Sunday, 5 August 2018

POP! Movies – The Pale Man (Pan’s Laybrinth)

I had pretty mixed feelings when I first heard about Pan’s Labyrinth. In 2006, the only Guillermo del Toro films I’d seen were Blade II and Hellboy – both a lot of fun, but not necessarily inspiring confidence in the idea of a literal fairy tale movie. 

Additionally, Tim Burton was having quite a commercial renaissance at the time, and I was worried that Pan’s Labyrinth would hop on that train and become an overload of *cough* delightfully quirky *cough* imagery*. But I decided to make the trip to Sydney to see it. Fortunately, my fears were misplaced – it was a fantastic film, and one I think of very fondly to this day.

Aside from the faun, one of the most memorable characters/monsters is the subject of today’s review – The Pale Man. I suppose to modern eyes the Pale Man probably looks most like Slender Man or something**. But this was a pre-Slender Man world, so its design actually draws from the tenome, a creature from Japanese mythology.

A hideous, child-eating monster, he’s terrifying when he shows up. We never get a lot of context about exactly what he is or where he came from, but it’s readily apparent that he’s been eating children for quite a long time. del Toro has described the beast as a criticism of the Catholic Church; hoarding luxuries and preying on children.

The POP itself is…okay. The limitations of the format mean there’s not as much emphasis on the hand-eyes as there probably should be. Instead, it’s all about his horribly jowly eyeless face. Far enough, but something is definitely lost in translation.  

Additionally, he doesn’t include a stand, nor do his feet have slots for them. This is a problem, as his inhumanly skinniness is quite integral to the character. In tandem with the front-heavy head, the slightest amount of warping to the legs will render him nearly unable to stand. Mine does, but he’s definitely kind of wobbly.  

Since it’s been 12 years since Pan’s Labyrinth was released, it’s not unreasonable to ask why we’re only getting merchandise for the film now. I don’t really remember any from the time – it seems there’s been a few bits and pieces in the years that followed, but they’ve mostly been high-end busts and statues, well out of the range of the more casual collector. I can only assume it’s partially fuelled by the massive success of del Toro’s most recent film, The Shape of Water, which in turn has helped spark greater interest in pretty much all of his past films.

While it’s nice to get an affordable and readily available version of the Pale Man, I don’t think he’s a particularly great POP. The balance issues and the loss of some of his most distinct features in translation place him squarely in the “okay” column. Instead, I’d suggest waiting for the upcoming NECA figure, which also comes complete with his throne.

*I get why people like Tim Burton, and there are a number of his films I do enjoy. But he definitely has his signature style elements, and I had a very low tolerance for them at this particular time of my life.  
** Interestingly, Doug Jones did play a kind of ersatz Slender Man in a 2015 horror film.

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