January 20, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

"In 1944 fascist Spain, a girl, fascinated with fairy-tales, is sent along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army. During the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the center of the labyrinth. He tells her she's a princess, but must prove her royalty by surviving three gruesome tasks. If she fails, she will never prove herself to be the the true princess and will never see her real father, the king, again."

I don't care what anyone else says about the overhyped non-horror "El laberinto del fauno" (to give it the correct title) or how much they all rave about it. This was probably one of the most boring and dismal failures in the fantasy genre that I have ever had the misfortune to watch.

"Pan's Labyrinth" contained three elements which always turn me off anyway, 1) Spanish voices (God, that is such an ugly language!), 2) Soldiers, and 3) Stupid looking CGI creatures.

Actually, out of those three things I think it was the Spanish element that distanced me the most. Everything is always "tan" in Spanish films. Not only is the landscape always dry looking and beige but Spaniards in films are always orangey, hairy and veiny (and that's just the women!). If you want to make anything look Spanish just put an orange filter over the lens and everyone will instantly understand.

I don't mind subtitles at all though. In fact, in this case they were an absolute blessing as I could turn the sound really low and not have to listen to all that grumbling mispronounced Italian.

Of course, the director, Guillermo del Toro (Bill the Bull? LOL), tried to make the film interesting and actually provided some rain and mud too to vary the usual dry dustiness. It still all made me feel thirsty though.

In fact, I wished that I had been drinking some nice sherry all the way through as it would have at least given me something good to say about Spain.

I have no interest in anything else to do with Spain at all and never will have. I don't know its history and I have no knowledge whatsoever about any civil war there between fascists and communists in 1944. It might as well be complete invention too for all I know or care.

"Pan's Labyrinth" did remind me heavily of "The Wind That Shakes The Barley", Ken Loach's attempt to turn the origins of the IRA into "Braveheart", with all the little skirmishes, merciless military executions and moments of torture but I'm not really into war films at all.

I can say that the scenes of violence were particularly well done but there weren't many of them. The first nasty bit which shows the true ruthless nature of the captain was quite unexpected and brutal but with a couple of well placed cuts this could easily still be a little kid's film.

The CGI creatures are typical "computer game" quality and look so fake that I hated them instantly. The "faun" (or "Pan") was almost as shit as Missa Jar-Jar Binks from "Star Wars" and the thing with eyeballs in its palms was straight out of "Silent Hill". Yup, really it is that bad.

The "fairy" that visits the little girl Ofelia is some kind of nasty flying CGI stick insecty thing and I really hated that too. I think Del Toro must have a fetish about bugs as there are plenty more in the film, including massive dung beetles and other nasties. A giant underground toad that turns inside out though was the icing on the cake for crap CGI monsters in this film.

There was nothing very exciting here at all and, although gratuitously bloody in parts, it was neither a real war film or a real fantasy film. Having elements of each was sort of confusing as things didn't really combine all that well. Were we meant to see the fantasy elements as existing only in Ofelia's imagination or were they supposed to be real? I don't really know or care.

All the highbrow stuff in other reviews about it being "one character's journey into a fantasy world to escape the horrors of war" is complete and utter Toroshit. The plotlines simply do not gel together well enough for you to even acknowledge that any "escapism" is supposed to be happening. The fairytale just hinders the more interesting elements of the war story and is not satisfying enough to hold up on its own either.

The acting was ok as far as I could tell. The evil captain certainly looked the part and everyone had very expressive faces which said more about them than the lines they were delivering. I think the little girl will probably grow up to be quite beautiful and be a big star too one day. I thought the same of Kirsten Dunst in "Interview with a Vampire" and she grew up to be a big star... one out of two isn't bad.

Anyway, my overwhelming feeling about "Pan's Labyrinth" is that it was a good try but was instantly forgettable. I've noticed that the price of the DVD has fallen considerably too since its release so I'm probably not the only one feels this. I wouldn't buy it anyway. I wouldn't even want it as a gift.

I'll generously give it 3 out of 10. It wasn't adult enough to keep me satisfied and the childish elements spoilt the few moments that could have been interesting.

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