In the history of film making, often what gives away the age of a film is its special effects. The special effects in films have been constantly progressing, from practical to CGI effects, and often it can make or break the realism of a film. Pans Labyrinth is a fantastic example of both amazing and average special effects in a film, and one that also illustrates the strengths of Practical special effects.
Pans Labyrinth is a great fantasy film, bringing wonderful creatures and set design to 1944 Spain, in the aftermath of the Civil War. The practical effects used in the film are simply sublime. The two main creatures, ‘The Faun’ and ‘The Pale Man’ are both intensely unsettling and fantastical. Created with practical makeup that took 5 hours a day to apply, the creatures add a great realism to the film, in a way that I felt was missing from a film like ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’. In Pans Labyrinth, because the two main creatures were practical, they were tactile and real, and this added realism to a surreal world.
However, what let the film down was that, for whatever reason, not everything was created using practical effects. Most notably was the violence in the film, where nearly every bullet wound or blood was simply added in post-production with CGI. Where parts of the film looked like a fantastic fairy-tale, other areas seemed more like the graphics of a PS2 game. While it didn’t impact on my enjoyment of the film, it did illustrate how important I think special effects can be.
Whether practical or CGI effects are used, ultimately, the most important thing is that the effects are seamless. It is infamous examples like ‘Deep Blue Sea‘ or ‘The Mummy Returns‘ that prove how important good looking special effects are. CGI or Practical, what matters is that the effects don’t detract from the film, but rather enhance and help the plot.