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.
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).
“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.
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.
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
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.
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.