For today’s review I’m donning nostalgia goggles and wearing my I APPRECIATE THE MUPPETS ON A MUCH DEEPER LEVEL THAN YOU T-shirt because today we’re reviewing the 1986 Jim Henson movie, Labyrinth.
Labyrinth is a sort of companion piece to Jim Henson’s 1982 movie The Dark Crystal, Unlike The Dark Crystal, which is a dark serious fantasy movie with only puppets, Labyrinth is a light-hearted coming of age story with a few human characters. However, it does have its surreal moodiness that makes for a great children’s movie, then again that was the style of kids movie in the 80’s.
Labyrinth centers on fifteen-year old Sarah played Jennifer Connelly. Sarah frenquetly has to babysit her step or half baby brother, Toby. One night while babysitting Toby she asked the Goblin King from her favorite book, Labyrinth, to take Toby away. As it turns out the Golbin King, Jareth, played by David Bowie, takes Toby to his castle at the center of the Labyrinth beyond the Goblin city. Sarah begs him to giver her brother back and he gives her thirteen hours to solve the Labyrinth and reach the castle. The rest of the movie is Sarah meeting creatures and friends while Jareth tries to thwart her and falling in love with her all.
Labyrinth has an interesting kind of moral. It’s a coming of age story but the way it handled isn’t very common. Sarah is on the cusp of childhood and adulthood. She rather likes living in her fantasy world of toys, storybooks and costumes and doesn’t like the reasonability of taking care of her little brother. She does haven’t sort wants the freedom to do what she wants, like when she argues with her stepmother about how she doesn’t ask Sarah what her plans for her evenings. It sort of plays at being and adult but keeping a sense of childhood which is fitting for a Jim Henson movie.
That being said Labyrinth doesn’t have a very strong story, it’s really just a girl in a strange place meeting strange creatures and characters. Is is because most of the movie was done from the artwork of Brian Froud. So it was a collaborative movie that was unified with a script. But I think it works here, I think going from point to point but having a larger goal in mind works for a story.
Of course the premise structure that with movie has only really works because the technically and the character work well. Let’s start with the characters. Sarah has a lot of growth. She starts off bratty but grows and accepts her adult responsibilities and when she is offered her dreams she rejects them. Jareth is kind of like Sarah. Bowie talked about how he saw his character has taking the responsibility of being the Goblin King but hating the job. So he does his job of taking children and trying to scare the ones who would save them. Bowie brings a lot of complexity to character who might not have had any. The other characters like Hoggle, Ludo and Didymus are also great. Hoggle grows from being a coward and not very nice to be being brave and kind. Ludo is just kind despite being somewhat scary and Didymus is amusing.
As is standard with Henson movies the technicals are great and a lot of fun. The CG work looks very dated but it was 1986 so it’s forgivable. The costumes are also great. It rare that a movie gives the male villain more costumes than the lead female. The ball-gown she wears is wonderful, it’s like pure 80’s fantasy mixed with Art Nouveau. The whole of the ballroom scene is stunning.
The movie also has a great sound track that David Bowie provided. Who doesn’t love Dance Magic?
However the movie does have some pacing issues. It drags in parts, like the battle has some fun parts BUT it goes on and on and on and then on some more. There also a part before she meets the Fire Gang that is a little dull, also the fire gang is a little bit of a what the fuck scene and in this movie that is saying a lot.
Despite Labyrinth having a very simple premise you could write a thesis on on the symbolism of this movie from a number of different disciplines. Was the whole real or did Sarah imagine it? Was the worm helpful or deceptive? And just the Ballroom scene in general, that is my favorite scene. The movie has so many layers and richness.
Also there is a comic book sequel series, Return to Labyrinth .Follow thehunchblog