Top 10 Most Exciting Films of 2017 (First Among Lists)

4 01 2017

star-wars-episode-eight (Lucasfilm - 2017)

Jasper Fforde is a British bestselling Author whose selected works include the The Eyre Affair, The Last Dragonslayer and Shades of Grey.  He is something of an inspiration to me and someone I have not just met and had books of his signed, but have had the fantastic opportunity to have my work looked at and even edited by him; it was a wonderful opportunity and moment for me and still ranks as one of the best moments in my writing career to date. Anyway, I have been thinking a little bit about Jasper Fforde recently, mainly because of The Last Dragonslayer being shown on Sky 1 on Christmas Day, a book which was one of my favourite reads a couple of years ago.

The Last Dragonslayer (Hodder and Stoughton - 2011)

Anyway, to get back on topic, one of the books in his Thursday Next series is called; First Among Sequels. Well before I began writing this; (having awoken from a small nap on Boxing Day) I thought that it could be fun to give a personal touch to one of my early blog posts, in particular one of the early Top 5-ish posts where I talk about last year and this year in films. I was thinking that I should call it First Among Lists. Then I thought that this could be rather confusing for anyone who came along looking for a post on films, as the tile does not suggest anything along those lines. Then I thought; ‘why not’, and added it in brackets after writing this sentence. See. Just thought I would do something a bit more fun and a lot less like written uniform.

split (Universal Pictures - 2016)

2016 has passed, and 2017 has begun. Yes, it’s that time of year when we can break those freshly made resolutions and convert the newly acquired weight’s beach into a clothes horse. I prefer not to make such resolutions as I don’t see any real point in them. Why not, instead of making pathetic New Year’s Resolutions which you’re not going to complete, find something to look forward to instead, like; I don’t know – movies to be released this year? There are quite a lot of good-looking films to be released this year, including the possibility of a remake of The Empire Strikes Back, something to look forward to for many I’ll bet. As is something of an annual tradition for me and my blog now, I have had a good look through the (Wikipedia) movie release schedules and found a whole load of good-looking films to look forward to this year, and am keen to share this information with you all, including which are the Top 10 films I personally am looking forward to. Now there is quite a lot this coming year I have found, and not all could end up on my Top 10, so I just want to give a shout out to the following films: Wonder (the book is really good), King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Alien Covenant, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Geostorm, Despicable Me 3, Split and The Great Wall. If there is anything you in particular are looking forward to this year but is not mentioned on here, please feel free to leave a comment and let me know; but for now, here is what I am looking forward to this year.

dunkirk (Warner Bros - 2017)

10. Dunkirk – Films set during World War II don’t really get my interest. World War 2 is an important event during the entire history of this planet of course, but the use of the subject matter in the media I feel has been rather overdone; you only need to look at Video Games set during WW2 to see what I mean. Why am I interested in this then, well because Christopher Nolan is directing it, and I feel that that is a good a reason as any to not write it off as of yet. A trailer has been released which I have yet to give a proper look at, and will probably do so when I edit this post in WordPress, the one thing we have to hope for of course is that the film is done right, and does not replace the British, Belgian and French Soldiers with American Ones for the sake of the film (America was actually still one whole year away from joining WW2 during the events of the Dunkirk Evacuation).

return-of-xander-cage (Columbia Pictures - 2017)

9. XXX: Return of Xander Cage – I am surprised how long it has taken to get this film made, as this should have been done nearly 10 years ago. The first Triple X film starring Vin Diesel, Marton Csokas, Samuel L. Jackson and Asia Argento was a film I really liked and was hoping for a sequel. A sequel was what we got, but without 3 of the previous mentioned cast members, try to guess which ones. The first one was a unique blend of modern and traditional spy films with the added bonus of extreme sports and stunts, creating what I think is still quite a cool little film. While this new one may be missing Asia Argento (and Csokas of course for those who have seen the original), I still feel quietly excited by this, and hope that the juices that flowed in the original will blossom once more and possibly create an interesting franchise; 14 years late.

thor-the-dark-world (Marvel Studios - 2013)

8. Thor: Ragnarok – The first Thor film was something of a surprise to me, as I had no idea what to expect, but absolutely loved. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has the feeling about it that it might have begun to start to come to a close as the series for one feels like it’s beginning to drag and feature less of its more prominent characters. I do feel sort of glad though that Thor gets one more solo outing before that happens, but it does come with a bit of un-nerve. I have not really been tracking its production, but it feels wrong that Natalie Portman is not going to be in it. I don’t know as to the why she is not in it, but when you have been using two previous films to create a romance between two characters, only for one to leave with no real reason and probably to be replaced, I feel that is something of a bad idea, because, that previous romance has been developed, this new one won’t be to an audience point of view and will come across as more confusing, than heart-warming. It has been done before, just look at Transformers: Dark of the Moon as an example. Anyway, I still have hope for Thor, as I want it to be just like the previous two films; proper fun, enjoyable films. While the love life maybe completely in the air, what isn’t is the male cast which still includes Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba and Anthony Hopkins, as well as newcomers to the Thor films in Avengers regular Mark Ruffalo, and more interestingly; Jeff Goldblum.

war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes (20th Century Fox - 2017)

7. War for the Planet of the Apes – The new Planet of the Apes film series has become one of the standout heavyweights of cinema, and has achieved this with only 2 films released so far. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a wonderfully thought out and brought together film which created truly marvellous moments (including the death of Draco Malfoy), this continued on with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which set man and ape against one another in a brutal fashion while also weaving in a thought-provoking plot. Now, things are set to get even deeper, as audiences have a heavy minded choice to make, as they decide whether to fight with humanity, or with the apes in a battle to decide who will be the new dominant species. Regular ape cast members are set to return, while humanity is represented by former District 12 Winner Woody Harrelson…..should be pretty interesting.

the-shape-of-water (Bull Productions - 2017)

6. The Shape of Water – In all honesty I don’t know much about this film. Wikipedia says its: “An other-worldly story, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1963”. Why do I take an interest in this film you ask? Because Guillermo Del Toro is directing it! While it’s plot is currently vague with not much known about it other than production details including cast members such as Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones, it is hard to expect what it could be, but considering what this film sort of suggests, part of me wonders if this could be Del Toro’s next Pan’s Labyrinth?

the lego-batman movie (Warner Bros - 2017)

5. The Lego Batman Movie – When I went to see The Lego Movie, it was clear to me who the real star of the show was: Batman (voiced by Will Arnett). I loved the portrayal of Batman in the Lego movie, just could not get enough, so was super excited when I found out that he was getting his own movie, and this year it gets released. I can still hear his awesome self-crafted theme tune going through my head right now. Have seen a couple of trailers so far, and it’s hard to work out where it is going or what it is going to do, but as long as Batman is the Lego Movie Batman (which is by far the best Batman to date), then it should be awesome (pun intended).

Power Rangers (Lionsgate - 2017)

4. Power Rangers – Is it excitement or hope why I have put this film so high in this list? I am not going to get too detailed here about this; I made my views very clearly detailed back in September. What I do want to say is that I am excited but still very nervous about the Power Rangers movie due for release in the coming months. The film is not too far from release and the trailer does look pretty promising, but given what we have seen in the past when Power Rangers have taken to the big screen, I think my nerves are a reasonable reaction. I do want this film to work, and do feel that in the right hands and with the right execution, this film could become a worthy rival to the Transformers film series. The trailer and shots from production do look pretty good, but I don’t think any of us who intend to see this film can really hope to relax until this film actually gets released, then we can find out if a third time can be some kind of charm for the Power Rangers.

transformers-the-last-knight (Paramount - 2017)

3. Transformers: The Last Knight – I have been a fan of the Transformers films from day one. It is a series I have enjoyed throughout and have continued to do so to the present day. When Age of Extinction came out in 2014, I was unsure of where the series was heading for, but was blown away by a powerhouse of a film, my favourite entry to date and have been super excited to hear there is not just going to be a sequel, but also returning with the fantastic new cast of Extinction. While Nicola Peltz is a no-show at current, Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and Josh Duhamel (from the first 3 films) are all confirmed for what is so far looking to what could be the most ‘confusing’ entry in the series to date (and I can’t help but wonder if the title is a reference to something that happens in the film, or is a reference to the status of the series director).

kong-skull-island (Legendary Pictures - 2017)

2. Kong: Skull Island – Soon after the release of Godzilla in 2014; Legendary Pictures announced that they were going to make some more Godzilla films, as well as possibly creating a shared universe which would also include King Kong. Well; King Kong is set to return this year with his very own reboot, as a stellar cast of actors including (but not limited to) Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson and John Goodman decide to explore an uncharted island occupied by a variety of horrific monsters, all of it overseen under the might of the Great Ape known mainly as KONG. So far the film is looking really good; Kong’s design especially looks terrific and while details of the story are still relatively unknown, the current premise looks pretty cool. How it will turn out is another thing, but so far, I am really excited for this one (let’s just hope Peter Jackson didn’t accidentally walk onto the set during production).

logan (20th Century Fox - 2017)

1. Logan – A lot of things have happened in cinema over the last 17 years, but one of the very few constants is the portrayal of Wolverine in the X-Men Film Series. Since the series began, Wolverine has been portrayed by Hugh Jackman, and has helped not just kick-start his movie career, but made him a household name. “But all good things must come to an end” many pessimistic people have said, and this appears to be true for the relationship between High Jackman and Wolverine, but the animal is not going to bow out without one last bloodbath. Set for release this year: Logan looks to tie up the loose ends of the series so far, as the X-Men head to bold new directions (especially with Deadpool looking set to become the series main star). Expect possible tears, as well as a lot of blood as Wolverine bows out in more ways than one, delivering potentially his final chapter, with support from his long-time friend and series heavyweight Patrick Stewart returning once more to play Charles Xavier, as they face one last enemy together, possibly in the rumoured form of Mr. Sinister.

GENEPOOL (Well that is my list, what movies are you looking forward to this year?).





A Big Red Right Hand – Hellboy

7 09 2016

Hellboy (Revolution Studios - 2004)

A few weeks ago while dining at a church fellowship meal, someone on the table remarked at how everything on TV and at the Cinema all involved Super Heroes. Now while this is something more of a cliché possibly or more likely an over exaggerated statement, there is a lot to be said about the number of Super Hero based things on TV and at the Cinema at the moment. Things like Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow on TV, whereas cinema this year has had several comic book related films like Captain America: Civil War, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, X-Men Apocalypse and of course Deadpool. The reason for all of these of course is that right now they are very popular franchises, plus more importantly..…they make money. Super hero/comic book/graphic novel based movies are nothing new, they have been around for a while, its only in the last 8 years or so that they have really gained much in the way of traction; however, it should be noted that not all comic book/graphic novel interpretations are about super heroes, I mean, would you call V for Vendetta a Super Hero Movie?

V for Vendetta (Warner Bros. - 2006)

Released in 2004 by Revolution Studios, Produced by Lawrence Gordon and Directed by Guillermo Del Toro; Hellboy is a comic book adapted movie based on the Dark Horse Comics character of the same name by Mike Mignola and released by Dark Horse Comics. This is by no mean Del Toro’s first foray into making movies based on comics, as 2 years previously he directed Blade II.

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In 1944, The Nazi’s with the help of Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden), build a machine off the coast of Scotland to create a portal in the hope of releasing a group of monstrosities called the Ogdru Jahad to aid them in winning the war. Rasputin opens the portal with help from Ilsa Von Haupstein (Biddy Hodson) and Thule Society member Obersturmbannführer Karl Ruprecht Kroenen (Ladislav Beran), who is also Hitler’s top assassin. A group of allied soldiers arrive just in time guided by Trevor Bruttenholm. The German team is defeated and the portal is closed, sucking Rasputin in, in the process. As the allied soldiers search the grounds however, they discover that an infant demon with a big right hand-made of stone did travel through the portal. Bruttenholm decides to adopt him, and the soldiers call him Hellboy. Sixty years later, in the mountains of Moldova, Kroenen and Ilsa resurrect Rasputin, while in America, young FBI agent John Myers (Rupert Evans) is transferred to the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) at the request of Bruttenholm (John Hurt), where he meets the amphibious humanoid Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and the now grown up adult Hellboy (Ron Perlman), who has grounded off his horns. As soon as he meets Hellboy though, they get a shout that something is going on at a local Museum. Inside the Museum, Rasputin has unleashed the monstrous Sammael (Brian Steele) and bestowed upon him the power of reincarnation. Hellboy fights with Sammael, defeating him after a long lengthy fight, before then disappearing to see Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), a former BPRD member who is now residing in a mental hospital hoping to gain more control of her pyrokinetic abilities. After Hellboy is gone however, Rasputin visits, and mentally activates her powers which in turn burns down the hospital.

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Back at the BPRD HQ, the team discovers that a creature from Sammael laid eggs into Hellboy while it was attached to his arm. Whilst John goes off to visit Liz and encourage her to return to the BPRD, Hellboy, Abe and a team of guards including Agent Clay (Corey Johnson), head to the subways to find and destroy a nest of eggs belonging to Sammael, into which Hellboy discovers has come back to life, while Abe fights with another. Abe is severally injured in the fight while Hellboy dispatches with the other. Several BPRD Agents are killed however by Kroenen, who then shuts down his clockwork body so he can be taken into BPRD HQ. FBI Director Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor) is not too pleased with Hellboy’s actions. John takes Liz out for Coffee, while Hellboy who has romantic feelings for her, stalks them. In the Bureau HQ, Kroenen re-animate himself, and both he and Rasputin make themselves known to Bruttenholm. Rasputin reveals to him, that Hellboy is the agent that will reopen the portals and destroy the world. Bruttenholm who is dying of Cancer, and who has raised Hellboy like a son, believes that Hellboy in the end will make the right choice, and Kroenen stabs him in the neck.

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Manning takes over the BPRD after Bruttenholm’s funeral, and leads a team consisting of agents, John, Liz and Hellboy to Russia in hope of finding Rasputin’s Mausoleum. With help from a local cemetery corpse resident Ivan (Guillermo Del Toro), they find the mausoleum, but get separated once inside. Hellboy and Manning find the lair of Kroenen and quickly defeat him, while Liz and John find Sammael’s eggs, where there are no quite a few of them. Hellboy arrives and does battle, but its Liz who saves them as she sets fire to the lair, killing all of the Sammael’s and his eggs, meaning he can no longer be resurrected. The group though is captured by Ilsa and Rasputin. Using Liz’s soul as a bargaining chip, Hellboy reveals his true power as Anung un Rama, with his horns growing back and begins the ceremony to release the Ogdru Jahad. Myers quickly breaks from his restraints and reminds Hellboy of what Bruttenholm brought him up to be. As such Hellboy breaks his horns, and kills Rasputin before the creatures could be finally released. Rasputin, revealing to have had one of the Ogdru Jahad possessing him, releases the tentacled monster. Hellboy defeats the creature by blowing it up from the inside. He then returns to Liz, whispering into her ear, threatens to go to the other side unless her soul is returned to her, as such Liz is revived instantly and the two share a kiss.

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Hellboy isn’t what you would exactly call a Super Hero Movie. It definitely shares traits and themes to films of this Calibre, but in all perfect honesty, Hellboy is not really a Super Hero, he is more an Anti-hero. He saves the day and the world on a regular basis from threats and monsters from the other side, but when he goes back home, he doesn’t live a life of obscurity or simply puts some glasses on, he returns home and does what he wants when he wants. In a way, he is more a mirror image of the human condition and what most of us are likely to do if we were super heroes, and want we would want out of it, not what is right, but what is desire. He wants fame, he wants fortune, he wants food, he wants love, don’t we all deep down? Yes, he is a super natural force from a world that is not this one and is employed to defeat the forces from beyond, to protect this world from the greatest threats not of this world or even this reality, but he is given a pampered life to make up for the life he simply cannot have as to who he is. If you look at other super heroes (except for maybe Deadpool), and what they do, and how it drives them, Hellboy is not in it for that, and when he does go in for a fight, he makes it as big, as loud and as exciting as possible, just because it allows him to go outside once in a while. He is less a Super Hero, more just like you or me, in it for a kick, but secretly desiring more.

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As a film, the tone and ideas are a little bit off-putting, there is no middle ground in explaining, this film is based on subjects about the dark arts, and the grim dark and horrid after life that is in the lead’s name. But through all that though, comes this incredibly well thought out and well created mythology and ethos surrounding the characters, what they do and who they fight. It’s very similar I think to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as it’s setting and mythologies are all based on well documented ideas and beliefs, but brings them into the here and now rather than through some old age orientated may centuries ago fantasy world. This is the kind of Fantasy that should be explored more often, because it makes it more apparent, believable and interesting to a more modern culture and audience. I can see why Del Toro did this film in the end, it works perfectly to the style of films he started out doing and continues to create (Fantasy Horror). The setting is of course our world, but it goes on to suggest a dark uncertain future, including the possible apocalypse, and through its ideas creates some visually stunning moments. We are not talking Independence Day like scenes here; we are only talking a small fraction of visuals, but still aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but also amazing and horrifying to believe. It all works well into this well created and wonderfully designed setting while also providing everything else a film needs to grab the attention of the audience. It’s visually stunning, with grips of an enchanting and horrifying storyline while also adding a well-researched and believable mythos.

BPRD logo

It’s interesting to note the strong calibre of movie industry veterans cast in major roles in what is really such a small comic book movie, but I bet that comes more from the established director. Jeffrey Tambor is someone I have had little exposure to in the past and before seeing this, the only role I have seen in him was Muppets from Space. In that he had a high seniority role which came with a lot of pressure and a lot of stress, but overall was an incredibly funny role. Here we have something somewhat similar minus the comedy. He comes in as something of a corporate/political nemesis whose only concern is really himself and his position and finds that while the BPRD has its uses, he considers them overall a joke and a waste of resources. From his first appearance onwards he presents himself as someone who does not at all care for Hellboy, and his immediate introduction is shown of someone with a lot of power and whom carries a large level of intimidation. This carries on, showing his more demanding, not necessarily selfish side, but one who wants and demands respect; although how he reached his position could be questionable. He however, like a good scripted character, does show his uses and redeems himself in a flat second by showing his thanks to Hellboy for saving his life, and shows him how to light a cigar. Similarly there is of course John Hurt playing the adoptive father of Hellboy and head of the BPRD. He presents himself on a more caring but still serious note and overall rather than being a head of section comes more across as that chemistry/history teacher that we all come to be fond of and respect. His father figure like stance has its moments and the story of him dying ensures to enrich the plot and reason for Myers existence in the film, all which leads to a revelation point as to the true meaning for Hellboy, but still his ensured faith as to that Hellboy will make the right choice.

Jeffrey Tambor and Ron Perlman

While this film is primarily about creatures/monsters, there is of course a lot of human interaction. Some of these have been allowed very little screen time but are presented enough and are performed brilliantly enough for them to remain a key part. Characters like Ilsa are a good show for this. Someone who is a high officer in the Nazi Party and the key love interest for Rasputin, who, slowly but surely begins to reveal a sort of near psychopathic and heretic side, someone who believes in the cause no matter how it comes. She is very old-fashioned and also en-richly disciplined given her growing up and position, and keeps to this even after 60 years have passed by. Kroenen meanwhile is more a Monster than a human, and becomes a key villain from start to finish, even if he is just a puppet in the end. He too shows an incredible dark side, killing without mercy and has even showed some remains of being human showing traits such as laughing; however his body is less the case. Rasputin is something of a cross between Dracula and Darth Vader I find. He is presented more as a prophet and is unwieldy fiendish, but for him it’s all been planned out, and if it’s not part of the plan, he has no motive for it and will either order it dead, or just not think about it. He uses as much as he can to get what he desires and will maintain a level of control to keep the plan ripe and eventually fruitful at all costs. He is an interesting villain, but you get this feeling though that he is not the puppet master either, like there is someone else pulling the strings, but it’s never really shown (also, he has this weird change of voice before he turns into the monster).

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Myers comes across though as a young man in his prime excelling and desiring to do what is right in what is already a stressful job. He does not get on too well with Hellboy, and it feels like he is side-lining himself just so he can work on/with Liz, either because working with her feels more normal, or because of another reason. He continues to try and work with Hellboy, but while he is supposedly the lead human in this film, it feels like his point or part just gets more and more obscure and less needed other than to help Hellboy make the right decision. Other than that, he has almost served his purpose already. Maybe he is just an Introduction to the world of the BPRD, for the sake of the audience, as while he is a key feature for the first act, and a bit of the second, by the third, it feels like he is not even there. Agent Clay I find is a lot more of an interesting character than Myers, as he comes off a lot more strongly to begin with, and his compatibility with Hellboy comes off immediately as the two respect and care for each other even if their position does not require it. He shares very few scenes, but when he is in them, it feels like he is a much stronger lead in comparison to Myers, and that deep down, Clay should be the lead, but I don’t see how that could work either, as it’s clear he has been around a while.

Corey Johnson

The one theme this film tries to tell and thoroughly resonates, is what it takes for someone to become a Man. It gets mentioned start to finish and in the end becomes the story. This theme though really does work well for Hellboy. You need to remember that Ron Perlman is playing a very demanding and physical role, but in reality is the only real actor who could play the part, as the character needed someone physically big but also who could act, not like hiring an actor who is big but is only hired for physical capability. But despite the experience and wisdom of Perlman, it should be noted that Hellboy is actually a much younger character than Perlman is. In reality, Hellboy is actually very childish; a spoiled brat who gets more than he deserves but still demands more. He is like an over pampered cat, receiving so much food and attention, but still desires and believes he needs more. He is also something of a smitten lover, desiring Liz, even though she would rather lead a more normal life. He shows this by endlessly talking about her and trying to visit her/bring her back to the BPRD then eventually stalk her when she goes out with Myers. Like the average action hero, he does in the end ‘get the girl’, but it’s not through his childish ways, it’s when he grows up, becomes more respectful, and then threatens to fight tooth and nail for how much he loves her, therefore going from a childish brat, to a man, even if he is not human.

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Abe Sapien I find is something like a rabbit in a field of cats. This film’s ideas and premise surrounds a demonic identity, then in the meantime there is this character who is not that in anyway shape or form. He is less an alien, nor a demon, he is more in fact a natural mutation with a human life. He is more a book work than a man of action, less likely to get into a fight and more read his way out of a battle than throw a fist. He however though carries the trait of a group counsellor. He carries a lot of wisdom even if he could be considered a little young; he comes packed with knowledge, but still packs a little attitude. But in the end knows his place and where he belongs and knows the importance and vitality of the groups function and works to act as a mediator in-between the heat. He may feel less than respected or a part of the group, but he believes in it. Liz Sherman for me though is the one who stands out the most. She comes across as this shy, and vulnerable character, who is scared as to who she is and what she can do. She carries a real fear for it, and though while not a monster in appearance, feels on equal footing to the others in what she is. She desires a more normal human life, feeling more like an outcast in all walks of life. She has power but looks human. She wants to be human, but knows that humanity won’t give her credit as to what she looks like given as to what she can do. I do feel this really affection for the character, and really come to know who she is and how that affects what she desires. She then starts to build confidence thanks to Myers and receives the opportunity to lead a more normal life thanks to him, but then, upon the death of Bruttenholm comes to the knowledge that the ‘freaks’ need to stick together, and that Hellboy needs her support in what is a hard time for him. She grows and grows, becoming a tough fighter in the final battle escapades and even something of a leader, showing great deals of professionalism while also still coming to terms with whom she is and what she can do, which she then discovers, and comes to less fear it, more embrace it. Selma Blair plays what is for me, a very identifiable role and one whom I somewhat can’t get enough of, and come to anticipate with joy her next appearance.

Selma Blair (I know it's from Hellboy 2)

The film being one that is filled with many marvellous and very imaginative creatures will of course come packed with the not so original assortment of special effects to make these things come to life. It should be noted however that a great deal of special effects in this film are not necessarily the work of CGI or Computer Generated Imagery, in fact for the most degree, many of the needed special effects more take the form of make-up, masks and costumes. It should be noted that in his early life, Del Toro actually studied and worked for 10 years in special effects and even started his own company. It is obvious to note then that when it came to Special Effects needed for this film, that he already had it planned out early one. For the actual shoot and filming of scenes, Hellboy, Abe, Sammael and Kroenen are actually costumes and or models when needed. CGI is only brought in when they needed to use them for a scene that would require CGI and when a Suit/Mask/Makeup would not work. Scenes such as creatures in Water, Sammael’s resurrecting, and the giant portals and monsters. This allowance but also reduced requirement for Computer Graphics means that there is a lot more involvement between characters in certain scenes, and makes the fighting look more fluid and dynamic, because the fighting is real. The other thing is though, that you can actually see the difference, as when the costumes are in shot, because the physical entity is living you can see it interact, but also, it looks fresher. When the computer animated imagery is in place, there is a feel that some of it is rather unfinished. Don’t know if you saw my review on the film Mimic (also by Del Toro), but in that the CGI was easy to be seen as not good or possibly unfinished, there was a direct correlation between real life and fake quality. In this you get a similar feeling, and it only really works for the CGI when things are happening quickly, like a fight scene or a chase as it blurs in and you don’t spot it, but then when you get it standing still, it’s very noticeable, that more could have been done in that department.

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Special effects are not everything in a film like this, because in order to convey the right feel to such an imaginative thing, you need a good quality soundtrack (composed by Marco Beltrami) to back it up. Hellboy does have a sort of strange mix of pieces of music, ranging from the dark and mystical, to the old-fashioned with a bit of attitude. Pieces of music in those areas include when the portal is opening near the end, when Liz’s power is awakened in the hospital, to pieces like the BPRD theme when Myers turns up, Bruttenholm’s funeral, to the more modern sounding music as Myers and Liz go for a ride, then intermixed you also have the one of piece that sounds just sort of added and silly, but not in a bad way. But for me I want to highlight 3 distinct pieces of music. Now the third one I should note is only available really with the Director’s Cut of this film, but I would like to point out here and now (if I have not already) that this film’s Director’s Cut is where this film is at. It really enhances and includes and builds on from the original cut and though while its original cut is pretty good; to get the full experience, watch the DC. Anyway; the first piece is really this film’s main theme and you hear it the minute the credits are about to roll. It’s sort of twisted and sinister, that’s how it comes across anyway; and intermixed has a romantic track line, but for the most part is this dark and twisted tone that really sets up what you have been watching for the last 2+ hours and sort of puts it into a level of context, while also providing a mystical identity.

The next two pieces are more sort of added as to enrich the soundtrack but by adding pieces that were already made but not necessarily for this film. The first is Red Right Hand (I wonder why) by Nick Cave and the Dark Seeds. It only gets played after Hellboy’s introduction to Myers as the gang go to the museum in a bin lorry. However, well in the film plays as a really groovy soundtrack that just dominates most of the sound and works well to present the scene as best it can, especially when you see the agents marching in front of the bin lorry as the doors open. It’s a dark, twisted tune, but comes with a sort of light listening punch that you can’t help but sing a long too (much like the third song). The piece is actually very different in presentation to how the film puts it in, but either way, it’s still good.

Then you have this song by a band called Forseps. It’s just called Hellboy, but that is something of a lyric. It’s very different to everything else as it’s more heavy rock with a twist of a groove packing mystery and excitement as the song builds, explaining who Hellboy is, but then it hits this Lyric ‘HELLBOY’ and into that we get a lashing of attitude, the attitude this film has included, but only really feels now is the time to unleash. It’s mainly just a nice, interesting, but also levelly piece of fun on which to end the film on.

I really like Hellboy, both as a film and as an idea, especially the character. I consider him definitely worthy of equal footing in comparison to the other big super hero movie boys out there, if not a greater footing than them, it’s definitely more interesting and fun than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here you have very human like characters, even if some of them aren’t. You have these well thought out and researched ideas, enriching a really cool but also big plot and it comes packed with everything in between to male what is a very enjoyable film. While its mythos and ideas will put some people off, for everyone who does (‘dare’) to see it, there is a lot to like and a lot to enjoy, and in the end while such ideas are present, they are not the be all and end all of the tale, in fact it sort of goes beyond that and goes into other ideas and mythology, springing out-of-bounds to other locations and interests. Packed up with an incredible cast, touch-able-worthy special effects, and a mystically dark soundtrack that packs a punch, altogether Hellboy is a very magical film, and while I would not necessarily consider it a Super Hero Movie like the other adaptations of this sort, when you do think about it in league with those films and series: While it may currently only have 2 films in a potential trilogy, it still packs more and is generally more entertaining than many others. Yes, there are a lot of Super Hero Movies and TV Shows right now, but spare a quick thought for those that dare to do something different.

GENEPOOL (Also, quick shout out to Ivan).





Don’t Let The Big Bugs Bite – Mimic

30 12 2015

Mimic (Miramax - 1997)

Imagine the scene, there is a terrifying new disease-spreading throughout your home town, killing lots and lots of people…and there is no cure. What do you do? You could hang around and wait for a miracle cure, or you could find a way to stop the disease from spreading/catching further. It’s an interesting plan, and wouldn’t you believe it, it’s possible – just so as long you are sure it won’t come back to eat you in 3 years’ time.

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Released in 1997 by Miramax and Directed by Guillermo Del Toro, Mimic is a Science Fiction Horror Film based on the short story of the same name written by Donald A. Wollheim. Mimic deals with the subject of genetic construction and tampering in a similar theme and style to the written works of Michael Crichton, particularly his book and later film Jurassic Park. This time however it’s for the creation of a new species of bug, which then quite literally bites back when it goes out of control.

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In Manhattan, a deadly disease known as Strickler’s disease has struck, claiming the lives of hundreds of children. The disease has no cure, nor a vaccination; however what people do know is that it’s being carried by the common cockroach. To this end, Entomologist Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) is brought in by the C.D.C. to create a new species of insect (a cross between Termite and Praying Mantis DNA) which she and her husband Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam) call the Judas Breed. The insects are successful in killing off the Cockroach population, and with it Strickler’s disease. The Judas Breed meanwhile was designed to be unable to live and breed outside the lab for no more than 6 months, and so would die after 1 generation. Three years later, a reverend is chased and dragged underground by a mysterious assailant; the only person to witness it however is a possibly autistic boy called Chuy (Alexander Goodwin) who notices the strange sound the assailant makes, naming him Mr. Funny Shoes (Doug Jones, Bill Lasovich and Roger Clown). The following morning, the church building is cordoned off by C.D.C. agent Josh (Josh Brolin); who notices excrement hanging off the ceiling, inside of which has some buttons.

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Susan, now working at a natural history museum with her assistant Remy (Alix Koromzay), buys some bugs off kids Ricky (James Costa) and Davis (Javon Barnwell). One of the bugs in question is rather big and looks rather weird. Upon closer inspection, Susan begins to realize that the bug is a member of The Judas Breed and is also a baby. But before she can find out more, her office is attacked by an assailant, who only appears to take the bug specimen with him. Susan explains this to her Husband, and with Remy and the kids in tow, they try to get another specimen from a subway locker, but are stopped by Subway cop Leonard (Charles S. Dutton), who demands to see a Permit. Meanwhile, with some information from Susan, and the hope of making quick money, Ricky and Davis journey through the Underground and find an Egg sack, but before they can do anything, both kids are killed by a strange creature. In the subway meanwhile, Susan meets Chuy who is with his guardian Manny (Giancarlo Giannini). That night Chuy hears Mr. Funny Shoes inside the church, and goes looking for him, while Remy and Susan go to a water treatment plant where a large bug, is discovered. Susan’s boss Dr. Gates (F. Murray Abraham) examines the creature and summarizes that the bug is a soldier and part of a colony.

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Manny discovers that Chuy has disappeared, and goes underground to look for him after spotting some clues as to where he might have gone. Upon getting a permit to look in the subway locker, Leonard, Peter and Josh head underground to find another specimen, and find traces of more hanging excrement. Susan meanwhile waits outside in the station, looking through some photographs. In the station though, is one of the assailant figures, who transforms into a large man-sized bug, which then takes her deeper underground. Peter and Leonard fall into an old subway station, and Josh runs off to find help, but is then killed by a large creature. Susan meanwhile comes to, and tries to call for help from the city above, but nobody listens. One of the large insects does however, and comes after her. She is eventually rescued by Manny, who after finding Leonard and Peter asks them for help. They take refuge inside an old Coney Island subway car, but Leonard gets injured by an insect that manages to get inside. Upon killing it; Susan explains that by increasing their metabolism, The Judas Breed were able to both reproduce and mutate very fast, despite being unable to biologically reproduce at all. To this end, the creatures have begun to evolve, and Mimic their main predator: Man. At that moment, the car is swarmed by big insects, smelling the blood coming out of Leonard’s Leg. Using the dead one’s smell glands, Susan coats the windows in the smell of the dead creature insides, causing the other to flee, making the insects think the train is one of them. With the insects gone, the group formulates a plan to move the car down the tracks to a possible escape. Peter is sent to get the power back up, while Manny is sent to switch the tracks.

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Inside the car, Susan believes the Mimic Insects could spread out of the subway system and colonise anywhere they choose. She describes to Leonard that one way of preventing them from doing this would be to find and kill the colony Male, who will be the only one capable of allowing the Judas Breed to reproduce. While out to switch the tracks, Manny finds Chuy but is killed by one of the insects. Peter manages to get the power back on, and finds Chuy, and Susan, who left the car to look for Manny. They are however cornered by a group of Mimic Insects. Knowing he hasn’t got much time left, Leonard uses the smell of his bleeding leg to distract the insects long enough for Susan and Chuy to hop into a dumb-waiter and escape. Peter then sets off to find a way to stop the creatures while they are still down there. He gets chased into a room which turns out to be a colony nest. Using a pickaxe, he quickly releases gas into the room, hoping to use Manny’s lighter to set it alight, but the lighter has stopped working. With next to no time left, he uses the axe to cause a spark on some railings, causing the room to catch fire, killing all the bugs, and sending a fireball throughout the immediate subway area. Escaping from the Fireball, Susan goes to look for Chuy, but runs into the male Bug. Using her own blood to attract it, she has it chase her; just ducking out of the way from an oncoming Subway train, crushing the Male Mimic. On the surface, the area is in Anarchy after the subway fireball. Dr. Gates explains to Susan that after combing the area twice; ensures her that nothing could have survived. Peter meanwhile had a lucky escape diving into a pool of water, and is reunited with both Susan and Chuy on the surface.

If you look through the filmography of director Guillermo Del Toro, particularly at the films he has directed; many films immediately come to my mind and are at the forefront of his directing career. Films of course like Pan’s Labyrinth, the Hellboy films, Blade II, Pacific Rim, as well as a host of films directed in his native Mexico (that I have not yet seen). On this list however you will also find MIMIC. Back when Pacific Rim was due for release, I remember reading inside VUE Cinema’s prevue magazine a piece about Del Toro and his output, and MIMIC stands out in his filmography, but the main reason for this is due to the film not making back its budget, and when compared to the success of his later films; MIMIC is held as being something like a Black Sheep in his career output. I don’t think that kind of statement is very fair however; because I think MIMIC is very good. It’s is Tremendously Terrifying. I have known about this film for years after seeing the beginning once back in between 2005 and 2008 and after finding out what it was have kept on eye on it since, but recently it was the first time I had watched it all the way through. It carries a lot of frights and scares throughout, while also maintaining a level of creepiness, because bugs are creepy, plus the science fiction story genre element works and is explained well. It’s not like 1950 American Monster Movie explanations where it is done rather quickly; MIMIC instead explains it bit by bit by the relevance of it as the characters begin to explore it. The science fiction side also makes a nice break/change from most monster horror fiction too as it goes into talk about the need for the bug species, but then how while science in the lab can be controlled, the real world can’t. The idea of this film being like a Michael Crichton novel was actually something my Lecturer suggested (who as far as I am aware has not seen it, but suggested such when I mentioned it), and when you look into it sort of does. The mention towards Jurassic Park is very apt I feel, as both stories talk about the new future for science, but in the real world, nature cannot be controlled so easily.

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I don’t know if you have watched The Strain or not (I can’t see why you wouldn’t have watched it, since the demise of Top Gear it is officially the best show on TV), but I find that in terms of the handling of its characters, Mimic has some rather similar similarities. The Strain is of course the TV Series adaptation of a book series written by Guillermo Del Toro himself about the release of a Vampire Virus. While Mimic has a similar feature in that sense, that is not what I am going to talk about right now. Mimic has an assortment of characters, all of them in varying different ways of life, the kind of people you wouldn’t necessarily think of associating with each other. Much like The Strain where you have some people who know and work on the Virus but then only to join up with others and create a rag-tag group of people which includes themselves, a pawn shop owner, an exterminator and a computer hacker. This sort of thing happens in Mimic also with characters ranging from an Entomologist, agents of the C.D.C., a subway cop, a shoe shiner, and his Autistic Ward suddenly converge on each other.

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Thankfully the major part of this cast is small so I am not going to get bogged down like the Independence Day review last week. Anyway; Mimic, sort of like Independence Day again, does work hard to incorporate and make good tertiary characters all the way through the film. So automatically within the first 10/15 minutes you get characters like Ricky and Davis who to begin with get a big role, but eventually, and something I feel of as a departure for the film, don’t survive and become early victims to the Mimic Bugs, but they’re not in the background, they are upfront, and so their death scene becomes a big moment for the film. Then you get characters like Josh, characters who meet the true meaning of supporting characters. He is the film’s light relief, a sort of comedy character. Another person who meets a grim end; but lasts longer than most. He spends most of the film complaining about his role/job and you don’t really connect with him, but for the sake of comedic relief he is ok. Next to him you also have characters like Remy and Dr. Gates. Gates presents the moral side of science, the character you need in a story like this. Someone who questions the true motives behind the uses of science to create the Judas Breed. But at no point does he lose his temper, but tries to show a logical understanding of what goes on and does what he can to support Susan. Remy meanwhile is a character I like, and consider an unfortunate casualty, as while she is a good character, and someone you want to see more of, she has very little in the way of appearances. So while she has a very positive start to this film, she does sort of get ignored from the half-way point onwards and I find that rather sad and a bit disappointing.

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Leonard is an odd one. He is a character that is very strong throughout this film and is very good at his job. Compared to most other roles played by Dutton, Leonard stands out more. He is something of a narrator, a historian more like, and who talks about the legends of the Mimic creatures before he even knows about them. Tells the tales of strange people called Long john, but also knows a lot about the underground area. As things begin to take a turn he becomes something of a guardian and a sacrificial hero to the group. He is an enjoyable character, and his singing is rather fun, I just wonder if his death is more a punishment for his unpleasantness, or if he is really needed to die at the end? In something of a similar character to Leonard, you have Manny, the shoe polisher. Much like Leonard he is very down to earth, works hard to both put food on the table and look after his ward in Chuy. He is an interesting character in that he is one of the films very few anchors, one of those people who in the midst of all the science fiction explaining, that brings it back down to a more common human level. He is very caring of Chuy, although finds him possibility a little bit irritating due to his condition, but in a similar vein to Leonard, you wonder if he is really needed as he just gets killed off like everyone else. Chuy meanwhile I find hard to think about it. Much like other characters in this section he has an interesting part, making friends with the bugs, rattling on his spoons, knowing everything about shoes. He has an interesting dynamic, but for the most part; particularly towards the end, he just becomes an alternate character to look out for and for the main characters to save, keep out of harm’s way. He is someone who is good, but as to why is the real question.

Peter Mann, someone who I cannot put my finger on, not in the sense that he is a good character, more in the form of I cannot figure why he is in this film. He starts out as the scientific boss and husband to Susan who then runs on a trail to discover and eventually annihilate the nest of the Judas Breed, but…this turn of character in him does not feel right. He doesn’t seem caring, more a sort of grumpy, he is not a connectable character, more a sort of supportive character that gets some attention. Yes his scenes underground leading to the big bug massacre is good, tense, thrilling and scary, it’s just for the most part, I just don’t get him. Which is entirely the opposite compared to Mira Sorvino’s character. What is a lovely strong female character throughout this film, you have someone who like many of the above loves and enjoys their work, but is the creator of the film’s main antagonist in the Judas Breed. Yes, there was plenty of reasoning to create them, to help wipe out a horrific disease, but just when she thinks they are all dead over, she begins to discover that isn’t necessarily the case. As things develop further, she gets thrusted head first into the situation, eventually meeting the mutated, evolved form of her creation, to then ultimately wiping them out, the one person who needed to do it. She doesn’t raise much of a smile throughout the film’s events, and is embroiled more into the case the more it develops, soon realising the real results of her work, and going from keen professional scientist, to a near nervous wreck at the devastation and death caused by the miracle bugs. So of course she has to end it all with one final, and possibly sacrificial last stand against the creatures, in the end saving humanity once again from the bugs she created to save them once before. Sorvino’s performance is brilliant in Mimic, she stands as the archetype and central figure throughout as a character that stands the rest of the film, not one who becomes a great hero, or an underdog, but someone who stands as a hero to begin with, but ultimately becomes a pre-underdog type character, being brought down to her knees on the result of her creation. A terrific performance by a true; but unfortunately, lesser (at current) titan of cinema.

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Let’s not forget however the film’s other characters. The Mimics. The Mimic Creatures in this film are nicely designed monstrosities made for a purpose but ultimately become a new threat, somewhat similar to a species of creature they were supposed to wipe out. In explanation, they were designed to kill off the common cockroach to aid in the killing of a deadly virus striking down the children of Manhattan Island. The end result of that being the death of the virus, but due to an unfortunate misunderstanding, the Mimic bugs themselves, become a new bug threat. While not a virus, like the one they helped rid the city of, still a very dangerous one. Mimic’s, so named for their ability to imitate their main predator/prey in man is a wonderful idea, one that chills the spine, but sets them up as human like characters until they eventually reveal themselves true and proper, not as humans, but as ferocious bugs. Their design is brilliant, somewhat held back by some dodgy late 90’s CGI, their appearance is still terrifying with a hint of realism, and the fact that the way they are shown of pursuing the humans like Prey adds another detail of character, not in something that is to be ignored or does ignore, but rather a merciless killer.

The special Effects are a bit hit and Miss in Mimic. As stated above, the CGI suffers a bit and doesn’t stand out as well as effects delivered in films of its time including Independence Day one year earlier, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park released in the same year as Mimic. The film’s quick scenes and quick moments of movement on part of the Mimic’s sort of make up for it. Yes; while there is still the odd dodgy bit here and there, for the most part in how they used, they look alright, and still don’t ruin the incredible level of design that went into the creature designs. Sadly though due to the lack of well-done CGI, the effects have not aged too well, and these days it’s only the real in shot stuff that still works, and the CGI looks rookie in vain to today’s standards, it’s just so lucky that everything else pretty much works in terms of the film making. But while the CGI falls a lot short, the close up uses of suits/animatronics/puppets/masks/whatever they are is brilliant. The effect of having something there and visible in camera, with added detail such as odd hairs and prongs on the arms and claws are well done. In a similar style to the Alien creatures in Aliens, if it was just the, whatever it was they used, it would have been superb throughout. Add to this the level of additional props and set pieces, like the underground sections, the cart, and of course the icky sticky, very unnerving egg pods. Those in the final scenes in the nest are really creepy, and add to it the bug like sounds, you have something that while in the main part is a horror film, still has room for moments of a horrible, repulsive, disgusting and off-putting by far, nature. Another addition I would quickly like to mention is the several uses of city skyline shots, there are only really 2 I can think of, but both of them are lovely on-screen shots that help to break up the film, but anyway back to the Bugs.

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But while the Special Effects may fall short, the soundtrack (composed by Marco Beltrami) certainly doesn’t. The film’s early sounds from scenes such as the release of the Mimic’s and attack on the priest present a very mysterious yet monstrous feel to them. The entire soundtrack on the whole sounds more operatic and monstrous more than anything else, especially the opening and closing credits. They present something of a mystery, like something is hiding, then reveals itself, and is a stark, terrifying monstrosity standing in front of you, and all that you can do, is just stare and scream, there is no running. It’s almost setting your eyes upon a Frankenstein like creature, standing in front of you; Ominous not moving, just pure terrifying. And that is just the soundtrack. Yes it works in tandem with the film, but just to provide a sense of that in listening to it, and also being memorable enough to still create a sense of that is remarkable.

Truly Terrifying: that is the best way to describe Mimic. A terrifying experience all worked into one film supported by all directions by horrifying looking creatures, great characters played by a wonderful cast, horrifying soundtrack and a gripping, thrilling story with a mix of Science Fiction to make Mimic not just a Horror Film, but a really spine tingling mystery. While maybe not standing out as much as Del Toro’s other well-known films like Pan’s Labyrinth for instance, that does not mean that it should be overlooked. Mimic is deserving of another chance, I don’t mean a remake (although a TV series could be interesting), I mean having another watch. Sure it has on and offs, and maybe t’s not Del Toro’s greatest piece of cinema art work, but for the sake of watching a horror film that both creeps you out and nearly scares you to death simply from the ideas that it generates I think is worthy of giving it another look. Now when I think of Del Toro, I am going to think of this film more in detail and equality of mention to his other works. So, Night Night, Sleep Tight, Don’t Let The Big Bed Bugs Bite, Hopefully See You In The Morning Light.

GENEPOOL (Happy New Year).





Maze In The Forest – Pan’s Labyrinth

17 09 2012

I have known about this film for years, but I have not really thought about it until just recently. I first heard about it as part of a trailer for the film’s showing on Film4. The only other times I have heard about it is that my Brother kept saying that he has yet to see it. I first took proper notice in August 2011 but it was just a few weeks ago that I decided to watch it. From visionary Director (one of only a few in Cinema today) Guillermo del Toro who has directed films including Blade 2 and Hellboy comes an(Award Winning)  Amazing World (except for the Spanish setting obviously) where the idea of escaping a cruel world with our imagination comes to life.

The film begins with a story of a princess who left her world below the real world. She forgot who she was and died, but her soul returned to a girl called Ofelia (unaware at this time) who is on her way to her new home in the country with her pregnant mother to live with her new Stepfather (A Captain of an outpost in the post civil war early years of Franco’s Spain). Ofelia likes to read Fairytales and believes in Magic. While the car they ride in stops for her mother to throw up, Ofelia finds a strange plinth and witnesses a strange bug come out which she thinks is a Fairy. When they arrive at the outpost she meets her new stepfather and the head of housekeeping Mercedes. In the nearby forest Ofelia finds a strange Maze.

The following evening the Insect returns and becomes a fairy, it leads Ofelia into the Labyrinth where she meets a Faun (at no point in the film does its name get revealed, it could be Pan or it might not have a name, it is only called Pan on the DVD description). The Faun tells her that she might be the princess of the underworld but she needs to complete 3 tasks to prove it. Meanwhile her Stepfather reveals his true self when he mercilessly kills 2 farmers who he thinks were rebels.  The following Morning Ofelia gets a nice dress from her mother. Ofelia goes off to complete the first task which involves putting 3 stones in a Giant Toads mouth who has made its home in a dying tree. She puts her dress on a branch to keep it safe and crawls into the tree roots. While the Captain and everyone down at the mill are preparing for a big feast, Ofelia finds the Toad and gets it to eat the stones (which look like curled up bugs). The creature dies when it throws up its stomach. On the stomach Ofelia finds a key and crawls out of the tree where she sees her dress on the floor in the mud. Back at the outpost The Captain, Ofelia’s Mother and several other local people are having a big feast where more of the Captains cruel inside are starting to come to the surface. Ofelia is found by Mercedes and her Mum is not happy.

Ofelia’s mum falls ill with her unborn son not helping her health. The Faun returns to Ofelia and gives her a root. He tells her to put it in fresh milk and put it under her Mum’s bed and give it two drops of blood every day. He also gives her a piece of chalk, an hourglass and three fairies to help her achieve her next task but instructs her not to eat any of the food where she is going and to return before the hourglass finishes. Ofelia puts the root in fresh milk and it comes to life, she then draws a door on a wall and enters a strange hallway. Inside she finds a table with a full feast on it and a strange creature (pale man) with no eyes at the far end of it. The creature is not moving and Ofelia observes the horrible artwork on the ceiling. The fairies point towards three key holes and instruct Ofelia to open which one; Ofelia opens the correct door and begins to leave, before she does though she eats two grapes thinking it won’t make a difference. Behind her the creature begins to move and has its eyes in its hands. It eats two of the fairies and chases after Ofelia. The door closes as the hourglass finishes. Ofelia draws a hatch on the ceiling and escapes just before the creature reaches her.

Over the course of the next few days her mum begins to recover and Mercedes along with the Doctor meet up with the rebels in the forest who are planning to attack the outpost. One of them is Mercedes Brother. The captain finds the root but does not see the Magic and hands it to Ofelia’s Mum, who throws it on the fire. The Captain begins torturing a Rebel Suspect and kills the doctor.  Ofelia’s brother is born but her mum dies. The Faun returns to Ofelia but finds out what happened with the task and says he will not return and Ofelia will stay as a mortal. Mercedes decides to try and run away, she takes Ofelia with her but is caught by the Captain, He locks Ofelia in her room and Tries to torture Mercedes but gets horribly disfigured by a knife she was secretly holding. Mercedes flees and is almost caught but the Rebels find and save her.

The Faun returns to Ofelia and says she has one last chance but must obey his orders without question. She agrees and the Faun tells her to get her brother and meet him in the Labyrinth. The rebels begin to attack the outpost and the captain chases after Ofelia. Ofelia finds the Faun who says he needs innocent blood to open the portal. Ofelia refuses and wants to take her Brother with her. The Captain finds her seemingly talking to herself as the Faun leaves her. The captain takes his son and shoots Ofelia. The captain is found by the Rebels and Mercedes who take his son and Kill him. Mercedes finds Ofelia in the maze lying dead and sings her a lullaby. Ofelia’s blood drips into the portal and Ofelia enters her underworld kingdom where her Father and Mother are along with the Faun and Fairy. The king tells her that she completed the final task by spilling her own blood instead that of an innocent. This proves that she is the princess. In the real world Mercedes cries for Ofelia. A narration at the end tells of how Ofelia ruled with a kind heart for many centuries and left traces of her in the real world for those who knew her where to look.

The setting of the film is an interesting blend of reality and make-believe. The fantasy world does take a back seat to the rest of the film but this does show the need for it, because life for Ofelia is so cruel that she needs a reason to escape and so it is the same for the audience too and as such it is both a welcome break and a reassuring sight. Both the design and the story for the fantasy world do take inspiration from fairytales and work beautifully but it is interesting how it is embedded into the setting. It is like it is part of the world but at the same time not. Ofelia could be imagining it but there are plenty of parts which show it’s reality to the scene. If you take the toad scene, Ofelia is crawling through the root of the tree and finds the creature. When encountering the pale man monster (who looks very similar to the Blue Man from Hellboy) she crawls through the floor to escape and when she shuts the trap door you can hear knocks like the creature is pounding to get out but you also need to remember she has returned to her house and so those could be noises downstairs instead of within the floorboards. The only evidence of reality we have is the underworld kingdom where she becomes a princess. She cannot be making it up as a dream, she is dead so it could be an interpretation of heaven or a fairytale heaven or it may still exist in the world and her spirit has become a being just like how her spirit left originally through the same portal.

The film’s characters are all a nice blend. Ivana Baquero is great as Ofelia and portrays her well. Sergi López i Ayats is a great villain. The captain is so cold and horrible you just have no sympathy for the character in any way and you just want him to die, which thankfully he does. There are not many villains like that these days which are obviously bad people and not just bad because their bosses are bad or made to do bad things. Maribel Verdú plays Mercedes who is opposite to the Captain and has a reassuring, caring side while also having this sad worry to her as she worries about her brother.

By far the best character though is the Faun (played by Doug Jones). From his first appearance he has a reassuring side as if everything is safe. You have this nice feeling that while the world is cruel it is not always that and when he is a round it is anything but. However this does bring up an interesting question of trust, particularly when you trust creatures that are not human. If you met a faun, would you instantly trust it and do as it says? Obviously you would be a bit wary of it and maybe after time you may begin to trust it, but really, would you trust it instantly?

Pan’s Labyrinth is not for everyone and does contain some gruesome scenes (but this is a Guillermo Del Toro film). While it may not be for everyone it is a film that is a welcome addition to any film collection. A nice blend of Fantasy and Reality with some Amazing Creatures, Great Characters and a Fantastic Story. You may love it, you may hate it, but I recommend it because you may want to Escape Reality to that Maze in the Garden.

GENEPOOL








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