Crosswalk’s Christian Hamaker on “Pan’s Labyrinth”

I went to see Pan’s Labyrinth a second time last week, and was completely blown away. I nudged it up a notch on my Top 25 of 2006 (breaking the tie with Children of Men). And I’m considering bumping it up another step. It is magnificent.

Anne (who I married partly because she has the most impressive fantasy-lit library I’ve ever seen, and she loves fairy tales more than almost any grownup I know) loved it too. And so did our good friend Wayne Proctor, with whom I’ve discussed the glories of fantasy storytelling since we collaborated on a fantasy novel as college roommates way back in 1992.

It’s becoming one of those films I want to share with those I love.

And it looks like Christian Hamaker, film critic for Crosswalk, is catching the same fever. Check this out:

“Pan’s Labyrinth” is a fairy tale full of magic. In some Christian circles, fairies are thought to be part of the occult and any form of magic is viewed as a dark art. Fantasy films, therefore, have had a hard time connecting with some discerning Christians who are on guard against depictions of evil dressed up as good. We know that spiritual counterfeits abound in this world, and God commands us to be on guard against beings who appear to be good, but who disguise darker motives. The “Harry Potter” series and “The Golden Compass” books are examples of popular imaginative works that find heavy criticism (but also praise, at least in the case of “Harry Potter”) from many in the Christian community. “Pan’s Labyrinth,” with its blend of mythic storytelling and potent Christian symbolism, is sure to stir further controversy among Christians.

So let me end with a personal statement about this movie, which moved me deeply. As someone who has problems with the “Harry Potter” stories, and who won’t go near “The Golden Compass” stories based on what I know of them, I can only offer a humbly stated but wildly enthusiastic endorsement of “Pan’s Labyrinth.” As an original piece of visual and verbal storytelling, it’s a marvel, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Its images are strange and, at times, frightening, but I found its message of strength through sacrifice deeply spiritual and profoundly Christian.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” is a movie to treasure. They just don’t make ’em like this. If you choose to see it, I think you’ll agree.

Elsewhere, J. Robert Parks admires it as well. But not as much as he admired Del Toro’s previous historical fantasy, The Devil’s Backbone. (His review of that is here.)

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  • HappyCamper

    Best: Blade Runner Director’s Cut of course. It deviated, but in a good way. It’s the poster child for Directors thinking they know how to tell a story better then a writer does, and better then a producer does as well. Of course it’s the poster boy for in film / in context advertising too. :( I didn’t get that Ford was a replicant till the 4rth or 5th viewing.

    My other favorite would be A Scanner Darkly. I’t not really in the same class as BladeRunner but it’s very faithful to the story. For the naysayers: I think you have to have been on drugs at some point in your life to fully appreciate it. Plus it was pretty close to the book for a PKD film.

    Fun But Deviated: Total Recall, Minority Report

    Embarrassed to like/bad but good: Screamers

    Worst: Paycheck, Impostor

  • RC

    best: minority report

    worst: impostor

  • Mark

    Best: Minority Report. The Spielberg touch helped.

    Worst: A Scanner Darkly (one of the few movies I’ve turned off recently).

  • Martin

    I think David Lynch dropping acid would result in something kitchen-sink, like the next Brady Bunch film.

    Blade Runner is the best of the films listed that I’ve seen. I enjoyed Minority Report and missed Scanner Darkly. Paycheck and Total Recall inspire intense revulsion.

  • Tyler

    My favorite Dick movies I guess would be Blade Runner, even though it deviates from the novel (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) too much for me to really enjoy it. Actually, that’s been my problem with pretty much every Dick movie I’ve seen. Still need to watch A Scanner Darkly, though.

    And about Marc’s comment that Valis could be picked up by a Christian-friendly studio: You have obviously not read Valis. It’s David Lynch-on-acid level weird.

    I was kind of disappointed that The Man in the High Castle wasn’t on the Post’s list, too. It’s one of his best novels and, I think, the one that would lend itself most readily to adaptation.

  • Stejahen

    Scanner Darkly. Definitely the most faithful, with the involvement of Dick’s daughters. Minority Report was a lot of fun, not sure how faithful it was.

  • Matt Davids

    Best: Blade Runner (Though I hate the plot structure.)

    Worst: Total Recall

    Speaking of Blade Runner it looks like we’re getting a new verison:

    Matt Davids

  • Marc

    Blade Runner will continue to be shown for many decades (centuries?) as long as people keep watching movies. It’s a great testament to what can be done for a sci-fi movie without CGI.

    The five stories the NY Post listed seem pretty lame. Maybe the Fox spinoff studio for Christian-friendly movies will want to take on “Valis”:

    “After receiving communion in the form of a blast of laser light, Horselover Fat goes on a quest for God, and finds Him in the form of a 2-year-old named Sophia, who confirms that God is actually a reality-controlling satellite orbiting the Earth.”

    Umm, we already have reality-controlling satellites, brought to us by DirecTV and the Dish Network, among others.

  • trent

    Best: Blade Runner (of course)

    Worst: (I’m told) Screamers

    Worst I’ve seen: Paycheque. Wasn’t horrible, just banal. When he’s on form, Woo is great. He wasn’t on form here.

  • Anonymous

    did anyone notice the tribute to the trinity at the end. was this an unconscious slip? or something done deliberately? the mother holding the baby? the three thrones? the cross-like symbol in the center of the circle that the sun shined through behind the thrones? all of these are deep christian symbols whether you like it or not.

  • sam

    I have to disagree. It is not a Christian film because grace is conspiciously missing.

  • Gene Branaman

    I saw it last Saturday & was speechless. It’s one of the most Christian films I’ve seen. Ever. And I know del Toro didn’t necessarily intend to make a film like that. He said he didn’t want to make the Narnia movie because he wasn’t interested in the lion resurrecting.

    But . . . (no spoilers here) the end of Pan’s Labyrinth, for me, surpasses the symbolism of The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. (That statement may be taken as blasphemy by some!) Especially when taken in context of the fairy story of the rose at the film’s beginning. There is a thematic depth in this film that encourages multiple viewings. Themes of truth, justice, the power & purpose of imagination, honor, sacrifice & (the greatest of these) love are in every frame. I can’t wait to see it again!

    Christians should cherish this film! But, I expect, the R-rated violence will keep many away. And maybe the subtitles, too. Odd, that. We’ll turn out in droves for The Passion of the Christ (which has violence & subtitles) or Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (which has both, too) but not for Pan’s Labyrinth. There’s a disconnect here. My friend Liz, who I saw the film with, is not a Christian but she got the symbolism & loved the film, too.

    Wow. Just an amazing film.

  • Matt Davids

    I was impressed by the skillful handling of the “don’t follow orders blindly” theme through the entire picture.

    Matt Davids