Pan’s Labyrinth, Mirrormask
I’d heard great things about these movies, but each was a disappointment.
Pan’s Labyrinth had hardly any fantasy in it at all – it was too full of the ‘serious’ drama of the fight against Franco and Spanish Fascism. The fantastic elements were squeezed into the interstices of the scenes in the adult world. It’s not magical realism, because as far as the adults were concerned none of the fantastic things ever happened. It’s not a story about the realm of the imagination, because too much happens in the child’s perspective that cannot simply have been imagined. It’s some strange, incoherent mixture that isn’t really about the fantasy after all.
The effects were nice, but they don’t make a movie.
Mirrormask was just completely disappointing. Characters did things without clear motivations, were introduced hurriedly and awkwardly, and behave in ways that simply don’t make sense merely for the purpose of creating drama.
The special effects were weak, difficult-to-see, and unimpressive. The city of light and the world of shadows looked pretty identical. I expect a city of light to be bright – or at least noticeably brighter than its gloomy spots; instead, we were presented with a sepia-tinged monotony. The antithesis of the city of light looked barely different.
It wasn’t even clear how real the events of the story were. Were they completely a dream, brought on by fear and anxiety about the mother’s illness? Did the dark princess actually do things in the real world while pretending to be the daughter? What exactly do the events mean? What was the mirrormask, and why was it actually important? This wasn’t explained nearly clearly enough to my tastes.
Gaiman can write fascinating text. Shame he can’t seem to make a movie script worth watching.