Movie Reviews: Pan’s Labyrinth and Watchmen

Thought I’d get these two reviews in on the same day, just because they’re both movies I’d think many of you have heard about but not actually watched, due to their rating. If you’re too lazy to read my reviews, I’ll give you a brief overview: you ain’t missing much.

That’s not to say the films were bad. They were pretty good. But they weren’t anything I’d have felt deprived of if I had missed them, and that means they were a disappointment to me. I’d heard such good things about them, and in the end, I was just sort of . . . meh.

Pan’s Labyrinth is definitely visually striking. It tells the story of a girl in WWII Spain who’s forced to deal with the horrors of war while at the same time investigating what might or might not be her own delusions of a fantasy world that’s got more than a small twist of horror to it. DKC actually watched this one with me, and we both came to the same conclusion.

The film has a lot of good working for it. The visuals, the conflicts, the characters–there’s a lot to invest yourself in, and it gives me a lot of hope for The Hobbit, which the director, Guillermo del Toro, is tackling next. By all accounts, I really ought to love this movie. It was nominated for 6 Oscars, it’s at #68 on imdb’s all time list . . . but it just didn’t resonate with me. Maybe my expectations were too high.

What didn’t I like about it? It all comes down to the characters, in the end. The young girl does some tremendously stupid things–things that are not justified at all. Part of me realizes that this is life, and people do tremendously stupid things all the time. But at the same time, I think people are generally consistent. If they’re capable people, they’ll still do stupid things, but you’ll be able to understand why they did them–what their thought process was. Not in this case. For 95% of the time, the girl’s remarkably capable, but in a few key moments, she’s an idiot, plain and simple. I can’t help but think there are some explanations to her actions somewhere on the editing room floor. The same goes for the maid in the film. She’s capable, except when she’s not. And when she’s not, it makes 100% no sense. I’d be more specific, but I’m trying to avoid spoilers.

For me, characters come first–not the plot. If the plot demands that a character do something the character wouldn’t do, change the character or change the plot. Don’t make them do it. That said, I’ll still give the film 3 stars. It just isn’t the 4 stars I wanted it to be.

The second film, Watchmen, is another one that I feel like I ought to have loved. And I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it. Once again, the visuals were stunning, the action scenes were well-handled, the characters were fine (more or less). It was a polished film. For those of you living under rocks, it’s the adaptation of one of the most famous graphic novels of all time. A graphic novel some people called unadaptable. Silly people

As an adaptation, the film works pretty well, but in a way, this is one of my gripes about it. In so many ways, it felt like the book. Too much like the book. The shots mirrored pictures in the graphic novel. The plot was about as jumbled as the novel. Yes, there were some changes made, but in the end, I was left wondering why they had made the movie. There’s already a fantastic version of Watchmen. It’s the original. If all you’re going to do is replicate what’s already been done, but now do it in a different format . . . what’s the point? It’s like Gus Van Sant’s remake of Psycho, where he practically recreated the original shot for shot–he just used different actors and filmed it in color. Why bother? If you’re going to adapt something, adapt it. Don’t xerox the thing.

What else didn’t I like? Primarily one thing: it was gratuitously R-rated. I mean, downright nasty, gory, skanky R-rated. The sort of film you feel like taking a shower after. Yes, the graphic novel was also pretty darn gory, but it felt . . . more artistic? Less gratuitous, somehow. And there’s definitely a big difference between seeing something depicted in a drawing on a page and seeing it depicted in 1080p bluray.

In the end, the film was good–but not great–for me. Which I suppose might have something to do with the fact that I felt the same way about the graphic novel. 3 stars.

5 thoughts on “Movie Reviews: Pan’s Labyrinth and Watchmen”

  1. That’s an interesting reaction to Pan’s Labyrinth. I didn’t feel like the girl ever acted stupid, or incapable. Sometimes she acts like a little girl, but she is one, so that makes sense to me. I really connected to her character.
    That’s the trouble with characters, though. Sometimes the problems lie with the source material, but also sometimes we don’t connect with characters just because they don’t resonate with us personally.

  2. My biggest gripe with her was when she ate the grapes in the banquet hall. There was no indication that she was even all that hungry–or tempted–by the grapes. We got all of one shot of the food, and yes, it looked delicious. But we also got a shot of pictures of demons eating babies, and there was a real live demon at the head of the table. I didn’t think for a moment that a girl who’s not particularly hungry would stop in the middle of her quest to wolf down a few grapes, especially with the threat of being eaten alive sitting not more than five feet from her. That’s the scene where the film lost me.

  3. Yeah, that didn’t really bother me. Maybe because the movie had so definitely entered the fairy world where things like that happened that I didn’t need any real-world character motivations to make it work.

  4. I agree with Janci. I sort of assumed that she ate the grape because it was something she needed to do to make the magic work — something like her destiny inserting itself. I’m not sure why magic would require something like that, but that’s the way magic works. I felt like if this were an American made film there would have been some moral lesson this was supposed to teach, but it’s not American.

  5. It’s not that I’m demanding a moral lesson. I’m just looking for some justification for a pretty big/stupid decision. The movie is such a blend of fairy and reality, it wasn’t enough for me to shrug off with a “meh–that’s fairy tales for you” sort of approach. It irritated me, because I felt it could have been handled much better.

Leave a comment