Director: Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson
Writers: Guillermo del Toro, Patrick McHale, and Matthew Robbins
Starring: Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Gregory Mann, Ron Perlman, Cate Blanchett, Finn Wolfhard, Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton
Guillermo del Toro first announced his adaptation of Pinocchio almost fifteen years ago, before it was delayed over and over until Netflix stepped in. The film, which is animated in stop-motion, has been a passion project for del Toro for years, and it’s finally here. A much darker adaptation to the classic story, with the nightmarish style you’d expect from del Toro.
In essence the story remains the same, with the puppet Pinocchio being brought to life. In this version he’s created by Geppetto, while he is mourning the loss of his son Carlo (sharing his name with Carlo Collodi, the author of the original story), who died in a bombing during the first world war. Geppetto spends years mourning his son, and in a drunken rage makes the puppet to bring him back. Life is then granted to the puppet by tree spirits.
The stop-motion animation is absolutely beautiful, with Pinocchio actually being shown as a puppet. It’s filled with magical imaginative designs, for the sets and characters. There is also a really great cast to bring these characters to life. Ewan McGregor is excellent as Sebastian J. Cricket, the narrator of the story. David Bradley is wonderful as Geppetto, and Gregory Mann is brilliant as the title character. That’s without mentioning the supporting cast, who are all equally fantastic.
While this is a children’s film, it’s a lot darker than the usual adaptations, with some violent deaths, and some scary scenes. The moment when Geppetto first meets Pinocchio is genuinely scary, as Pinocchio rolls around on the floor, almost like a spider. There’s also a focus on war, blending scary moments, with the reality of war and the more fantastical elements.
The original novel was written in 1883, and del Toro’s version updates it slightly, setting the story in during the fascist era of Italian history, with Musolini appearing at one point as a character. It really adds another layer to the darkness, with the looming war hanging in the background. It will probably go unnoticed by children watching it, but adults will see the horror of it all.
Coming hot on the heels of Disney’s live action adaptation, del Toro’s version completely blows it out of the water. In ten years-time there will only be one adaptation from 2022 that people will still be talking about. This is the better of the two versions by far, and the only one that should be watched.
Sinister, funny, and heartfelt, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a spellbinding film. It changes the well-loved story quite a bit, adding in some new and much more darker elements to the tale, but it retains the central themes and moments. It’s also surprisingly emotional, leaving quite a few teary eyes in the screening.
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