'Pan's Labyrinth: 4K Ultra HD'
(Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Ariadna Gil, et al / 2-Disc + Digital / NR / 2019 / Warner Bros.)
Overview: Following a bloody civil war, young Ofelia enters a world of unimaginable cruelty when she moves in with her new stepfather, a tyrannical military officer.
Armed with only her imagination, Ofelia discovers a mysterious labyrinth and meets a faun who sets her on a path to saving herself and her ailing mother.
But soon, the lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur, and before Ofelia can turn back, she finds herself at the center of a ferocious battle between good and evil.
Blu-ray Verdict: Warner Brothers is expanding their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this month with the release of the brilliant, quite stunning 'Pan's Labyrinth' in the expansive 4K Ultra HD video format this October 1st, 2019.
For my money, this 'Pan's Labyrinth: 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital' combo pack's sharpness takes a fairly large step forward from others in their 4K Ultra HD catalog and even comes with HDR (High Dynamic Range) for the complete 4K Ultra HD experience, of course.
So, what we have is 'Pan's Labyrinth' presented to us as a two-disc combo pack with a sheet for a Digital HD Copy. Other stand out points you should know are: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: Upscaled 4K (2160p), HDR: HDR10, Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 and Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1.
Featuring Dolby Vision and HDR10 for brighter, deeper, and way more lifelike colors, as with most all 4K UHD's, everything that we watch features these qualities - but somehow, this film gloriously shines within them all.
Noticeably crisper with the overall clarity receiving an obvious boost here on this release, what's more is that it's enjoyably noticeable. For as well as some new nuances to the somewhat drab palette courtesy of Dolby Vision we also get to witness sudden bright pops of color; like the various outdoor nighttime courtyard scenes involving the fawn and young, and innocent Ofelia. It just all comes more vividly to life now, which is amazing to see, in truth.
Indeed, the picture enjoys the fruits of the added resolution in terms of bringing out the aforementioned extremely fine facial and some of the yellow graded material (notably the scenes where - and trying not to give too much away here for those unseen - a central "creature" holds up their hands to their face to "see" -- given that its eyes are in embedded into its palms, of course) now have a kind of honeyed amber appearance. Which is interesting, and at least a little different from the 1080p Blu-ray accounting.
As for the audio, well we have: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1, and Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1. With Subtitles in English SDH, French, Spanish.
Overall, this is a very strong 4K HDR Blu-ray presentation, and, for the most part, the audio track remains fairly similar to its DTS-HD counterpart; with much of the action occupying the surrounds with outstanding directionality and placement where effects flawlessly pan between the sides and rears.
Phew! OK, so, as for the movie itself, well, taking it from the top (as one always should), the film is set in the not so tranquil Spanish woodlands of aftermath Spanish Civil War, where a small band of anti-fascism rebels are hiding out.
Ofelia's love of fairy tales is obvious from the beginning of The Pan's labyrinth. When a widow marries an authoritarian Francoist captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez), her daughter goes to a countryside mansion.
This is where Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) have come to live, in the company of the violent, brutal Capitán, Ofelia's new stepfather and soon to be father of her half-brother.
The captain and his troops must fight Republican guerrillas of the hills and woods, that Ofelia finds her release and distraction of the new world order and its warring factions and delves into the older, mysterious and enchanting world of fairies, faun's and giant frogs!
Ofelia becomes friend of the servant Mercedes (magnificent Maribel Verdu), who is the sister of one of the rebels and actually is giving support to the bunch.
Ofelia takes refuge in a labyrinth that she finds in the grounds of his home and in reveries involving Pan (Doug Jones) - who sets three tasks she must overcome to take her place as a Princess of a magical kingdom - she also discovers that she must pass all the tests to also obtain immortality; according to the legend, of course.
Meantime, resistance fighters plot their strategies in the nearest forest battling fascist troops. I mean, come on now, this is a most gorgeous, charming, and yet graphic and deadly fairy tale I think there has ever been made, am I right?!
An exceptional picture for its inventive visuals, imagination and fantasy, and inspired partly by Goya's 'Black Paintings', it includes fantastic sequences that perfectly parallel the "reality" on screen.
Sensational acting by Sergi Lopez as a cruel, unforgiving and totalitarian idealist Capitán Vidal, to my mind Versatile Sergi steals the show as the monstrously sadistic officer bringing real menace to what might have been an absurd caricature.
Wonderful and imaginative visual effects by DDT and magnificent special effects by Reyes Abades even the faun's legs were not computer-generated (its been said that director Guillermo del Toro created a special system in which the actor's legs puppeteer the faun's fake ones -- the actor's legs were later digitally removed).
Impressive production design by Eugenio Caballero and rousing set design by Pilar Revuelta made sure that the ruined town seen during the opening sequence of the film is the old town of Belchite Zaragoza; and of that our eyes believed what they saw, of course.
A sensitive, as well as imaginative musical score by Javier Navarrete entwined with some rather colorful and evocative cinematography by Guillermo Navarro - del Toro's go-to for such things - means that with del Toro's direction 'Pan's Labyrinth' became one of the few fantasy films ever nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars.
As for the Special Features the best by a long shot is the Feature Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Guillermo del Toro (found only here on the 4K Ultra HD version of this release).
It's a magnificent window into the man and his mind as he walks us hand in hand through every single scene, commenting as we go about everything from the CGI sky, which of the creatures wore real costumes and which were CGI enhanced, to how certain scenes were filmed and what his intentions were behind them.
In truth, and thankfully for us fans of his work, del Toro never stops speaking, even stumbling over himself a few times in order to get all the pertinent information out to the viewer.
I mean, so much went into each scene he would have needed to pause the film himself hundreds of times whilst narrating it for us, just to allow himself to catch up on what it was he was trying to express!
• Feature Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Guillermo del Toro
• Video prologue by Guillermo del Toro
• The Power of Myth
• The Faun and the Fairies
• The Color and the Shape
• The Director's Notebook
Official HD Trailer
'Pan's Labyrinth: 4K Ultra HD' Amazon Purchase Link
CLICK HERE for a brand new interview with Guillermo del Toro, director of 'Pan’s Labyrinth,' discussing the 4K release of the film.