinth.”  I use “interview” in quotes because the feature feels more like a free form conversation than an interview.  However, don’t take that as a negative because del Toro and Funke still offer a lot of great insight into storytelling and its importance in the human experience.  It’s a nice little segment for those interested in the art of crafting stories.

The other new feature is an interview with Doug Jones who talks about his history with Guillermo del Toro and how he became involved in “Pan’s Labyrinth.” The actor also goes into a fair amount of detail of how the Fauno and Pale Man were brought to life and his experience playing them.  If you’re fascinated by the work of someone like Doug Jones it’s a great little feature.

Beyond that this edition has assembled a wide arrange of features that were originally released in 2007.  Among them are 4 behind the scene documentaries, a commentary track by Guillermo del Toro, an auditon tape of Ivana Baquero, interactive director’s notebook, and plenty more.

Ultimately if you’ve never owned a copy of “Pan’s Labyrinth” then this is the definitive edition you should be buying.  If you already own a copy then you have to decide if the 2K master is something you truly care about.  While I enjoyed the 2 new special features, I’d find it hard to recommend buying a whole new edition just for them.  However, if you want the most definitive edition of the film to date and that is presented in the best looking package yet, this is it.

You can purchase the blu-ray edition for $39.96

Official Site

Pans Labyrinth

5 / 5 stars     


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