Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Labyrinth Walkthrough

Hints! Cheats! Spoilers à la a Baldur’s Gate walkthrough!

You can’t fool a old D&D player. With magic items, mythological creatures, and simplified portrayals of innocence and evil, Pan’s Labyrinth is a movie that should have been an adventure game.

Our heroine is a girl about 10 years old who loves fantasy books. This is appropriate, because it predisposes her to have an interest in the supernatural. If she were some geeky chess club kid, then she would have more interest in putting the king of the underworld in “checkmate” than in finding his silly artifacts for him, and then you just wouldn’t any adventure at all.

À la any computer fantasy adventure game, she finds the one rock in the dirt road that is actually a stone eye. She searches the area until she finds the stone statue missing its eye, and voilà! She puts the eye in the statue, and the praying mantis appears.

Her new stepfather, a general in Franco’s army, is evil. No question about this. He clearly states that the rebels in the woods are mistaken for believing that all people are created to be equal. He also states that his new wife, our heroine’s mother, sick and pregnant with the general’s child, should be killed if the choice ever arises whether to save her or the baby.

The praying mantis visits our heroine one night and turns into a fairy à la Peter Pan. Because life in her new stepdad’s military outpost is a bummer, she follows the fairy into the nearby labyrinth, meets the faun à la The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and is told that she needs to awaken the king of the underworld. Her first step in this process will be a to kill a giant frog à la any first-level Dungeons and Dragons adventure, and get the golden key.

The next day she ventures into the forest to kill the giant frog. One might say this is kind of a dull monster for her to have to kill, but remember, she’s only first level at this point. She is not ready for the fire-breathing dragons, misleading displacer beasts, and mind-frying mind flayers that one faces at higher levels.

She kills the frog, watches its transformation into a pile of gelatinous slime, and sees, in the midst of the slime, the golden key! She retrieves it and heads home. But she has gotten her new dress muddy, so when her mother sees her, she is put to bed with no supper.

That night the faun visits and compliments her on her success. Now he gives her a new mission: venture into a strange crypt and use the key to unlock a door and get the dagger hidden there. There are two stipulations: she will only have a limited time to spend in the crypt, and she must not eat anything she finds there à la Persephone, who might have been rescued by Zeus from her imprisonment by Hades, except for the fact that she had eaten pomegranates while in the underworld and, thus, by mythological standards, had cooked her goose. What happened to Persephone then had great bearing on the world, for it was the reason we have warm growing seasons and cold winters. However, this little quest for our heroine in Labyrinth did not reach this caliber by a long shot.

To help our heroine accomplish her task, she is given some chalk, a little case with more fairies in it, and an hour glass which would keep her aware of the limited amount of time she will have.

With the chalk she draws a door in the wall, which she opens. She sets up the hour glass there in the doorway and leaves it. How this will keep her aware of passing time when she passes out of sight of it I do not know, but this is what she does. She goes down the hall and finds a room with a motionless, eyeless, naked dude at one end of a banquet table spread with an enormous feast. Pale and blind, the eyeless dude resembles Voldo from Nintendo’s Soul Caliber, but most folks watching this movie will not realize this, which is why I’m here. On a plate in front of the eyeless dude are his two eyes.

Our heroine finds the secret door and uses the key to open it. Inside is the dagger she has been sent to find. Now she can go. We know the hourglass, way back down the hall, is running. She has been told not to mess with the food on the table, and who knows what’s up with this eyeless dude at the end of the table. I mean, you would think you would not want to hang around and risk waking him up. Certainly that would not be good.

But she has been to bed without supper, see! Here we have the first tie-in between her real-world life involving a general in Franco’s army, and the fantasy world. So she can’t keep herself from eating a grape off the table.

This causes Voldo to wake up. Well, duh. He drags his gross, long, black fingernails across the table. He picks up his eyeballs and puts them in their sockets, which are not on his face but in the palms of his hands. This makes squishy noises. He scoots his chair back and stands up. But our heroine hears none of this because, I presume, her chewing of the grape is so loud. I don’t know. I’m trying to give her the benefit of the doubt here. Voldo starts lurching up behind her à la Michael in Halloween, and gets mighty close before she finally hears something and sees him. Then he eats the heads off two fairies à la Ozzy Osbourne. Our heroine gets the idea that she should get out of there, and she does.

She runs down the hall, and look, the hourglass is about to run out! The door starts closing! It does close, and Voldo is getting closer! But he’s slow because he’s been sitting still for so long and he’s stiff, and it’s kind of hard for him to see anyway with his eyes in his hands. So she has time to get a chair, stand on it, draw another door in the ceiling and push it open and climb out. But of course, there is that tense moment when her feet are still dangling in the hallway below and Voldo almost grabs them (risking putting his eyes out?) before she climbs through all the way. Whew.

That Voldo guy was a freakier than I would expect someone at her low level to have to deal with. Hmm. That giant frog must have been worth more experience points than I thought. Or maybe there were quest points beyond the basic giant frog XP value.

Well, she has screwed up by eating from the table, and the faun lets her know, and it looks like no more underworld for her -- she’ll have to make do with lousy reality. The audience is never told why it was bad news to wake Voldo -- this is just how it is and we are to accept it and shut up. This is war, people, and you can’t question authority in a time or war. Meanwhile, the stepfather is torturing people and killing rebels and her mother is growing more and more sick. The mother dies in childbirth, and without her serving as our heroine’s voucher in the general’s manor, reality-life for our heroine becomes ever more lousy.

Thank goodness the underworld comes calling again. Providing no philosophical basis, the faun announces she has been given a second chance: go get her baby brother, who is sleeping in a cradle in the general’s quarters, and bring him to the center of the labyrinth. Oooh, okay, now we’re getting somewhere.

Outside, the rebels are attacking. Inside, the general is giving himself stitches after being injured in an unexpected reversal of a torture session of the maid which was, in fact, the best scene of the movie but has little relevance in this walkthrough. The newborn baby is behind the general. Our heroine sneaks through the general’s room toward the baby, pausing to drip some poison in the general’s drink.

The general’s men come to the door to inform him that things are going poorly against the rebels. The general goes to get his clothes, and by the light of one explosion sees, in the doorway, our heroine with the baby swaddled in her arms.

This is the coolest moment in the movie. We get the idea that the general has never really looked at her, his stepdaughter, until now, when she is appearing otherworldly in silhouette, an agent of the underworld, one in a long line of mythological baby-snatchers, from Rumpelstiltskin to Merlin. And, for the first time, she is not afraid of the general. After all, she is between him and the door, and she has his child. He goes after her and she bolts for the labyrinth à la The Shining.

The general is made woozy by the poison so he follows her with a loping gait into the labyrinth à la Jack Nicholson. Honestly, do the filmmakers think we have not lived before standing in line for their movie? Our heroine dodges through the turns and, like the boy in Stephen King’s classic, ends up at a dead end. But she does not need to be smart like King’s heroine and backtrack in her own footprints. Instead, the walls of the labyrinth part à la the Dead Sea and admit her directly to the labyrinth’s center and close behind her just as the general arrives at the dead end.

In the center of the labyrinth, the faun tells our heroine she must draw the blood of an innocent to finally awaken the king of the underworld. This is what the knife she had obtained earlier is for. This is what the baby is for. This is what it all comes down to. Being a good girl, she hesitates to stab her baby brother. Then the general reaches the labyrinth’s center and produces the blood of an innocent in a different way.

For a while it seems that she has escaped to the court of the king of the underworld. The king is her father, and the queen is her mother, and the three are reunited as a proper family unit at last. While our heroine’s parents were not separated by divorce, I was reminded how strange it can be in this modern world to think of our parents, long parted in too many cases, as being together again. Even if their marriage was a lousy one, it was, in our child’s eyes, a basic element of definition for our existence. And for our parents, their union, at one time, was worthy of a big to-do, with a wedding and a dress and a cake and all that. And they had thought their union worthy of supporting children. Then things happened and our parents are together no more, but isn’t it interesting to think that maybe they could have stayed together, if they had not been so proud, or paranoid, or could have really listened for a change? That now, in middle adult life, we might have still had these two parents, turning to look at each other as we stood in the middle of the living room telling them of some life decision we may have made -- a plan to move, to change careers, to run off to Africa with a lover? Is it a dream that, years ago with cheeks red with embarrassment, we stood in front of them and had to explain what we were doing over at the post office that made Ms. Wells call the police? That they managed to share a stupid joke every now and then, and that one of them would turn to us and see if we got it, as if it were hard to get and not merely a rare instance of levity in a life of sighs and coping? There is a chance that we could have not had our ears and brains filled with all those arguments, and we might have not had to spend our lives with this lump of sadness riding around in our breasts no matter how sunny a vacation we manage to take, or how hard we find ourselves working.

But our heroine's family reunion is just a final escapist fantasy à la Brazil. A dictator has taken over Spain, and though the rebels have won the day, they will have to endure decades under totalitarian rule. A tour of the underworld would be a brighter prospect, but despite the dripping blood of an innocent, no fairy king appears.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Great. I can't read this because I haven't seen it yet. (Yes, I'm at work and not doing work. I'm reading your blog instead)