Pan’s Labyrinth appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. As expected, the movie delivered a pleasing presentation.
Overall definition appeared very good. A smidgen of softness crept into some wider images, but not in a distracting manner. Jagged edges and moiré effects remained absent, and I saw no edge haloes or print flaws.
The film highlighted teal to a heavy degree, with occasional uses of amber/red. Within the film’s stylistic choices, the colors appeared well-rendered. The 4K UHD’s HDR capabilities gave the hues some added punch, though the nearly monochromatic nature of the film restricted improvements.
Blacks worked well, as they gave us deep, firm material, and low-light shots displayed nice smoothness and clarity. The HDR meant superior brightness to whites. This became a fine image.
I also felt pleased with the involving DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Labyrinth. Much of the movie emphasized general atmosphere, and those elements formed a convincing sense of the various settings.
When the movie entered fantasy circumstances, though, the material kicked into higher gear. Flying elements such as fairies zoomed around the room and the creative concepts managed to form a lively impression of the amazing experiences. These filled the room in a compelling manner, as did a smattering of combat sequences.
Audio quality satisfied as well. Music seemed lush and full, while speech cane across as natural and distinctive.
Effects offered fine clarity and accuracy, with deep low-end as necessary. The soundtrack added to the movie’s impact.
Here’s where I compare the 4K to the Blu-ray, but that becomes more complicated because we’ve gotten two prior BDs for Labyrinth. In addition to the original 2007 release, Criterion put out their own version in 2016.
Both Blu-rays came with the same DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio, so it seems odd that the 4K UHD reverts to DTS-HD MA 5.1. Was this a goof or a conscious choice?
I vote “goof”, as it makes so little sense for the 4K UHD to come with audio that features fewer channels than its Blu-ray counterparts. The more limited soundscape still worked fine, but I docked the 4K’s audio a little because of the downgrade.
As for visuals, the 2007 Blu-ray remains the weakest link of the three. While perfectly watchable, it used a little too much noise reduction and felt less accurate than it should. The Criterion Blu-ray seemed tighter and more natural.
In comparison, the 4K UHD easily beats the 2007 Blu-ray but the competition between Criterion and 4K seems closer. Because Labyrinth finished 2K, sharpness doesn’t get a substantial boost from the UHD format.
The biggest shift occurs due to the UHD’s HDR, but as I noted earlier, Labyrinth doesn’t exactly offer a Technicolor extravaganza, so the colors don’t get a substantial boost here. Gun to my head, I’ll vote for the 4K UHD as the most satisfying visual presentation, but the Criterion comes in a close second – and its broader soundtrack will make it the winner for those with 7.1 systems.
On the 4K UHD itself, only one extra appears: an audio commentary from writer/director Guillermo del Toro. He offers a running, screen-specific look at influences and historical/mythological areas, connections to The Devil's Backbone, story, characters, themes and meaning, visual, color and production design, costumes, creatures and effects, music and audio, and related domains.
In other words, del Toro touches on pretty much everything one would want to learn about the movie. A veteran of the format, he handles the commentary with ease and reveals a thoughtful filmmaker who invests a ton of energy into his work. Del Torn gives us a terrific and insightful chat.
More extras appear on the included Blu-ray copy, and as an alternate, viewers can watch an Enhanced Visual Commentary. This essentially pairs del Toro’s audio commentary with a few video elements.
The latter excerpt the featurettes we’ll see later. I’m glad we get this option, but I’d rather screen the audio commentary and the featurettes separately, not as a running part of the movie.
Del Toro also gives us an introduction to the film. In this 24-second clip, he hints at the movie’s challenges. It’s not very useful.
Billed as an “interactive gallery”, the Director’s Notebook lets us explore a variety of elements. After a 35-second intro from the filmmaker, this leads us through a literal look at the notebook del Toro created for various characters/concepts, but it also branches off to “video pods” at times.
In the “Notebook”, we find six of these clips with a total running time of 15 minutes, 15 seconds, as they offer more notes from del Toro about design issues and influences. Once again, he provides solid information.
This domain also comes with “Storyboard/Thumbnail Compares”. We get another 28-second del Toro intro and then see screens for three sequences.
These allow us to view simple thumbnails, more detailed storyboards and the final film. They act as a good way to examine the progressions.
“VFX Plate Comparison” goes for one minute, 17 seconds and shows the basic footage along with the final material. It’s a fun way to see these changes.
The “Notebook” domain finishes with “Galleries”. These break into “DDT Creature Design” (75 images), “Production Design” (149) and “Production Scrapbook” (186). All offer useful material.
Within Featurettes, we discover four pieces: “The Power of Myth” (14:23), “Pan and the Fairies” (30:27), “The Color and the Shape” (4:01) and “The Melody Echoes the Fairy Tale” (2:47). Across these, we hear from del Toro, DDT Special Effects’ Montse Ribe, Arturo Balsero and David Marti, Café FX’s Everett Burrell, and actors Doug Jones and Ivana Baquero.
These examine the use/influence of fairy tales, story/character domains, symbolism/meaning, creature design and various effects, color choices, and music. Inevitably, some of the info repeats from del Toro’s commentary, but we still get a lot of good new material, and the use of behind the scenes footage embellishes the remarks.
We also locate four Prequel Comics. These semi-animated pieces give us backstories for the Giant Toad (40 seconds), the Fairies (0:30), Pan (0:46) and the Pale Man (1:18) – sort of. They’re brief and end abruptly, which makes me feel like we only see the beginnings of the tales and not much else.
An episode of The Charlie Rose Show runs 49 minutes, 25 minutes and includes a panel with del Toro and fellow directors Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro G. Iñárritu. The program looks at their connections as Mexican filmmakers and focuses on their then-recent movies: Labyrinth, Babel and Children of Men.
The interaction of the three filmmakers makes this program special. They crack on each other and get into each others’ movies well in this compelling chat.
The disc finishes with ads. We find two trailers and seven TV spots.
With its mix of reality and fantasy, Pan’s Labyrinth promises a rich character fable. At times it succeeds but the movie fails to coalesce in a manner that allows it to achieve most of its goals. The 4K UHD provides very good picture and solid audio along with a winning roster of bonus materials. Maybe someday I’ll connect with Labyrinth, but not today.
To rate this film, visit the Criterion review of PAN'S LABYRINTH