Pan’s Labyrinth appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. An early Blu-ray, the image showed its age a little.
Overall definition appeared good. Some softness crept into wider images, but not in a substantial manner.
Jagged edges and moiré effects remained absent, and I saw no edge haloes or print flaws. Unfortunately, the image suffered from digital noise reduction, and they led to a slightly “smeared” quality at times. This wasn’t a huge issue, but it seemed unnecessary.
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.
Blacks worked well, as they gave us deep, firm material, and low-light shots displayed nice smoothness and clarity. This was a more than watchable image that lost points due to noise reduction and some softness.
I also felt pleased with the involving DTS-HD MA 7.1 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.
How did this original 2007 Blu-ray compare to the Criterion release from 2016? Audio seemed identical, as both appeared to sport the same DTS-HD MA mix.
Visuals favored the Criterion version. The Criterion came with a slightly tighter presentation and some minor color differences as well as an absence of noise reduction. Those factors make the Criterion the preferred Blu-ray.
When we shift to extras, we open with 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.
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 Blu-ray provides generally 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