Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"And it is said that the princess returned to her father's kingdom."

You must know you’re doing something right when it’s announced that you’re taking the reigns of one of the most critically and commercially successful franchises in the history of film and no one even bats an eye. In fact the moment it was announced that Guillermo Del Toro would be directing THE HOBBIT a collective cheer swept through the fanboy community because everyone knew that if anyone had to step in for Peter Jackson, Del Toro was the guy you wanted. I think that right there may tell you more about Guillermo Del Toro than I could ever hope to relate, but by God I’m filled with that annoying can-do spirit so I’m at least gonna try.

There is more imagination in any ten minutes of a Guillermo Del Toro film than most directors can hope to conjure in their entire careers. His movies were made for the picture-perfect, freeze-frame capabilities of DVD. Every shot is a smorgasbord of rich ideas and fantastical notions. His films delight, challenge and inspire the senses in ways that almost no other filmmaker can and in the midst of it all the man knows how to tell thoughtful, heartfelt, entertaining stories that speak to us all.

I think the one scene in all of Del Toro’s movies that best sums up why I and so many other diehard movie fans love him like we do can be found in HELLBOY II. There is a scene towards the middle of the film where Hellboy and his best friend and partner Abe Sapien get drunk off their butt’s and begin lamenting their love lives. Despite the fact the scene involves two men in full-on monster suits, with about 50 lbs of make-up on I genuinely feel it was one of the most human and touching scenes of 2008, the same year that gave us the likes of GRAN TARINO, THE WRESTLER and RACHEL GETTING MARRIED. In this one scene alone Del Toro was able to peal these outlandish comic book characters back to their very core to reveal the humanity buried not so deep within them. If that’s not the sign of a “Class A” talent then I don’t know what is.

Guillermo Del Toro really is a modern fairytale weaver. He understands the intrinsic things needed in fantastical stories that titillate our minds and stoke the fires of our emotions whether they be joy, sadness or most especially fear. One of the great overlooked, Disney homogenized aspects of the tales of yore is the fact that they were scary; in fact they were sometimes downright horrific. They weren’t about singing animals and catchy tunes; they were meant to illustrate harsh truths and morals and effectively warn their readers. If you’ve seen PAN’S LABYRINTH or… well, pretty much any of Del Toro’s films you know that such notions are not lost on him. In fact he embraces and revels in them with almost sadistic glee.

Del Toro is quite literally a new practitioner of an age old art. He is a talent almost without parallel and scariest of all one can’t but feel he’s just getting started. As the geniuses like George Lucas and Ray Harryhausenn move into the twilights of their careers and visionaries such as Stan Winston move on to that great film set in the sky it’s nice to know that talents such as Guillermo Del Toro exists, because without a doubt it is men like him that will continue to spark my imagination, and the imaginations of those that come long after me.


Adam Zanzie said...

I do like Pan's Labyrinth quite a bit, although I do feel that in trying serve equal amounts of time to both the fantasy genre and the historical fiction genre, it doesn't quite live up to be a completely satisfying helping of either. I would be able to admire the scenes depicting fascist Mexico if they had been in another film; but I felt that the heart of the story lay in the fantasy subplot, which I wish Del Toro had included more of.

Arguably, 2006 was an underrated year for film. Several worthy titles that were critically panned or largely unseen from that year are just now getting fruther recognition, including Lynch's Inland Empire, De Palma's The Black Dahlia, Twyker's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer and Hillcoat's The Proposition.

Chris W said...

See for me one of the reasons Pan's Labyrinth works so well is the way he balances the horrors of the "real world" with the fantastical things and also horrors of the fantasy realm. I never saw PERFUME and I really want to because I love Twyker and I heard it's brilliant, same with INLAND EMPIRE. I enjoy THE BLACK DAHLIA and think it's a beautiful film but as a huge James Ellroy fan it doesn't even come close to doing the book justice, not in nearly the same way that L.A. CONFIDENTIAL did. I do agree that THE PROPOSITION is amazing, I loved that movie and I'm really excited because Hillcoat directed THE ROAD and I see him as being a perfect match for some of the greatest material I've ever read.

Adam said...

Pan's Labyrinth is definitely on my list of films that I want to watch again. I recently bought it, so this should happen sooner rather than later. At that point, I'll probably chime in with further thoughts.

As for Del Toro taking the reins of The Hobbit, I'll be honest. I would still rather have Peter Jackson. That said, Del Toro probably is the next best thing and I have faith that he's going to make decisions in the best interest of the material.

But I'd still rather have Peter Jackson.

Chris W said...

I agree in a perfect world Jackson would be directing THE HOBBIT as well, but I guess he didn't really want to commit another 3 to 5 years of his life to it all over again and as an artist I can understand and respect that. I know at one time Sam Raimi was actually in the running and while I love the dude and he probably would have done an admirable job I can't think of anyone on earth better suited to take over than Del Toro.

Anonymous said...

Del Toro kind of reminds me of Jim Henson in a lot of ways.