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  • Writer's pictureNoah Yard

Guillermo Del Toro's Pinocchio Review (Spoilers!)

This year I want to push myself as a writer and a reviewer to not just review things I like and have on hand. I want to go out of my way to try different things; shows, games, music, that I wouldn’t usually think to enjoy. This way I can expand my horizons as a writer and a person and also give some more impartial, varied reviews to you, the reader.

This week something on Netflix caught my eye that I don’t think I even knew was happening, and that was “Guillermo del Toro’s: Pinocchio.” I was immediately intrigued by the style of the thumbnail, so watched the teaser, and realised it was the stop motion of my dreams.

Del Toro, the king of creatures and curiosities, has created a true feast for not just the eyes but the heart. It has barely anything to do with the original story or the original film even. There’s a puppet, of the same name, made by a wood maker named Geppetto. And there’s a cricket. That’s where the similarities end.

This is a deeply dark film with a light at the centre which is the puppet itself. There are characters that represent death, and life (both voiced by the ethereal Tilda Swinton,) child soldiers, Mussolini, and extortionate circus ringmasters.




Pinocchio dies. Like four times even. Hit by a truck, shot, eaten by a terrible whale. But because he’s not a “real” boy, Death gives Pinocchio a deal, he can return to the world of the living as many times as he likes, but first he has to wait out his time with her for as long as it takes for an hourglass to run out.

Life and Death play such huge rolls in this movie. Instead of a magic fairy or whatever giving Pinocchio life, thought is put into how this wooden toy could be made to live. When he comes to life the town, and even Geppetto, revolt against him at first, as a “demon,” and unholy, which fits, as Geppetto spends half the movie building a giant Christ on the cross. And Pinocchio has to deal with the consequences, and the ramifications of playing around with such big ideas as mortality. At first foolhardy and childish, Pinocchio, learns, with Geppetto, at the Circus, in the Army, those consequences. Yet he still remains innocent in a way that brightens the world around him.

I do think there may be one too many storylines trying to shoehorn into the movie. Everyone wants a piece of Pinocchio, and by the time he gets to the army it feels like too much. Although I suppose it does add to his growth, and teaches him death is bad, the circus is a better storyline. First of, the ringmaster is Christoph Waltz, the worlds greatest villainous actor. The ringmaster wants to take advantage of Pinocchio as the puppet without strings.

The greatest thread is the one that separates Pinocchio and Geppetto, as it tells a beautiful story about lashing out of fear or sadness but coming back together because love has the power to heal. When they are reunited it’s a genuinely touching and teary moment. But then, of course, as all parents and children are, they are separated by death again.

Guillermo really wants to hit you over the head with that message and does so beautifully.

It is, visually, so so stunning. If you watch the “making of” documentary, which is also on Netflix, you can see just how much effort goes in to stop motion. The shaping of each puppet, and its final product, can take up to a whole year! And watching them move, with Del Toro’s signature style and lines is breathtaking. The puppets for the creatures, that is the Cricket, the monkey, the whale and Life and Death. These puppets move and are designed in such a stunning way. Watch the movie on mute you will probably still enjoy it.

There are songs. As said in the documentary it’s not a musical, but a movie with musical numbers in it. For the most part they are pretty, not too irritating tunes. Can you tell I hate musicals? But hearing Pinocchio or Geppetto sing about one another is quite sweet.

I invite you to watch this movie and the accompanying documentary just because it’s probably one of the most impressive feats of art I’ve ever seen, the making of a two-hour movie in stop motion because it’s visually stunning, and because it’s emotionally devastating are also valid reasons.

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