This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
remolano’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
El laberinto del fauno has some moments that truly shine (Pale Man!) but it isn’t quite the masterwork it’s made out to be. A good film for sure, just not all the way up there.
This doesn’t take away from the film itself but there are different films that do similar things better. Movies with more fleshed-out fantasy worldbuilding (it’s not as fair of a comparison but Harry Potter comes to mind), and movies with more dynamic characters (to be more specific, this film’s Vidal pales in comparison to someone like Ralph Fiennes’ Goeth from Schindler’s List). Nitpicks go on, as choppy editing choices like - I don’t know if I missed something - the fact they completely skip over Ofelia’s reaction to her mother’s death.
What undeniably stands out though is the production design and use of practical effects. It’s memorable and there’s a physicality to the screen-presence. I like how distinct Pan’s Labyrinth’s set pieces are. It’s visually pleasing as well. There isn’t anything specific that screams masterful direction but del Toro’s style encapsulates the energy needed for what the film was trying to do. His direction mixed with the production I think carries the whole film. The second task was a clear highlight overall, and the ending was notable as well.
I still believe Pan’s Labyrinth could’ve done more in the other departments, but it doesn’t stop it from being worth the watch. The themes and storytelling could’ve either been more developed or more focused, as it does follow a multitude of smaller strands (belief / “magic isn’t real,” fatherhood, independence, temptation, sacrifice, etc.), however it does stick the landing clearly enough at the end (“obedience’s sake”). The writing in the characterization and the worldbuilding just aren’t as up to par as what I would’ve hoped. If you strip down the visuals and the fantasy, the screenplay is flat and its concepts aren’t as nuanced. We’ll see how this grows on me. At the end of the viewing, what I know is that I all-in-all enjoyed it despite my nitpicks.
Pale Man. 7/10.