As a filmmaker, Guillermo del Toro is best known for the bottomless reserves of imagination manifested in his direction; whether he’s putting his artistic stamp on preexisting characters (a la Blade II or the Hellboy films) and niche cinematic traditions (as in Pacific Rim), or spinning his own dark, modern fairy tale with the award-winning Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro injects his work with personal vision and creativity. Put another way, you’ll always know a del Toro film when you see one.
But there’s another side to the Mexican auteur that isn’t recognized quite as widely, and that’s his status as a mentor and producer. From The Orphanage, to Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, to last year’s Mama, del Toro has long invested himself in helping upcoming filmmakers bring their projects to life on the big screen, using his influence to grease the wheels of production. Now, animator Jorge Gutierrez can be counted among their number with his directorial debut, The Book of Life.
The first trailer for the film, seen above, has recently gone online – and while del Toro has definitely left his fingerprints on the picture, there’s a fresh spark of life here that’s all Gutierrez’s. The Book of Life, appropriately enough, revolves around Dia de Muertos, Mexico’s holiday of remembrance celebrated from October 31st to November 2nd; it’s intended to honor the deceased, and in turn Gutierrez appears to be honoring the holiday itself with his story and through his art direction.
The Book of Life follows Manolo (Diego Luna) and Joaquin (Channing Tatum), two friends vying for the heart of one woman, Maria (Zoe Saldana); at a glance, the film looks like a retread on the tried-and-true concept of “love conquers all”, as Manolo, through the machinations of two spirits, winds up caught in the “land of the remembered”, and must find his way back to win Maria’s hand. Here’s the official (and very vague) synopsis:
From producer Guillermo del Toro and director Jorge Gutierrez comes an animated comedy with a unique visual style. THE BOOK OF LIFE is the journey of Manolo, a young man who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart. Before choosing which path to follow, he embarks on an incredible adventure that spans three fantastical worlds where he must face his greatest fears. Rich with a fresh take on pop music favorites, THE BOOK OF LIFE encourages us to celebrate the past while looking forward to the future.
Frankly, none of the plot tidbits matter all that much; you’re probably going to be too dazzled by the intricate, highly detailed animation on display to care about anything else. Simply stated, The Book of Life looks stunning and gorgeous – and if there’s little to go on as far as its actual story is concerned, then the visual feast supplied by its teaser (not to mention the quality of its voice cast) is worth getting excited over on its own merits.
The Book of Life arrives in theaters October 14th, 2014.