Thirteen years later, Guillermo Del Toro’s period dark fantasy is a masterpiece of the genre telling a tale of loss of innocence and good versus evil that’s touching, gripping and a bit spooky in its way. Del Toro’s film is one that warrants repeated viewing and continued analyses as it’s a fairy tale that masterfully mixes “Alice in Wonderland,” the Brothers Grimm, “Wizard of Oz,” along with classic folklore.
In 1944 the Allies have invaded Nazi-held Europe. In Spain, a troop of soldiers are sent to a remote forest to flush out the rebels. They are led by Capitan Vidal, a murdering sadist, and with him are his new wife Carmen and her daughter from a previous marriage, 11-year-old Ofelia. Ofelia witnesses her stepfather’s sadistic brutality on his enemies and is drawn into Pan’s Labyrinth, a magical world of mythical beings. Told she’s the reincarnation of a mythical princess, she’s sent on a series of harrowing quests by a mysterious fawn.
Del Toro’s film is very much in the tradition of “The Devil’s Backbone,” exploring the idea of fleeting state of innocence in an incredibly harsh world. Once again, Del Toro follows a young protagonist that is witness to human cruelty and has to grasp with their own sense of morality and potential destiny. Del Toro manages to balance out the war drama aspect with the fantasy element very well, melding them in to one to where they compliment one another and become rational, crucial parts of the whole narrative. “Pan’s Labyrinth” is still a rather spectacular epic, and one that will surely clutch your heart strings. It’s the film that turned me on to Guillermo Del Toro and has cemented me as a hardcore fan of his ever since.
Hot off the heels of the Criterion, Warner has a lot to live up to as Criterion pretty much released what was considered by many to be a definitive version of Del Toro’s masterpiece. In either case, the 4K includes increased color, with slightly better contrast. The difference barely noticeable, but if you’re the anal disc collector, this 4K is only a tad better. The sound features high quality DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, with some great and immersive surround sound. It also rivals Criterion’s.
In the extras department Criterion has it all over this new release. If you’re a big fan of extras, maybe you’ll feel compelled to buy both. The Criterion features a lot of extras not on this release. The UHD features an audio commentary by Guillermo Del Toro which is transferred from the previous Blu-Ray release, and it’s the only feature on the UHD disc. On the Blu-Ray disc, there’s enhanced Visual Commentary, a supplement that doesn’t get included on titles much anymore. It includes picture in picture with featurettes playing during the movie. If you like this kind of experience, it’s entertaining enough.
There’s the same audio commentary from Guillermo Del Toro from the UHD, and four featurettes covering basic production. The Power of Myth features Del Toro explaining some of the meanings behind the myths and characters found in the movie, Pan and the Fairies includes a look at some of the special effects at work with some behind the scenes footage. The Color and The Shape is a segment about the use of color and shapes in Del Toro’s films, as Del Toro is famous for including unique shapes as pieces in his narratives. The Lullaby is a two part segment about the lullaby in the film and how it was chosen. There’s the Director’s Notebook which are basically thirty pages of notes and images from Del Toro illustrating his ideas and vision for the film.
There’s an hour long episode of “The Charlie Rose Show” with three directors Guillermo Del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón, and Alejandro González Iñárritu, all of whom engage in an exciting and informative discussion. There are four short motion comics included, and finally a short segment for the Marketing Campaign for the film with posters, and teaser and theatrical trailers.