Pan's Labyrinth (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Mar 15, 2022
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Pan's Labyrinth (Blu-ray Review)


Guillermo del Toro

Release Date(s)

2006 (February 16, 2022)


Warner Bros Pictures (Umbrella Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: A
  • Video Grade: B+
  • Audio Grade: A-
  • Extras Grade: A-


[Editor’s Note: This is a REGION-FREE Blu-ray release.]

Guillermo del Toro had slowly been gaining a cult fan base since his feature-length debut film Cronos in 1993, subsequently making studio projects Mimic and Blade II, in between making time for more personal projects like The Devil’s Backbone and Hellboy. One of his more inspired accomplishments came in 2006 with the release of Pan’s Labyrinth (aka El laberinto del fauno), a highly personal film that allowed him to grow as an artist, more so than a filmmaker. Many believe it to be his best work, and sixteen years after its release, it’s still a potent piece of storytelling that has managed to embed itself into popular culture.

Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is a ten-year-old girl traveling with her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) in war-torn Spain after the events of the Spanish Civil War. There they meet her new stepfather, Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez), a cruel man who rules his troops with an iron fist, hell-bent on finding outlying rebel forces within the region. Ofelia, obsessed with books and magic at the disapproval of her mother, discovers a labyrinth with a hidden world, which is unseen by most humans. There she meets a faun (Doug Jones), who declares her to be the reincarnation of the princess of the underworld. In order for her to go back there and become immortal, she must complete various tasks at his specific direction. Meanwhile, Vidal is zeroing in on the rebels, unaware that his housekeeper Mercedes (Maribel Vudu) and his doctor (Alex Angulo) are spies, sending food and medical care to them under his nose. As Ofelia completes the tasks set before her, she must avoid detection from Vidal, as well as the temptations and horrors that she soon faces.

Pan’s Labyrinth was shot by director of photography Guillermo Navarro on 35 mm film using Arriflex 435 ES and Moviecam Compact cameras and Zeiss Ultra Prime and Variable Prime lenses, finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate, and presented theatrically in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The source used for Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray release appears to be the same master used for the Optimum Entertainment Blu-ray release in the UK, which is noted for opening the top and bottom of the frame up for a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, a poor encode, and excessive DNR. Thankfully, the encoding isn’t an issue here, but slight differences in color and contrast are apparent, depending upon any given scene. In comparison to the director-approved Criterion Collection Blu-ray release, the Umbrella Blu-ray offers slightly more natural colors, particularly flesh tones. The Criterion release has more of a golden look to it with a green push. The Warner Bros 4K Ultra HD release and the Umbrella release are closer to each other in terms of their color palettes, though not entirely. In some scenes, there’s very little difference, and in others, it’s more extreme. The Umbrella disc is also brighter than the Ultra HD disc. The Umbrella presentation also has a touch of DNR applied to it, though I wouldn’t call it excessive. Detail is still very prevalent, though I imagine on larger displays or in projection, it might be more apparent. Looking at the three presentations side by side, the Criterion disc is the clear winner, even over the 4K Ultra HD release, but for a film that’s so aggressively stylized, it’s difficult to make it look that bad. Above all else, the Umbrella disc looks good, but not perfect. (Take note that even the Ultra HD release is sourced from a 2K Digital Intermediate, meaning that for a true 4K presentation to exist, not only would the original camera negative have to be rescanned and color corrected, but the visual effects would have to be uprezzed as well.)

Audio is provided in Spanish 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles, though they will automatically play regardless of which track is selected. A 7.1 track is available on other releases of the film, but is not carried over here. The 5.1 track handles the film’s delicate sound design admirably with a strong focus on ambience and score. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise while occasionally booming and panning sound effects keep the surround channels active. The 2.0 track is likely a fold-down version of the 5.1, but does well with its more limited speaker space.

Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray of Pan’s Labyrinth is #15 in their Worlds on Film: Beyond Genres line of titles. The disc sits inside a clear amaray case featuring new artwork on the front, a version of the original poster on the reverse, and a still from the film on the inner sleeve. Everything is housed in a slipcover with the same new artwork. Extras included the following:

  • Audio commentary by Guillermo del Toro
  • Video Prologue by Guillermo del Toro (Upscaled HD – :37)
  • The Power of Myth (HD – 15:00)
  • El fauno y las hadas (HD – 31:43)
  • The Colour and the Shape (Upscaled HD – 4:02)
  • Storyboards and Thumbnail Compares: Prologue by Guillermo del Toro (HD – :30)
  • Storyboards and Thumbnail Compares: Ofelia Enters the Labyrinth (HD – 4:20)
  • Storyboards and Thumbnail Compares: Ofelia, the Fig Tree & Giant Toad (HD – 2:04)
  • Storyboards and Thumbnail Compares: Death of the Doctor (HD – 1:32)
  • Storyboards and Thumbnail Compares: Ofelia's Death (HD – 3:13)
  • VFX Plate Compare; Guillermo del Toro and the Green Fairy (HD – 1:21)
  • Director's Notebook: Prologue by Guillermo del Toro (HD – :36)
  • Director's Notebook: Lost Character, El Hombre de Madrea (HD – 2:36)
  • Director's Notebook: Torturing of the Maquis, Prosthetic Makeup (HD – 1:53)
  • Director's Notebook: Phases of the Moon (HD – 2:16)
  • Director's Notebook: Iconology, Echo... Echo... (HD – 3:22)
  • Director's Notebook: The Underground Kingdom, Miniature Construction (HD – 2:37)
  • Director's Notebook: The Mill, Set Design (HD – 3:06)
  • The Melody Echos the Fairy Tale (Upscaled HD – 2:48)
  • Mercedes' Lullaby (Upscaled HD – 2:17)
  • Prequel Comics: DVD Comic Sketches (Upscaled SD – 2:30)
  • Prequel Comics: The Giant Toad (HD – :41)
  • Prequel Comics: The Fairies (HD – :31)
  • Prequel Comics: The Faun (HD – :47)
  • Prequel Comics: The Pale Man (HD – 1:20)
  • UK Trailer (Upscaled HD – 1:11)
  • US Trailer (HD – 2:26)

Guillermo del Toro provides a fantastic audio commentary, which first appeared on New Line Cinema’s 2007 DVD and Blu-ray releases. He is truly honest and frank about the production and his experiences on it. Much of it is very positive, but also negative in certain aspects, particularly when it comes to working with cows and horses, and he isn’t afraid to express himself during these passages. He also discusses the film in detail, providing a deeper understanding of how the film was created and how he perceives the story and thematic material. The rest of the extras are culled from the original Blu-ray and DVD release, which has subsequently carried over to most releases of the film worldwide. This material was created by del Toro’s long-time collaborator Javier Soto. It consists of documentaries and featurettes that cover the creation of the film, the majority of which is hosted by del Toro, with other cast and crew members popping up occasionally. The cinematography and look of the film is discussed, as is the creation of the world and the magical creatures, and the film’s thematics. Storyboard and visual effects comparisons can be viewed, as can design sketches and the director’s notebooks, featuring ideas and conceptual designs. Also included are prequel comics, which are presented as motion comics.

Though this material is extensive and engrossing, there’s also a few things missing. Not carried over from the original New Line Cinema Blu-ray release is the enhanced picture-in-picture commentary; The Charlie Rose Show featuring del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron, and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu; the teaser trailer; and a set of TV spots. Not carried over the Criterion Collection Blu-ray are additional interviews with del Toro and Cornelia Funke, and Doug Jones, and Ivana Baquero’s audition tape. It’s also worth noting that the Capelight Region B German Ultimate Edition Blu-ray release offers an additional making of documentary; a slew of additional featurettes and production diaries; the German theatrical trailer; the Creature Designers: The Frankenstein Complex documentary; and a set of extras dedicated to that documentary. Not to be outdone, the South Korean Region-Free Blu-ray includes an exclusive audio commentary with columnist Jung Sung-Il, and a Guardian interview with del Toro at the National Film Theatre.

Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray release of Pan’s Labyrinth offers the film in fine quality with a quality selection of extras. Though a more complete package with an updated video master and additional audio options would be preferable, this is still an excellent addition to their line.

- Tim Salmons

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