Pan's Labyrinth: Did I watch the same movie everyone else did?

Okay, it’s a little weird talking about a movie a couple of years old, but the Mrs. and I finally watched Pan’s Labyrinth this past weekend. I’d heard in the intervening time only about how visually stunning it is… how revolutionary the director was, how Guillermo del Toro needs to be federally commissioned to remake everything from Birth of a Nation to Animaniacs, how the movie is unparalleled in the visuals it creates, etc.

Ummm… WTF? Seriously, that was it? I’d say 95% of the movie is yet another dark, wet, cold, poor little kid with sadistic step-pop set against the backdrop of a 20th century European war. Yawner.

The remaining part of the movie… well… I think there’s more visually blah blah in the trailer for Hellboy 2 then there was in that movie.

Am I alone here? The movie’s Life is Beautiful minus any humor or lightheartedness, then 5 minutes of a character with no discernible qualities or intrigue saying “but you’re a queen of this whole fantasy world!”

And, PS, really? “There’s only one rule. Don’t eat anything you see little girl. Seriously, there’s going to be this massive feast, but don’t eat anything. That’s the one rule. Remember the don’t eat anything rule, cuz it sure is important.” Gee, I wonder if the Gremlins are going to get wet.

Yea, I was kinda meh on it as well. I didn’t hate it, the fantasy bits looked cool, and the Civil War plot was engaging enough. But the two parts didn’t mix very well, IMHO.

And I agree that if someone tells you not to eat anything, and you come across a table of food with a horrific monster sitting next to it, stealing a grape is probably not a great idea. Would’ve made more sense if the girl was starving or something, but presumably as the step-daughter of the military dude, she had plenty to eat at home.

I mean, seriously, the horrible monster is right there! What do you think is going to happen if you steal a grape.

I thought it was one of the two best movies I saw last year, and I loved pretty much everything about it.

The other, for those that might be curious, was The Man from Earth. Neither was produced or released last year, but I tend to be years behind on such things.

Agree- with the OP Expected more given ths salivating reviews.

Got another ho hum special effect horror movie and got bored with the war background.

I read a lot about how fantastic the movie was, too, with all of the symbolism, etc. I’m afraid most of it went right over my head.

I liked it, though, of course, it’s not a fantasy films (except in the sense that it showed a child’s imaginary world – none of the fantastic elements were anything other than that).

I don’t mind a dark film, and the images were arresting. But I wasn’t blown away by it, either (actually, the non-pseudo-fantasy elements were interesting since so little has been filmed about the time period).

I think the eating of the grape was done more out of defiance than hunger.

I thought it was a very good film, but I’m firmly in the camp that the fantasy world wasn’t real, it was the girl’s way of making her life bearable.

The commandant character was just chilling, the way he dealt with the poachers…

This is a bit nitpicky - she’s a kid, and a confused one at that.

The fantasy part is a fairy tale, though. In fairy tales, the main character always does something that is blatantly obvious he/she shouldn’t do.

This movie was definitely not what I expected when I first sat down in the theater, but I was immediately drawn in. Ugh, that step father was one of the cruelest characters I’d ever seen. The ending amazed me.

But my husband just about walked out of the theater halfway through the movie, he despised it so much.

Yep. The “do not eat or drink anything you see there” is standard for fairy tales, and the hero ALWAYS screws it up. Neil Gaiman wrote a poem called Instructions that was basically a how to survive fairy tales list and includes the line:

Walk through the house. Take nothing. Eat nothing.

There was another fantasy* story where a woman went down to hell and cautioned not to eat or drink anything or she would have to remain there but apparently she didn’t think eating a couple pomegranite seeds would count as eating. Then there was a guy who went down to hell to rescue his beloved but he was warned not to look back and of course he did and she was sucked back into hell.

Basically, the warnings are just foreshadowing and the hero is going to do what they are warned not to do, otherwise the story would be pretty dull. That said, I thought the girl was not getting fed much or been sent to her room without supper or hadn’t seen fresh fruit in a long time and that’s why she was so tempted by the grapes?

*Or mythology if you prefer.

I can’t say I liked it or hated it, it was an interesting story but I probably wouldn’t watch it again.

The hero’s gotta do what the hero’s gotta do. The warning is a device to add dread and tragedy to the formula.

Myself, I prefer to think of it as ambiguous - might be real, might not.

But according to the director all three of us are wrong. He absolutely intended the fantasy elements to be 100% “real” and claimed to be surprised that more people didn’t see it that way. In his opinion the movie has a happy ending.

I liked the movie a lot. I wasn’t totally blown away but very, very surprised at how dark it was. I did like the ending. But the girl was…not incidental, but my focus was more on the father and the other girl who almost gets tortured.

And the bit about her eating annoyed me, too.

The rape of Persephone. It explains the different seasons in Greek mythology terms.

Fairy tales are meant to teach a lesson (at least according to Bruno Bettelheim) so if the main character does everything as he is supposed to, there’s nothing to learn. And yeah, they would be pretty dull.

I don’t think there’s meant to be a lesson in Pan’s Labyrinth, though, just that Del Toro wanted to follow the conventions of the genre and also that those would be the type of stories the girl knew so it would follow that her fantasy world would play out along similar lines.

I think so. I doubt Spain’s vineyards were getting a lot of care during this time.

I love Guillermo Del Toro. I’ve even sat through Mimic twice, which is saying something. Out of all his movies though, I probably like the Devil’s Backbone the best. It’s similar to Pan’s Labyrinth but on a smaller scale. Plus it has Eduardo Noriega in it, the hottest man alive.

The whole banquet fantasy, if you think the whole thing was in her head, is a fantasy in the head of a child who was sent to bed without supper (or possibly all day, I forget.) She’s hungry, so she imagines this huge banquet… and can’t help but eat. I mean, duh, it obviously had to happen - no real person would have eaten anything next to that thing.

valleyofthedolls is right that the first story is the rape of Persephone (aka Penelope). In that story it was her mother who pleaded to get her back. She was allowed to come back for a few months every year; when she goes back to the underworld, we get winter.

The second story described is Orpheus and his wife Euridice. Her played his harp so beautifully the gods of the underworld were moved to grant that his wife could go back with him. But he f#@ked it up by turning back to see if she was following, after he’d been told not to.

I’m with you, OP. I liked it okay, but it wasn’t life-changing for me or anything. While you’re watching movies that people rave about that aren’t all that, try “Swept Away,” too. It was…strange.

Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies. I count it as a masterpiece.