Guillermo Del Toro crafts a vivid fantastical world in Pans Labyrinth, set in Spain in WWII and following the story of Ofelia, living in hardship with her oppressive cruel officer father and escaping to a world of fantasy at various points in the story, the film stars Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez, Doug Jones.
The story of Pans Labyrinth is an effective and well told one, well directed by Guillermo Del Toro, the master of the modern creature feature, he crafts the story like a modern fairytale as the oppressed and isolated Ofelia escapes to a fantasy world inside her house. WWII being the background setting of the story also adds to that gritty, dark feeling that underlines it, you really feel sorry for Ofelia and want her to escape her situation but know things won’t be that easy, her escape into the fantasy world is a driving force in the story is visually great to watch. It’s really not a childrens film though, if that’s what you’re thinking going into it and Del Toro directs a rather gritty and sometimes violent film which is more of a gothic fairytale in the more traditional, non Disney sense.
Del Toro again works his magic with his creative creature design, from the inventive looking fairies, to the iconic Pale Man and the world of the Labyrinth itself, which looks quite gothic and hostile, the fantasy world that Ofelia goes to looks great and interesting that each interaction she has with it is distinct from the last, feeling different. Doug Jones is also a notable part of the film, a great live action creature performer as he plays the Faun and the Pale man, both of whom look great on screen with effective costume design.
The film takes a very different turn in relation to other fantasy films, not just allowing Ofelia to escape into her fantasy for most of the film and live there, she’s between the real and fantasy world and can’t quite escape her gritty reality which is a big tragic, while her cruel father Vidal is played well by Sergi Lopez.
A weakness of the film may be that the real world context simply isn’t as fleshed out or interesting as the fantasy one and it’s a shame that the plot has to keep us chained to said, dull real world, seeing more of the fantasy would have been an interesting and also the characters in the film aren’t that fleshed out outside of the main characters.
Pans Labyrinth is a well told story, visually poignant and creatively designed, not necessarily deep but it’s a modern fairytale and a great fantasy story, brought to life by its’ interesting roster of creatures and some great performances.
. Imaginative creature design, great costumes
. Interesting story brought to life by the plot
. Characters outside of the main cast are a bit one dimensional but the main ones are interesting