The Netflix film debate is a weird thing. Not only is it ridiculous that certain people seem to be gatekeeping cinema but it refuses to accept that the way people consume media has changed. Why should it matter whether people watch films on a massive screen with a bunch of strangers or at home with their loved ones? Yes, I agree that going to the cinema is a joy but I’m also well aware that I haven’t really been to the cinema much since Covid. We also have to question why, if streaming services are ruining the film industry, so many famous directors are releasing films on it? Martin Scorsese, Bong Joon-ho and now Guillermo del Toro are just a few of the great filmmakers who are now Netflix official. If films should only be watched at a cinema then why are they so willing to take their money?
When Disney brought out the live-action version of Pinocchio last year, I couldn’t bring myself to get excited about it. Something about hearing the trailer so often had just worn me out. Then Guillermo del Toro’s stop motion came out on Netflix and it’s the only thing I give a shit about. It just goes to show how exciting storytelling can be without the awful and soulless sheen of the Disney corporation. Also, make anything stop-motion and I’ll get excited about it. Finally, add Guillermo del Toro and you’ve got a film that I wasn’t going to ignore. Netflix may constantly churn out a lot of forgettable rubbish but it also does finance some amazing films.
The fact that Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio has been so celebrated this awards season is evidence of that. The stop-motion animation breathes new life into a much-loved story. He focuses on the dark side of the story and ends up with a mature and very sophisticated film. This proves that animation is much more than a tool to get parents to part with their money. This film celebrates the art and craft of these films. Not that other animated films are artistic and well-crafted. It’s just there is something so breathtaking about every single frame of this film. The character design is so striking and it’s a genuinely mesmerising experience.
And that’s before we’ve even started talking about the actual story. I won’t say that del Toro has totally reinvented the story but he has approached it from a different perspective. He brings out the dark side of the tale and the sadness at its heart. He was inspired by the parts of the story that mirrored Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The idea that just because something seems like a monster doesn’t mean that it should be feared. The idea that humanity, perhaps, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Unlike the Disney version of the story, del Toro isn’t so keen to push the idea of morality and following the rules. The cricket of this world isn’t forever pushing the point of obeying. He is simply trying his best to steer Pinocchio in the right direction. After all, following the rules isn’t always something to be celebrated. There is something to be said for breaking out and going your own way. Part of the reason why del Toro has set the story in the era of Mussolini. A period in which, according to del Toro, everyone acted like puppets. It’s the perfect setting and adds so much to the film.
If I had one slight quibble it would be the songs. They aren’t the worst things I’ve ever heard but they don’t exactly fit the mood. They feel like a leftover from another film. The film is emotional but the songs just seem like they’re trying too hard to make us feel. It just doesn’t need any help. There is plenty of heart here and, if you’re like me, you’ll be silently weeping by the end. Guillermo del Toro’s has done a wonderful adaptation here. He isn’t constrained by the source material but he also manages to stick to the narrative very closely. He brings his unique view to these characters and it’s an absolute joy. Well, as much of a joy as an emotionally draining film can possibly be.