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3.9 out of 5 stars
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If anyone wants to know where the dark, creepy fairy tales of old went, here's a hint: Guillermo del Toro is doing a pretty good job with the fairy tales for adults.

"Pan's Labyrinth" ("El Laberinto del Fauno") is a sequel of sorts to "The Devil's Backbone," a magical realism film about the Spanish Civil War. But this movie takes us deeper into a world that is half real, half ominous fairy tale, with a unique and imaginative story and some really excellent acting -- in short, a triumph.

Time and place: 1944, Spain. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her very pregnant mother travel to meet her new stepfather, the brutal and murderous Captain Vidal (Sergi López). Ofelia loathes her new stepfather, but is transfixed by the eerie forests around them -- and one night she is visited by a fairy, and encounters a giant faun who tells her that she is Princess Moanna of the netherworld, and must return there.

To do so, he tells her that she must do three things, and gives her a strange book. Ofelia menages first task, but is frightened out of her wits by the second task, which involves a hideous monster with eyes in its hands. Even worse, her mother's pregnancy is getting more dangerous. As the guerillas and the fascists clash, Ofelia faces being trapped outside the netherworld forever... and being offered a terrible choice if she wants to get in.

Fairy tales have become cleaned-up and cutesy over time, so that children can read them without nightmares. But del Toro knows that the best fairy tales are the eerie, bizarre ones for adults, that are connected somehow to the real world. That is what makes "Pan's Labyrinth" so brilliantly dark and heartfelt.

Del Toro obviously crafted this with care, directing it in a dreamlike style and brilliant visuals. The eerie atmosphere of Ofelia's wanderings -- the delicate yet menacing faun, the chalk doors, the monuments, and the pasty nightmare with eyes in its palms -- is both a contrast and a parallel with the everyday world, which Ofelia hopes to escape.

At first, it seems like the post-Civil War and fairy tale stories don't mesh, until you see that the "real world" story is Ofelia's motivation to escape from all the fear, pain and sorrow that her "real life" is full of. But Del Toro's biggest triumph is an ending that is beautifully bittersweet, and which turns out to hinge on Ofelia's newborn brother.

But del Toro's biggest triumph is in the instant connection we feel to Ofelia, with her love of the fantastical and her desire to go somewhere "safe." Baquero is absolutely wonderful in this, as a girl who isn't entirely of this world -- in her heart, she belongs somewhere beyond. And López is the ideal villain -- you spend the whole movie wanting to see him gruesomely killed.

Half "Mirrormask" and half gritty war story, "Pan's Labyrinth" is one of the best fantasy stories in years -- dark, passionate and beautifully made. Definitely a great movie.
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on August 30, 2007
Pan's Labyrinth is an amazing film directed by Guillermo Del Toro. It manages to capture the essence of being a child appropriately enough to serve as nostalgia for its adult audience. In other words, you really don't have to be a fantasy geek to appreciate this. It is smaller than many of the larger epic fantasies we have grown accustomed to seeing on the big screen over the last few years (i.e. Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter movies) but in many ways it is more lucid, and it is certainly less diluted by oceans of CGI. There are great effects though; puppets, CGI, makeup, set design and costumes. However, I would say that more effort than money was put into these elements and creating a pure vision was certainly the priority, as opposed to creating a large box-office draw. Del Toro also has the advantage of placing the fantasy into the eyes of a child, while the rest of story is told in the miserable reality of 1944 post civil war Spain. That dichotomy alone makes the film both remarkably authentic and the fantasy elements that much more rewarding. What child wouldn't want to escape that existence?

As the film opens we are introduced to a fairy tale about Princess Moanna from the underworld. The Princess decides to see the world above her and when she does she forgets about her royal existence and eventually becomes mortal and dies. Her father, the king, believes her spirit will return. After this we go to 1944 Spain after the Francoists have taken power. We are introduced to Ofelia (Ivan Baquero), a young girl whose pregnant mother has brought Ofelia to meet her new stepfather (Sergi López), a fascist captain assigned to control and destroy the Spanish Maquis in that region. He is also the father to Ofelia's unborn brother. Ofelia meets an insect who she feels represents a fairy. The insect leads Ofelia to the labyrinth. This spirals into Ofelia's eventual interaction with a faun who declares that Ofelia is Princess Moanna and in order to ensure that her essence as princess of the underworld is intact, she must accomplish three specific tasks. The story goes from there with astounding visuals and sequences that range from shocking and suspenseful, to beautiful and beaming with hope.

In a year of mediocre cinema, Pan's Labyrinth was one of the few stand-out productions for me. Obviously it was heavily acclaimed and rewarded for its visuals, but the writing and direction deserve accolades as well. This is one of best original screenplays to come along in the last few years.

The acting was also great. Ivana Baquero is a wonderful new find and Maribel Verdú (Y tu mamá también) was also fantastic as one of the captain's maids and a rebel mole. I also believe that Captain Vidal was probably the best villain of the year. Part of it was Sergi López's performance but it was also the way his actions shocked us. Without his violent outbursts and constant cutthroat disposition I think this would've been a lesser movie, but it also may have received a more profitable PG-13 rating. In other words, it took some courage and sacrifice in making this villain as brutal as he was and I salute Del Toro for not even giving that perspective consideration. Again, it's artistic substance as the priority.

Overall, Pan's Labyrinth is the kind of effort that reminds me of why I love cinema, and I have no doubt that Del Toro and his crew feel that a story like this is the very reason they make movies in the first place. Obviously, I highly recommend this.
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on August 7, 2007
This film was outstanding. It is the perfect blend of realism and fantasy. Some have written in other reviews that it had excessive violence and that nobody is a evil and cruel as the captain.....well, I can only say that those who feel that way are not aware of the realities of horror and war. War brings out all kinds of monsters and this was as realistic as it gets in it's portrayal of evil. Having family who have fought in the Spanish Civil War, the film portrays the violence completely effectively, in fact, it is downplayed.

See the film; it is excellent and completely original. It is in a category of it's very own.

A note to MH who left a review down below... the movie was never targeted for children, in fact, it was made very clear that it is a movie for adults. Also, the movie DOES NOT take place during WW2 as you have written- it takes place during the SPANISH CIVIL WAR which is an entirely separate war. It is a shame that this very important fact from the film was completely missed in your review. This is the setting and time frame which sets the mood for the entire film.
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on August 6, 2007
Spain. 1944. Ofelia, a girl fascinated by fairy tales, is sent with her pregnant mother to meet and live with her new stepfather, Capitan Vidal, a particularly sadistic character. One night Ofelia meets a fairy, is told she is a princess and encounters the faun Pan. To prove her royalty, she must execute specific albeit gruesome tasks.

Sergi Lopez as the Capitan is excellent, as are the two leading actresses, Maribel Verdu (playing Vidal's housekeeper, Mercedes) and Ivana Baquero (Ofelia). The faun is magistrally played by Doug Jones.

An intense, brutal, beautiful, magical world is what makes this movie A MUST SEE, for it is quite the masterpiece, visually and artistically. The film definitely deserved its Oscar for best cinematography: Guillermo Navarro used wonderful lighting and techniques.

Brilliantly directed and masterfully written by Guillermo Del Toro, this is a movie FOR ADULTS.

(Warning: English subtitles only so far available on the DVDs.)
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on February 6, 2011
Simply be aware that this disk does NOT include an english audiotrack as stated by Amazon. The only language spoken is Spanish. The are english subtitles, though.

Excellent picture by the way.
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on July 24, 2012
Pan's labyrinth IS NOT A MOVIE for kids... so if your a mummy or daddy plz dont complain on the fact that this movie is gore and evil... ( go for the lion king plz) Well this is an awsome movie! picture quality and sound are perfect (almost) I will not spoil the movie but the story is amazing... (a must see if you didnt ) worth every penny and more... believe me
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on December 30, 2011
Excellent movie thanks for the speedy service and i will recommend it and your service to all that i know.
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on April 27, 2013
This was a wonderful film. Very creative. Good actors. The background of Spain, revolution and fascism really added to the story. Definitely some frightening scenes and characters. The main character is a tough, imaginative girl. The ending leaves you guessing a bit. I have known 16 yr olds to young adults to middle aged people all of whom enjoyed it.
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on April 16, 2008
this movie is a masterpiece! quite honestly i don't know how anyone could watch it and not get sucked in. this movie was told with the air of a classic fairy tale, the real ones, not the watered down versions we give our children today. there is an atmosphere of danger and suspense that constantly surrounds the girl, and in response to that there is a persistent arousal of hope, or fantasy. the girl's environment is not the best, to say the least. she is in some camp under the jurisdiction of some heartless man who has married her mother, and who only cares about producing an heir. everything around her is militaristic and hard and cold, and yet she continuously bumps into this other world of wonder and mystery, of fairies and fauns and the like. it's like the metaphor of the flower that grows out of concrete. finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.
it's debatable whether she is actually interacting with this other world and that it exists, or if she's creating this world to escape her less than ideal reality. i suppose your answer would come from what kind of person you are and how you perceive the world. i enjoy the experience of believing it is real with a constant skeptic in the back of my mind nay saying everything the believer says, so i guess my view would change depending on what day you chanced upon asking me. the bottom line is that story is very well put together and whether or not you believe the world the girl is interacting with to be real, you'll enjoy it either way.

a common criticism i hear circling this movie is that it isn't for children. to these people, i don't really know what to say. i'm not sure how it was advertised to you, but from the advertisements i saw i was well aware that the movie was rated R and was a 'fairy tale for grown ups', so to speak. i did still take my younger sibling, but that's something else. if a parent or guardian is not willing to take the time to research a movie or heed the ratings, they shouldn't be allowed to complain about what their children see, as this unwanted event could have been prevented with a little effort on their part.

this movie is wonderful. i tear up at the end every time. for me it really stands out as a work of art against the back drop of the standard of movies we have come to expect will be playing in theaters every friday night. i'd even go so far as to say that it's a classic in it's own time, or is at least something to be aware of. but it's definitely awesome.
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on August 18, 2007
Beautiful movie! I thought it looked cool the first time I saw a preview and I was right! This movie is amazing! It is a depressing but lovely story about good vs. evil, innocent vs. corrupt and love. Also the creatures look awesome! They remind of the ones in The Dark Crystal [another masterpiece] because they're really cool and unique. I wish there was a few more but the ones that are shown rock!

The story is about a little girl who is kind and pure. She and her pregnant mother have to move to live with a military captain [who is evil, violent and a real jerk] who lives in a wild dangerous place. One night the little girl goes into an ancient labyrinth and meets this awesome faun creature. He tells her that she is actually from his world and she has to return. I won't give any thing else away cause this movie is incredible!

So see this movie if you like fantasy, myths, drama or just good movies but don't watch it when young children under 12 are around. This movie has a lot of blood and gore in it. But that doesn't stop it from being the awesome movie it is.
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