Pan’s Labyrinth v Labyrinth

labyrinthborderIt’s time to journey into two very different fantasy worlds. One has a child-eating monster with eyes in his hands. The other has that guy who wore the ridiculous tiger-print outfit beside Mick Jagger in the video for Dancing In The Street. You decide which is scarier…

Ross McD: Pan’s Labyrinth

You won’t be the first pig I’ve gutted

It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights, it’s time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight… I’m sorry, but when I think about Labyrinth, I always imagine Kermit the Frog popping out of the lower case ‘b’ and introducing David Bowie as tonight’s guest in what is essentially a feature-long episode of the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, muppetational… this is what I call the Muppet Show.

As undisputed as creature creator Jim Henson’s genius was, I’m afraid I’m from the Statler and Waldorf school of appreciation when it comes to the world of Labyrinth.


'Seriously, I just saw David Bowie up a tree outside your window...'

The creatures that inhabit Pan’s Labyrinth, however, we have never seen before – the cutie cute fairies, the repulsively repulsive Pale Man, and the repulsively cute Mandrake. And you can’t pull the technology argument on me – many of those effects were simple puppetry and old-fashioned costumes, just like in Labyrinth.

Don’t get me wrong: there was a time I thought Labyrinth was awesome – when I was six. You may remember it fondly, but believe me when I say it has not aged well. There seems to be an ongoing competition between the main players as to who can be the most annoying, from a young Jennifer Connelly’s protagonist Sarah with her awesome powers of book reciting, to that dopey monster who can’t talk good, to that head-wrecking little fox with his infuriating accent, to the hideous Bob ‘oskins dwarf. Being set more or less entirely in its fantasy world, you soon become bored of it. Pan’s Labyrinth jumps back and forth between Ofelia’s grim fantasy world and an even grimmer real Franco-controlled Spain, two completely separate narratives that slowly intertwine as the film progresses.

The characters in Labyrinth are so dull and Sarah’s tasks so menial that you are willing her for all the wrong reasons to hurry through the titular Labyrinth and arrive at the only interesting things about the film – the rather impressive Escher-esque staircase maze and David Bowie’s awesome glam rock mullet. He may be the evil king of the goblins, but he does make a valid point: why does Sarah want her whinging little brat of a brother back anyway? I mean, he’s not even a cute baby! Nevertheless, Sarah manages to beat him by *sharply intakes breath* remembering a couple of lines from a book. Not even Michael Bay could have made an action sequence out of that. Ofelia goes a lot further to protect her brother, though I suppose she gets immortality as her reward, and not just a bunch of weirdos turning up in her bedroom for a shindig. While David Bowie peeps in the window.

And speaking of which: while Pan’s Capt Vidal was an absolute, out-and-out b**tard, at least he was honest in his intentions – did anyone else find David Bowie coming on to Jennifer Connelly (24 years her senior, God knows how many in goblin years) a little bit dodgy?

Ross McG: Labyrinth

I say, does anyone want to play a game of Scrabble?

Pan’s Labyrinth is a pretty good film. It has solid performances. It has a compelling story. It has beautifully understated special effects. What it doesn’t have, however, is David freakin’ Bowie. Playing a goblin king. Looking like Rod Stewart after a bad night on the town.

Labyrinth should be a steaming pile of codswallop. Its sets look like they could be blown over by a light breeze. Its tumbling rocks are made out of paper-mâché. It has a ‘performance’ by the Thin White Duke that makes Madonna look like Meryl. And yet somehow, amid all this carnage, a great family film bursts out. It’s no work of art and was a box office disaster, but by the end its lack of pretension and continuous chutzpah wins you over. How can you not be entertained by a talking fox-like creature riding a Dulux dog? Or by Bowie bettering Let’s Dance.

fafa afafa fa fa f af af a fa

'IT DOESN'T MATTER... WHAT YOU WEAR!' Sorry lads, but it does. It matters a lot

Although both these films follow a young girl into a land filled with fairies and monsters, they are very different beasts, and all the better for it. Pan’s Labyrinth is a gruelling watch – its shocking violence is brilliantly jolting. It’s a fine film, yet it is not without its faults. Director Guillermo del Toro asks the audience to put much aside for his story to take shape. For instance, the character of Captain Vidal is so evil he becomes completely stripped of all humanity. While del Toro may be trying to say he is far more frightening than any of the creatures in the world little Ofelia visits, it leaves us with the question: why would her lovely mother marry such a monster?

Another question goes unanswered in the sequence where Ofelia performs her second task: removing a key from the gruesome Pale Man’s lair. Until this point she has been a beacon of intelligence, so why are we asked to believe she would carelessly eat some grapes and disturb the monster when she had been expressly told not to? Pan’s Labyrinth also has a misleading title. We actually spend little time there – it is clear the story is more interested in the brutality of its contemporary setting, just after the Spanish Civil War.

There is no such pre-occupation with the real world in Labyrinth. The legendary Jim Henson’s film is only a five-minute hissy fit by Jennifer Connelly’s heroine from jumping head first into the realm of a ball-fiddling goblin king, a worm called William and, not forgetting, a feisty fox thing riding a Dulux dog. Connelly is a fine guide through this messed-up Muppet mayhem (think Sesame Street on speed), although she plays perhaps the worst sister in movie history. Wishing your innocent baby brother was abducted by goblins? Don’t tell mom, the babysitter’s a bitch. Of course, all of us with a sibling have at some point wished David Bowie appeared in a bad wig and took them away. And even though he can’t act for toffee, he really is a Starman here.

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9 Responses to “Pan’s Labyrinth v Labyrinth”

  1. Labyrinth has always made me feel nauseous. I’m sea-sick just thinking about it.

  2. Ross McG: A valiant effort but alas all for nothing as Labyrinth sucks and Pan’s Labyrinth is a masterpiece.

    Labyrinth is hampered by bad sets, bad puppets and bad acting not to mention a tedious story. I am struggling to find anything good to say about it.

    Pan’s Labyrinth benefits from stunning photography and beautiful production design (both in the real world and the fantasy one). The acting is brilliant the story is gripping and compelling. All this is topped of by the perfect amount of ambiguity in the story. One of the best films of recent years and possibly of all time, I am struggling to find anything bad to say about it.

  3. Jordana Says:

    I cant pick!!!!!!

  4. Labyrinth.

    Sometimes (when it suits me) I’m not so sure about this “the film was brilliant when I was a child but now I find it childish” type of argument. A film shouldn’t be marked down for not appealing to adults unless it was intended to. How many times did I watch Labyrinth as a wee man? Plenty. I really liked Pan’s Labyrinth but I never want to see it again.

    So, the film I enjoyed the most from gets my vote.

    “did anyone else find David Bowie coming on to Jennifer Connelly (24 years her senior, God knows how many in goblin years) a little bit dodgy?”

    Well… Jennifer Connelly *is* pretty fit. And she likes a-goblin’.


  5. lilseezie Says:

    The beginning of this post asks us to decide which is scarier. If that’s what’s at stake then Pan’s wins hands down. But which is better? Gotta go with Labyrinth. If “Jump Magic Jump” didn’t seal the deal for you then you clearly deserve to be fed to the Pale Man.

  6. Even though they have so much in common, they’re suck different movies that it’s hard to say which is better. I’d almost compare Pan’s Labyrinth to The Fall, but even there I”m not sure which I like better. I would definitely prefer to watch Pan’s Labyrinth now, but I have seen Labyrinth probably 30 times and I doubt that I’ll see Pan’s even 5.

  7. Im sorry but nothing can beat Captain Vidal’s bottle+face scene in Pan’s Labyrinth. Ouch.

  8. They really shouldn’t be compared, I don’t know why you’re bothering to.

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