Guillermo del Toro is one of the most underrated directors currently working. His films are often misunderstood or brushed under the rug, meaning many people miss out on the beauty of his films. In fact, the word ?beautiful? and its compadre synonyms will feature heavily in this list because Del Toro?s films are nothing short of such.
He is a truly masterful director that has crafted the smallest of art house films and biggest of blockbusters while still retaining the same enthusiasm, heart and attention to detail. Del Toro?s filmography should be heralded by a wider audience.
8 ? ?Blade II?
Perhaps an unconventional choice for the bottom of the pile, but that is not to discredit a film that is the best in its franchise and still an absolute blast. Del Toro added visual and special effects that he specialises in to create a grimy, hearty vampire flick.
The issues with the script are far too off-putting, though. It takes various unnecessary twists just to heighten and intensify the absurdity of the story.
The biggest praise that one can attribute to this film is that it shouldn?t really work. The tone is entirely different from the first and could have cut the franchise off, but Del Toro knits everything together with undoubted passion and creativity that is clear to see. It all intertwines to concoct an entertaining vampire film, but it is his weakest piece of work.
7 ? ?Mimic?
With the studio attempting to interrupt and negatively influence Del Toro?s Man vs Monster idea, this film could very well have been a total disaster. Add to that the fact that the Mexican director?s father had been kidnapped during the process of writing and directing, this proved to be the biggest test of Del Toro?s talent. What he ended up with, after fighting tooth and nail to defend his project from the studio, was an underrated film that leaves a lot to desire due to its undoubted unfulfilled potential.
The themes of fertility, love and fear are nailed to near perfection. Unfortunately, the issues surrounding the writing are evident as noted through the characters: they are bland, lack genuine development and contribute to a lack of empathy when the film puts humanity at jeopardy. You fail to care much and, thus, ?Mimic? finds its sticking point. One of Del Toro?s most powerful traits as a director is to evoke emotion and empathy ? this film, while seriously bursting out to deploy said traits, fails to create any. Studio interference prevented this from becoming one of the best Man vs Monster films. At best, it stands as merely underrated.
6 ? ?Pacific Rim?
Written off by many as a mindlessly fun blockbuster, this actually carries a beauty and heartfelt tone to it that many summer blockbusters fail to create; if they try to, it fails and becomes forced. ?Pacific Rim? executes that tone with huge success. When human-controlled robots the size of buildings go head-to-head with kaijus the size of three killer whales, it is easy to assume that this is the film?s only selling point. It is not.
There is a mixture of ethnic groups that do not succumb to racial stereotypes. There is gender balance. There isn?t a clichéd romance between the two characters at the forefront of things. It is an anti-jingoistic film that does not portray one nation or ethnicity saving the world. It is outright international. Del Toro instills a breath of fresh air and intelligence into a blockbuster like very few in the last 5-10 years. And this intelligence is not overstated: every street is vacated and abandoned to prevent bystander casualties. This is done to show the value of life, rather than killing random people and expecting nobody to care about them, yet all of a sudden empathise when the casualty is beset upon a main character.
The action set-pieces are breathtakingly beautiful and avoid the traditional tropes of the blockbuster. The characters are inherently likeable and thus, unlike ?Mimic?, the idea of humanity being at stake actually strikes fear in the audience.
Entrusted with the biggest budget of his career (180 million USD), the Mexican proved that he could create the smallest of indie films as well as the biggest blockbusters. A feather in his cap titled ?versatility? ? something that, combined with his other qualities, makes him one of the finest working directors.
Those who dub this film as ?mindless? had their opinions made up before even watching it. Michael Bay should study this film and learn how to stop insulting peoples? intelligence with his poor characters and explosions overcompensating for a lack of plot because that, right there, is mindless.
5 ? ?Hellboy?
The film that honed and perfected Del Toro?s ability to direct action. It feels far less quick-cut and lightweight than ?Blade II?, which was an improvement that needed to be explored.
The Mexican had professed his love for the comic book, and character of Hellboy in particular, before directing this film. His love for the outcast monster of society that saves humanity is undoubtedly shown in this origin story that is ever so faithful to the source material.
Del Toro nails the idea of this outcast?s loneliness often getting him into trouble yet, through the use of religious imagery that is not overtly shoved in your face, also helps drill this notion that everyone deserves a second chance; even if they are the son of the devil.
Ron Perlman is perfect as Hellboy and crushes the role to the point where no other actor in existence could pull it off. Such a physically imposing, all-powerful male could really suffer from the tropes of Hollywood machismo yet Del Toro?s directing helps nullify that and keep the character grounded.
The theme of post-war angst is flawlessly executed and the use of vibrant colours accentuates the idea of evil being an attractive proposition in this fictional world and even in our own. It is a subtle exploration of how someone born into evil can exhibit certain traits without realising it. Having said that, it also juxtaposes the aforementioned with the notion that being born into something negative doesn?t entirely mean you cannot reinvent yourself and do good.
A recurrent undertone to his films, Hellboy perfectly captures Del Toro?s view of celebrating imperfection through perfect audiovisual moments.
4 ? ?Hellboy II?
This sequel does everything that the origin story does, but improves upon it with less repetitive action sequences. Visually, too, it is far superior.
While the first Hellboy was style over substance in many ways, Universal purchasing the rights for this franchise allowed Del Toro to delve into his monster roots and create a more resonant picture with the monster stories that he specialises in.
The humour in this is practically unheard of from a Del Toro directorial film ? his stories tend to be dark and morbid. This just typifies his range as a visionary. The humour flows naturally and isn?t forced just to fit the comic book adaptation quota ? the first one, at times, felt slightly forced in that regard.
The choice between the two is a matter of preference. Leaning toward the second is mainly due to heavier entertainment, improved action set pieces, stronger writing and better visuals.
3 ? ?Cronos?
Del Toro?s directorial debut was this gorgeous vampire tale that, when stripped away of its supernatural elements, still works on an emotional level. Mexican film organisations refused to help fund the film as it did not align with the easily marketable influx of comedies at the time. Self funded by the Mexican himself (which left him in a large heap of debt), this film rocked audiences at the Cannes film festival.
?Cronos? is a beautiful tale about family, immortality and children facing horrors of the real world. It stands as one of the most underrated horror films of all-time.
The changing of colour palettes to represent two worlds crossing over is unbelievably intelligent and the type of detail that elevates this film into the top 3. Additionally, the scarab (Cronos) device is breathtakingly stunning. The design makes it quite attractive and tempting, which is effortlessly juxtaposed with the characters? obsession with its mysterious lore.
The performances are captivating and the score is haunting. Yet this film?s biggest success lies with the dynamic of the protagonist?s relationship with his granddaughter. His devotion and love to her intertwines with her acceptance of the imperfect to create one of my personal favourite on-screen child/adult relationships ever.
2 ? ?The Devil?s Backbone?
A ghost story that disguises itself within the backdrop of the Spanish civil war to promote unity and love in times of social despair.
There is a gloriously balanced duality between the world of a child and an adult. The children are closely connected to the supernatural; the adults are none the wiser.
The pacing, handling of the camera and plot development is flawless. The film does an excellent job of chopping down a character ? whose cold nature and greedy tendencies draw comparisons to dictator Franco ? that believes he is firmly in control of every situation and this demise helps other characters around him develop their stories.
Devoid of any real traditionally ?scary? moments, ?The Devil?s Backbone? succeeds in creating a skin-crawling atmosphere that does not necessitate cheap jumps to make an audience member?s heart race.
Envy, tragedy, mystery, revenge and bullying are five themes that are interwoven so tightly that they all pay off the other. Almost like a domino effect.
Intelligent, unequivocally moving and faithful to the Spanish civil war angst, this is both a horror and a drama with subtle undertones of sci-fi sandwiched in between. And it works.
Once again, Del Toro?s ability to direct child actors shines ever so brightly. A true masterpiece of the horror genre.
1 ? ?Pan?s Labyrinth?
A fantasy film blended with horror elements that create a harrowing social commentary about standing up to evil. It is a beautifully empowering film that does not hide the horrors of this world for a child growing up.
The clockwork camera movement employed to represent time and create an evil, robotic nature to the protagonist?s stepfather is masterful as well as insurmountably creative. It adds layers to a character without the use of dialogue or actions.
?Pan?s Labyrinth? has a great message about not allowing your creativity to be suppressed due to the actions of others and society ? this is created through the ideology of escaping to a fantasy to combat your deepest fears.
Ofelia ? the protagonist ? is someone that you instantly want to defend from the world?s horrors. It may seem like a simple way to grow affection toward a character ? pit an abusive person against them ? but it is the reversal of this that gleams brighter than anything else in the film. By wanting to protect her, you instantly begin to question the stepfather and his lack of humanity. We have no affiliation with this girl, yet saving her from the world is something we would do in a heartbeat. It helps create this human-like monster element within the stepfather?s psyche that is scarier than any supernatural being.
In many ways, this could be loosely tied to numbers two and three as an unofficial trilogy that comments on children being forced to grow up quickly because of how destructive society can ultimately be. Thematically, all three have plenty in common.
It is magical, surreal, terrifying and gorgeous all at the same time. Meticulously crafted, this is one of the finest fantasy films to ever grace the genre with its presence. It is Del Toro?s undoubted masterpiece.
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