Pan’s Labyrinth Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Pan’s Labyrinth, writer/director Guillermo Del Toro’s timeless fantasy, which is making its Ultra HD debut from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

92

Details:

Studio and Year: Warner – 2006
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time:119 minutes
Genre: Fantasy

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): Spanish DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Starring: Sergi Lopez, Maribel Verdu, Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Ariadna Gil, Alex Angulo
Written & Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro
Music by: Javier Navarrete
Region Code: A

Release Date: October 1. 2019

“Innocence has a Power Evil Cannot Imagine”

Synopsis:

“It’s 1944 and the Allies have invaded Nazi-held Europe. In Spain, a troop of soldiers led by a stern and murdering military officer, who along his new wife Carmen and her daughter from a previous marriage, 11-year-old Ofelia, are sent to a remote forest to flush out the rebels. Ofelia witnesses her stepfather’s sadistic brutality and is drawn into Pan’s Labyrinth, a magical world of mythical beings.” – Warner Brothers Home Entertainment

My Take:

Following a bloody civil war, young Ofelia enters a world of unimaginable cruelty when she and her pregnant mother move in with her new stepfather, the tyrannical Captain Vidal, who is charged with shutting down the local rebel resistance by any means necessary. With her mother’s health failing, which results in her being bed ridden pending the birth of her baby and, the Captain’s cruelty growing, Ophelia finds herself isolated.

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.

Pan’s Labyrinth was written and directed by Academy Award winner Guillermo Del Toro whose penchant for storytelling seems only limited by his imagination. Winner of three Academy Awards including Best Cinematography, this film is a tale of mystery, imagination and fantasy with a beautifully shaped narrative that is evocative and underscored by its visually engaging essence. Pan’s Labyrinth is a period film but, is intended to tell a timeless story which is accomplishes with aplomb. I love the design of its characters, especially Ophelia and Captain Vidal who stand at clearly opposing points within the construct of the plot. I also like the idea that Ophelia’s acts, whether based on her imagination or not, positively impact reality. The ending is spot on, fulfilling the story’s promise without pulling any punches.

Pan’s Labyrinth is among the best films of its generation and I am so very pleased that it has come to Ultra HD Blu-ray. Read on to see the results.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for graphic violence and some language.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA

UHD Presentation: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

Pan’s Labyrinth comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound.

From what I understand Pan’s Labyrinth is sourced from the original 35mm film elements. Its presentation in Ultra HD is derived from a 2K DI and upconverted to 4K.

It’s important to note that the ultimate goal for any release on home video is to present a film in the highest possible quality based upon its original elements. A film like Pan’s Labyrinth has an aesthetic that incorporates film grain and the use of cinematography that won’t result in the type of high gloss, tack-like sharpness of many newer films shot today. This isn’t a problem and shouldn’t be seen as such.

This is a period specific and stylized film that strives to recreate the look and feel of director Guillermo Del Toro’s vision. The Blu-ray rendering offered faithful reproduction and looked excellent in 1080p, but this Ultra HD rendering is something to behold. Pan’s Labyrinth is a beautifully crafted film, both in narrative, and scope. It’s not an overtly bright film, although there are bright elements. Director of Photography Guillermo Navarro’s terrific cinematography benefits from the enhanced resolution and emboldened contrast. The film’s opening which includes Carmen and Ophelia’s arrival at the residence, retains the same somewhat gritty aesthetic that it always has, with no unnecessary additions. Beyond that the image looks stunning providing a glimpse of what lies in store.

Copious amounts of detail can be seen, both in wide-angle and close-up perspectives, imparting a discernible increase in depth/dimension. Shot on 35mm film, using anamorphic lenses, film grain and some innate softening are present. Neither are compromising, even during special effects shots, or those laden with minutia, such as falling rain or drab interiors lit only by candle power.

The use of HDR is spot on, driving the story’s use of visual cues offset by gleams of light that illuminate the war-torn landscapes and gray skies. The beautiful use of sepia stands out in stark contrast to the gradational blacks, grays and teal, that make up the look of wartime and Ophelia’s world, featured in the story. The scene in chapter 7 when the Captain stands in the forest, taunting the rebels, with sunlight at this back is one of the presentation’s best moments for clarity and dynamic range.

There are elements of richer color seen in the dagger retrieval/banquet sequence or in the throne room in the finale, which look terrific. The film’s shadow laden environs, such as the one that takes place in the bowels of the fig tree, Ophelia’s bedroom or in the Labyrinth, have never looked better, offering increased interstitial details that promote depth of field. Blacks are inky without compromise to fidelity.

While I was predominantly happy with the Criterion 1080p rendering of Pan’s Labyrinth, I found the Ultra HD presentation takes it to the next level allowing its wonderful cinematography and stylistic choices to shine like never before.

This film has always had a very solid 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on Blu-ray. I am not certain why the Ultra HD soundtrack contains a 5.1 channel Master Audio mix rather than porting over the original, if there wasn’t going to be a new object-based mix.

Anyway, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix handles this soundtrack with unflinching competence. While the bulk of the audio is reproduced by the front three channels the surrounds are used effectively to produce a rear sound field rich in immersive ambience. This isn’t an active soundtrack as dialog and music play more of a central role but, there are moments that require use of the entire surround platform for effect. When things kick in this mix has no trouble flexing its dynamic muscle or creating a natural and immersive listening environment. Clarity and detail are exemplary which reveal lots of subtle nuance in the recording. Vocal reproduction is crystalline with discernible intonation and descriptive character. While I think my preference may be for the 7.1 channel mix, I honestly couldn’t find fault with this one.

Note: The included Blu-ray is the same one as the original release.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: Pan’s Labyrinth Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Audio Commentary by Guillermo Del Toro
  • Disc 2: Pan’s Labyrinth Blu-ray (Original Release)
    • Audio commentary by 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
  • Digital Copy

Final Thoughts:

Written and directed by visionary filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro Pan’s Labyrinth is a beautifully crafted film in tone and scope. It comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray in this Combo Pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring a terrific video presentation that video enthusiasts are sure to appreciate. Pan’s Labyrinth on Ultra HD Blu-ray is a must have for fans that are set up to take advantage of its video upgrade.

Here’s an interview with Guillermo Del Toro regarding Pan’s Labyrinth:

 

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS2000 4K Ultra High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems