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.

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Todd Erwin

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noel aguirre

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

Brent Reid

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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.

I know caps don't tell the whole story, but they're enough to let me know I won't be be replacing my Criterion BD anytime soon. Added to that, 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.
 

noel aguirre

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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- we’re talking ONE other version. That transfer was personally supervised by Guillermo del Toro, a fairly recent release, and readily available. And besides this film was completed in 2K so the main reason really for getting this only is if it’s any better than what’s currently on the market and considered the definitive version by its own director. Otherwise why should one care?
 
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noel aguirre

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So I found a more thorough review showing comparisons not only to the Criterion pressing but also the oringinal Blu-ray itself! Enjoy.
https://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Pans-Labyrinth-4K-Blu-ray/241970/#Review
 

Malcolm R

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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.
 

Neil Middlemiss

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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!
 

Carlo Medina

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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.
 

PMF

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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.
Indeed, the contributions from each and every one of our HTF writers remains much appreciated.
Thanks for this review, Todd.:thumbs-up-smiley:
 
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Lord Dalek

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

Colin Jacobson

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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...
 

Mike Frezon

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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.
 

noel aguirre

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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?
 
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JohnRice

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^^^^Honestly, if time was so precious, the first post on the issue would have been the last.
 
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