Pan’s Labyrinth UHD Review

Worthy Upgrade 4.5 Stars

Guillermo Del Toro’s adult fairy tale, Pan’s Labyrinth, arrives on 4K UHD Blu-ray in a welcomed video upgrade, but the release overall is a bit frustrating.

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Released: 19 Jan 2007
Rated: R
Runtime: 118 min
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, War
Cast: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Doug Jones
Writer(s): Guillermo del Toro
Plot: In the falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.
IMDB rating: 8.2
MetaScore: 98

Disc Information
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: Spanish 5.1 DTS
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Rating: R
Run Time: 1 Hr. 59 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: 2-disc UHD eco keepcase with slipcover
Disc Type: UHD
Region: All
Release Date: 10/01/2019
MSRP: $24.99

The Production: 4.5/5

Beautifully photographed by Guillermo Navarro, writer-director Guillermo Del Toro’s epic adult fairy tale is not for the squeamish. Del Toro has painted a rather dark world for his 11 year old heroine, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), as she and her pregnant mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil), travel to the country-side encampment run by Carmen’s new husband, Captain Vidal (Sergi López), during the Spanish Revolution. Vidal is a sadistic, misogynistic monster, set to wipe the countryside of the local rebels, no matter what the cost. His only real reason for marrying Carmen was to have her give birth to a son to extend his family line of military leaders in the current fascist regime. Carmen has gone along for the ride, hoping for a better life for Ofelia, who often escapes in a fantasy world of fairies, led by the fawn Fauno (Doug Jones, voiced by Pablo Adán).

The late film critic Roger Ebert said it best when reviewing Pan’s Labyrinth upon its original theatrical release in 2006:

“What makes Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth so powerful, I think, is that it brings together two kinds of material, obviously not compatible, and insists on playing true to both, right to the end.”

I find Del Toro’s films to be strikingly original in their visual design, with this film being, perhaps, his most personal. He pours his heart and soul into nearly every film he has made, and it shows.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

Pan’s Labyrinth was one of New Line Home Video’s first Blu-ray releases, and that release was marred by an overuse of DNR, virtually stripping away any evidence of film grain (unfortunately, that disc is included in this set rather than a remastered Blu-ray). This new 2160p upscale (the film was originally completed as a 2K digital intermediate) with HDR10 corrects that, allowing film grain to be visible and producing a more film-like presentation. Color and contrast are a bit more dialed in on this new release, but there are a few sequences where HDR may have been overdone, with those sequences appearing almost too dark. That being said, Pan’s Labyrinth in 4K UHD is still a definite improvement and worthy upgrade over the original Blu-ray release, but cannot say for certain if it is worth upgrading from Criterion Collection’s Blu-ray release from 2016, as I have not seen that disc.

Audio: 4/5

Here is where Warner’s new 4K UHD release gets frustrating. The original New Line Blu-ray release came with a DTS-HD MA 7.1 track in Spanish. The 2016 Criterion release came with both a 7.1 and 5.1 Spanish track in DTS-HD MA. That 7.1 track has been dropped from this new 4K UHD release in favor of a 5.1 track. Regardless, it is still a great sounding track, with creatures flittering around the room almost seamlessly and LFE providing a nice low-end to Faun’s footsteps and trotting horse hooves of both the rebels and the fascists. One major difference in the two tracks that I noticed rather immediately was that on the 5.1 track on the UHD disc, the logo music for the Picturehouse logo has been omitted.

What I found to be even more frustrating than the omission of the 7.1 track is the fact that the disc was authored to default to no subtitles. That’s right; you have to enable English subtitles manually on a foreign language film, which I find rather baffling.

Special Features: 4/5

Warner has included the excellent commentary track by director Guillermo Del Toro on the UHD disc. Otherwise, all of the special features can be found on the included original Blu-ray release.

Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Guillermo Del Toro

Director’s Prologue

Enhanced Visual Commentary

Featurettes (includes The Power of Myth, Pan and the Fairies, The Color and the Shape and The Melody Echoes the Fairy Tale)

Director’s Notebook (includes Introduction, Del Toro’s Notes and Sketches, Storyboard/Thumbnail Compares, VFX Plate Comparison: Guillermo Del Toro and the Green Fairy and Galleries)

The Charlie Rose Show (Rose interviews Guillermo Del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón, and Alejandro Iñárritu)

Comics (Includes The Giant Toad, The Fairies, Pan and The Pale Man)

Marketing Campaign (Includes Poster Gallery, Theatrical Teaser, Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots)

Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy (in UHD where available, despite what the disclaimer says on the packaging that the code will only redeem as HD) from Movies Anywhere.

Overall: 4.5/5

Despite my frustrations with the authoring error on no default subtitle track and the omission of the 7.1 mix, visually this new UHD release is definitely worth upgrading from, especially if you own the original Blu-ray release.

Published by

Todd Erwin

editor,member

36 Comments

  1. noel aguirre

    The reviewer should not be reviewing this if they haven’t seen the Criterion release- the gold standard. This is not DVD TALK.

    That's preposterous.

    No reviewer can be sure to have watched ALL prior home video versions of any movie before they review a newer home video release.

  2. Perhaps I can assist, gentlemen. The Caps-a-holic comparison is already up. Bear in mind the German Capelight Pictures BD also has the same transfer as the Criterion.

    Personally, I don't think I'll be replacing my Criterion BD anytime soon. The UHD is lacking the Criterion's 7.1 audio and the CC's 5.1 DTS-HD MA track even has a higher bitrate than the UHD, so there's definitely no upgrade there. Overall, a sidegrade at best.

  3. Mike Frezon

    That's preposterous.

    No reviewer can be sure to have watched ALL prior home video versions of any movie before they review a newer home video release.

    Not at all preposterous. That transfer was personally supervised by Guillermo Del Toro, a recent release and readily available. And besides this film is 2K so the main reason really for getting this only is if it’s any better than what’s currently on the market. Otherwise why should one care?

  4. In this case, we’re talking about one other version, but each review can have all sorts of permutations of how many prior releases there have been. To dismiss Todd’s review as incomplete somehow is unnecessary.

    Sorry it doesn’t suit your specific desire.

  5. I agree the job of the reviewer is to review the disc they're given, not necessarily to have awareness of, or make comparisons to, prior versions. There are other sites that provide that info, if one desires to look.

    My interest is in the quality of the disc being reviewed, not other versions.

  6. Mike Frezon

    In this case, we’re talking about one other version, but each review can have all sorts of permutations of how many prior releases there have been. To dismiss Todd’s review as incomplete somehow is unnecessary.

    Sorry it doesn’t suit your specific desire.

    And stunningly rude. Reviewers at HTF are volunteers. They (we) spend hours upon hours of our free time to provide reviews for readers here and, when faced with such utter dismissive rudeness, sometimes wonder if its even worth it. Passive/aggressive references to "the reviewer" are also cowardly and unappreciated.

    Thanks for the review Todd!

  7. Neil Middlemiss

    And stunningly rude


    Agreed. This is not [insert name of any forum where rudeness prevails]. We have always prided ourselves on civility, and that first comment really is out of bounds. Maybe the commenter didn't mean to come across that way, but tone is difficult to convey in an online medium, so one should always consider that when choosing their words in a post.

    Thanks to Todd and all of the reviewers here at HTF. And thank you to the members too who may not always agree with the reviewers, but find constructive and polite ways to help improve a review thread, versus making blanket pronouncements.

  8. Hopefully, someone who has both the Criterion and the new 4K/UHD versions will post such comparisons;
    but, nonetheless, at least Mr. Erwin was quite clear and upfront about what he was reviewing.
    Having neither the Criterion nor 4K/UHD, I would be eager to know which way to go.
    But, until then, I welcome all reviews from all fronts;
    which also includes the sometimes duplicate physical media reviews of any given title by two different members.
    Different inputs, different insights and different information; all have consistently been useful to me.
    The contributions from each and every one of our HTF writers remains much appreciated.

  9. Malcolm R

    I agree the job of the reviewer is to review the disc they're given, not necessarily to have awareness of, or make comparisons to, prior versions. There are other sites that provide that info, if one desires to look.

    My interest is in the quality of the disc being reviewed, not other versions.

    I try my best to offer comparisons between different versions, as that's part of the job.

    If you own a prior release, you need to know whether the new one is an upgrade.

    I don't claim all reviewers need to perform heroic measures to do this – I don't argue the Todd needed to buy the Criterion to make his review useful – but comparisons are an important part of the gig…

  10. Yup. Comparisons are great…when they can happen.

    But they can't always happen. And when they can't happen, it's not cool to rudely complain that a well-written and composed review is invalid due to its exclusion.

    And now we've got a review thread on the new release of Pan's Labyrinth that has gone on for nearly a full page and has hardly discussed any aspects of the review or the release.

  11. Thank you Todd. Sorry but I always come to these reviews to see if what I currently have is worth upgrading to what is newly being reviewed and in this case I wasn’t provided that information after reading. Time is very valuable to me- My bad?

  12. noel aguirre

    Thank you Todd. Sorry but I always come to these reviews to see if what I currently have is worth upgrading to what is newly being reviewed and in this case I wasn’t provided that information after reading. Time is very valuable to me- My bad?

    So, that's not quite an apology but you are headed in the right direction.

    In general I don't think any of our HTF reviewers are going to be canonical experts in all past releases. If I have seen something I will note the differences but I'm not going to go out and watch 4 other versions in case someone is hanging on our word if it's a big upgrade or not =)

    I think your expectations are way off, personally and a true apology is warranted.

  13. Mike Frezon

    Yup. Comparisons are great…when they can happen.

    But they can't always happen.

    Agree. Like I said, I don't espouse the notion that a critic should need to buy a disc just for comparison.

    I maintain a Netflix mail membership partly so I can do comparisons with discs I never reviewed in the first place, but that's the end of my monetary investment! 😀

    Though in the category of pushy, no one in this thread competes with a reader on mine who occasionally requests reviews. If I can get the titles through Netflix, I do so.

    One title wasn't on Netflix so I said I couldn't do it. This reader demanded that I buy a copy of the movie – some POS direct-to-video thing – and got upset when I said I wasn't gonna drop $15 just for that review! 😮

  14. Sam Posten

    So, that's not quite an apology but you are headed in the right direction.
    ……..
    I think your expectations are way off, personally and a true apology is warranted.

    Not gonna happen- just like review of the new Last Year at Marienbad review had me upgrade over the Criterion which is 10 years or older I expect any review to be relevant and compare to the current state of the art pressing of any film. Otherwise- Why bother?

  15. noel aguirre

    … I expect any review to be relevant and compare to the current state of the art pressing of any film. Otherwise- Why bother?

    Where do such unrealistic expectations come from?

  16. Lord Dalek

    I wonder if the DNR Todd noticed is burned into the master.

    Todd Erwin

    What DNR? I saw no evidence of DNR on this 4K release.

    The only reference to DNR is in discussing The New Line BD, which is included with the 4K UHD release. Since I am not 4K UHD equipped yet, I cannot comment on any differences between the Criterion and the 4K UHD disc. I can simply say that the Criterion looks so good in comparison to the New Line disc that I am glad I made that upgrade.

  17. noel aguirre

    I expect any review to be relevant and compare to the current state of the art pressing of any film. Otherwise- Why bother?

    1. Most people understand that this is a site that offers a few small perks for a $12 annual donation, but doesn't charge any subscription fee. And they tailor their expectations accordingly.
    2. Most people understand that the reviewers on this site are volunteers who spend hours upon hours of their own time reviewing new releases without any compensation aside from getting to keep the review copy. And most people, appreciating all of that hard work and effort, accordingly practice the principle, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."
    3. Most people want to know about the merits and shortcomings of the release being reviewed, irrespective of how it compares to previous releases. Chances are, if a UHD release is not a worthwhile update from the Blu-Ray, there are some pretty glaring shortcomings that will be addressed in the review, even without an explicit comparison to the prior release. Todd's review makes it clear that the HDR was a little too heavily used. Whether that's a dealbreaker, and whether that makes it worse than a 1080p transfer without HDR at all, is a subjective determination that will likely vary from person to person. There's no "right" answer.
  18. Add me as another voice in support of Todd.

    I write reviews here on a volunteer basis because I am passionate about this hobby and because I enjoy getting to talk about movies and discs with people here. A review can take me ten hours or more to complete, between watching the film, examining all bonus features, comparing different included audio tracks, researching the context in which the film was made to better appreciate its intentions, writing, proofreading, rewriting, posting, etc. Its often a choice between “I can spend all of the free time I get after work for a week or two on one review, or I could watch a movie for relaxation every night instead.” It’s a trade-off I’m glad to make. But the reward for doing it is a) the pleasure of doing a job well and b) conversing with some truly interesting people with unique and worthy viewpoints. Take that away, and it becomes a lot harder to justify the time investment.

    It’s especially tricky reviewing titles with previous releases and I feel in many cases, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Here Todd got pushback for viewing this disc on its own merits and presenting a well written and well reasoned assessment of what a potential buyer could expect in this package. That, to me, has plenty of value. On a review I did of another title, I did end up comparing it to a previous release, and I was criticized for not grading it solely on its own merits. Can’t please everyone. I’m always happy to engage with people who want more detail about what I was thinking and why, and I’m happy to have that discussion. But those are the key words: “engage” and “discussion”.

  19. It never ceases to amaze me how self-entitled many people appear when posting on the internet. For the last ten years, there have been loads of free internet sites reviewing blu-rays. This has led to the demise of many print magazines, which used to review physical media for home cinema. Now that streaming is ending the era of physical media, internet sites which review discs and depend on cuts from Amazon for funds will run out of resources to run their sites. I was sad to see the message posted on DVD Beaver today. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Gary's reviews, he is a movie lover and spent a lot of time creating his reviews, just like the other reviewers on Home Theatre Forum.

    http://www.dvdbeaver.com

  20. Anyway thanks Todd for the great review. I will be upgrading over the Criterion version which is great.

    *Sorry Robert. My previous comment was posted at the same time as your warning.*

  21. titch

    Now that streaming is ending the era of physical media, internet sites which review discs and depend on cuts from Amazon for funds will run out of resources to run their sites.

    Man, "running out of resources" hit my site years ago! I used to get enough in Amazon revenue to easily pay for the site's operations – heck, for a while, I made enough that I had to change my tax withholding at my real job because I didn't want to pay the IRS a bunch of money due to the untaxed Amazon loot.

    But that's not been the case for a while. I've not even made enough on Amazon to need to report those earnings on my filings!

    Site expenses are minimal, but nonetheless, site expenses are still > than site revenue.

    I keep at it because I figure the screeners I get compensate for the money I'd otherwise spend on discs for myself, and I can afford the costs on my own – I'm not gonna run a telethon anytime soon – but the days of a profitable site are long gone!

  22. Due to Todd Erwin's review, I plan to purchase the 4K/UHD of "Pan's Labyrinth".
    I've been on the fence between my purchasing of the Criterion stand-alone or blind-buying the boxed trilogy;
    but being a supporter of 4K/UHD and a collector of Oscar wins for cinematography,
    Todd's assessments had reported nothing jarring that would detour me away from going further in this direction.
    As for comparisons, the reviews from highdefdigest did conduct one as such;
    but it was specifically based on the 2007 disc; with no references to the Criterion.
    My first awareness of this 4K/UHD edition of "Pan's Labyrinth" began with Todd Erwin's review;
    so thanks to him, I now have one more upgrade that can be added to my list of cinematography captures.:thumbs-up-smiley:

  23. Todd's review does make picking up the UHD version tempting, but for now I think I will stick with my Criterion BD. If the UHD hits a low price over the holidays, I may reconsider. I just cannot justify upgrading every UHD that comes out where I already own the BD.

  24. I have a few UHD discs where the tone mapping makes things too dark on my OLED screen (Unforgiven, Serenity, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). In all these cases I prefer the blu over the UHD. Is this one bad enough that it’s difficult to tell what is happening on screen?

    I also wonder if the newer Panasonic 4K players would help the situation.

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