Plot: What’s it about?
Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez) is a sadistic military man, who wishes to crush all opposition and do so in swift, brutal fashion. In his native Spain, the civil war has ended, but resistance remains intact in some areas. While the rebels aren’t great in number, they have been effective at times with their strikes. As he has his troops search high and low for the resistance, a young girl named Ophelia (Ivana Baquero) is about to enter his life, as her mother is to marry Lopez. Ophelia finds herself surrounded by violence in her new life, but she soon finds an escape. She discovers a world of magic thanks to a faun who tells her she is a princess, then leads her on the path to reclaiming her throne. But is Ophelia really on the verge of a magical journey, or has she just found a way to escape the grim reality that is all around her?
Pan’s Labyrinth was marketed as a fantasy picture, with a lot of visuals of the creatures involved, especially the faun and the pale man characters. In truth, the movie is more of a dark, unrelenting look at life inside of a war torn locale, as probably three-fourths of the story takes place there. The fantasy elements are memorable to be sure, but with only a quarter of the film’s duration, they’re not the focus of Pan’s Labyrinth. So don’t expect a modern fairy tale, as this is a harrowing journey for the most part and even those few fantasy scenes can be unsettling at times. Even so, Pan’s Labyrinth is a powerful movie that never fails to captivate and creates a unique vision, to be sure. The war elements are well handled, as are the fantasy elements, so regardless of genre, Pan’s Labyrinth deserves to be seen, especially in high definition.
Video: How does it look?
Pan’s Labyrinth is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I was a little concerned about this transfer, as I had heard that the digital noise reduction had softened some elements. I didn’t find that to be the case, but perhaps on large front projection screens, some defects could be spotted. This is still not quite the reference level treatment I expected, but the movie looks incredible and comes darn close to perfection. The film’s visuals simply shine here, from the dark and depressing war scenes to the dark and yet not as depressing fantasy scenes, it all looks excellent. I found colors to be well replicated and contrast is accurate, a fantastic transfer that fans should be thrilled with.
Audio: How does it sound?
While the visuals come close to reference level, the DTS 7.1 master audio option is reference level. The surrounds are open for business throughout the movie, but in natural, effective ways. So this isn’t surround presence for no reason, the audio design here is top notch. The film is packed with scenes you’ll want to use to show off your sound system, such as the pale man sequence, which is simply masterful. The less dynamic elements are well handled also, from dialogue to subtle environmental touches. This is just superb all around audio work and of course, the original Spanish language is preserved. This disc also includes optional English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Guillermo Del Toro provides his director’s comments and on this HD-DVD, you can even enable an option that puts his comments with behind the scenes visual materials. This is a nice option, but keep in mind the video footage is the same stuff found elsewhere, so its not fresh material. Del Toro’s track is insightful however, mixing technical information with more casual production stories. Pan and the Fairies is the most in depth of the featurettes, with half an hour of runtime that is devoted to the special effects seen in the picture. I found this to be solid, with great footage of the creature transformations, but this wasn’t as in depth as I expected, so I was a little down. You can also check out a few other featurettes, but none offer much depth or insight, with a total duration of under half an hour for all three of the other pieces. The Charlie Rose Show excerpt runs about fifty minutes, but is a roundtable of Latino filmmakers and isn’t specific to Pan’s Labyrinth. But if you’re a fan of Del Toro’s work, then you’ll find some good insight tucked in here and there. The Director’s Notebook houses seven very, very brief featurettes, while other extras include some comic page, storyboard comparisons, television spots, and two of the film’s theatrical trailers.