Labyrinth (1986)

 

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)
Sigh.
Some days are harder than others in this job unpaid perpetual indentured servitude.
This review came about because one of my very, very closest friends donated embarrassingly generously to Joanna and simply asked that I review a beloved childhood movie of hers, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth.
And now I’m going to crap all over it because I’m classy like that.
Oh, and she’s just announced that she’s engaged (Congratulations Fleur!).
Sorry.
Sorry to everyone who loves this film and I know there are many of you. Sorry to fans of David Bowie and Jim Henson (of which I consider myself one on both counts). Apologies to all you ladies out there (and a not inconsiderable number of you gentlemen) for whom the sight of David Bowie in those pants was your Leia in a Gold Bikini.
This is one nostalgia wave you must surf alone while I sulk on the beach complaining about the sand up my crack.
Don’t like it. Never have.
Labyrinth came about during the filming of Dark Crystal when director Jim Henson and concept artist Brian Froud started throwing ideas around for a movie that would be similar to Dark Crystal but maybe a tad less traumatising for the man cubs. Froud is an absolutely phenomenal fantasy artist, but unfortunately his work is often little more than pro-fairy propaganda, and I cannot recommend any artist who’d try to burnish the image of those baby-snatching, milk souring, potato mooching, cow-hassling little mother…
Sorry, sorry. I swore when I began this review I wasn’t going to let this turn into an anti-fairy screed.
Anyway, Labyrinth began and remained to the end more of a showcase for Froud’s designs and the Henson company’s animatronic wizardry than a real attempt to tell a story. The movie is really just another entry into the surprisingly large genre of “young girl enters a strange land, makes some weird friends and sees some craaaaaaazy shit man”, joining such other exemplars of the form as Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and that time your older sister went backpacking in Amsterdam.
David Bowie was cast as the Goblin King Jareth, over other possible choices like Sting and Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson as the Goblin King is one of those things that could have gone very, very right or very, very wrong but on the whole I think they made the right choice with Bowie. He’s still not my perfect casting for the role though.
Dr-Frank-N-Furter-the-rocky-horror-picture-show-1716659-500-590

I should be a casting director. I should live in Hollywood and have a big house and a fancy car.

George Lucas produced, Bowie provided songs, Monty Python vet Terry Jones wrote the script and the puppeteering features work by veterans like Jim Henson and Frank Oz. A lot of talented people and George Lucas worked on this. No question.
So what’s my beef?
Let’s take a look.
***
So the movie opens with a barn owl flying over the credits in what is actually the first ever attempt at rendering a photo-realistic animal in CGI in a motion picture. It always bowls me over to think that, far from being new or cutting edge, computer animation has been used in film for well over three decades now. As 1980s computer animation goes it’s…not at all bad actually. I mean, it’s clearly CGI but the animation is fluid and realistic and it actually holds up pretty darn well.
In a park, Sarah (Jennifer Connolly) is running around in a white dress and talking guff about goblins.
I…honestly have no idea what she’s doing here. She’s fifteen years old and playing by herself in a park. In costume.
Is she role-playing? Rehearsing a play? Feigning madness to catch the conscience of the king?
I have a theory that Sarah is actually in a constant state of delusion and that the movie and all the stuff with the Labyrinth that happens is just what she does every single day. Connolly of course went on to have a long and fruitful acting career but here she’s…a very nice young lady who’s doing her best. Alright, I know that acting almost entirely with a cast of puppets is a real challenge for any actor, but honestly I think she’s actually better in scenes where she has to interact with the various denizens of the Labyrinth. When she has to carry a scene on her own though, things get iffy. There’s some really weird line readings. Like when she hears the town clock ringing and yells “Seven O’Clock! It can’t be!” and it’s less like that she’s surprised that it’s that late and more like the very concept of seven o’clock is unthinkable because she was always taught that the clock only goes up to six.
Anyway she runs home and her parents are angry with her because they’re going out tonight and they need her to babysit her baby brother Toby. Toby, incidentally, is played by Toby Froud, Brian Froud’s son. He was originally called “Joey” in the script but they had to change the character’s name because Toby would only react to his own name on set.
Brando used to pull shit that like that all the time.

Brando used to pull shit like that all the time.

Sarah is super pissy that this baby sitting gig has called her away from LARPing solitaire and her stepmother essentially says that at her age she should be out getting laid.
"Its the EIGHTIES for Gods sake! Do some coke! Live a little!"

“It’s the EIGHTIES for Gods sake! Do some coke! Live a little!”

Her parents chew her out for causing them to be late and she goes to her room and throws herself on the bed in a huff because nobody gets her.
Youre nuttier than squirrel poop, whats to get?

You’re nuttier than squirrel poop, what’s to get?

I admit that I use to feel sorry for Sarah when I saw this movie as a kid. Now of course, I have a baby of my own and know that unreliable babysitters deserve only tortures not seen since the darkest days of the reign of Caligula.
Toby wakes up crying in the middle of the night and instead of, y’know, comforting him, or changing him, or feeding him Sarah goes in and just yells at him for five minutes and I really, really don’t like this scene at all. One, because it establishes Sarah as such a horrible person that I really can’t root for her after this and two, because Toby Froud doesn’t have a fucking clue why Jennifer Connolly is yelling at him and is clearly just freaking out.

Sarah tells the kid a story about a beautiful young girl whose horrible baby brother was carried away by the Goblin King. Somewhere, in some dark nether-realm, an army of filthy goblins springs awake.

Kinda like what happens whenever someone mentions misogny on the internet.

Kinda like what happens whenever someone mentions misogyny on the internet.

The Goblins listen intently  as Sarah says “I wish! I wish! I can bear it no longer! Goblin King! Goblin King! Wherever you may be take this child of mine far away from me!”

The goblins complain that “it didn’t even begin with “I wish”” and I gotta say, I think the Goblins are being overly generous to Sarah here. I mean sure, it’s not a complete sentence but I think any reasonable judge would rule in their favour if they just snatched the kid there and then.

Anyway, Sarah finally does make the wish and leaves the room and as soon as she closes the door the baby stops crying, and I’ll admit it’s an extremely creepy moment.

Sarah goes back into the darkened room to find Toby gone and finds herself face to face with the Goblin King (David Bowie, at his very Bowiest). I’ll admit, I love Bowie’s performance here, even though I’m not sure you could exactly call it great acting. It’s kind of like the performance a lot of actors give in Muppet movies, not exactly mugging for the camera but very clearly in on the joke. There’ s no denying that the guy has incredible charisma though, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s sporting a package that would be the pride of a male pornstar or indeed an internet critic.

The Fremen call it “Shai-Hulud”. The Old Man of the Desert.

The Fremen call it “Shai-Hulud”. The Old Man of the Desert.

Sarah begs him to let her brother go, saying that she was actually just joking and Jareth reveals that as well as being king of the land of the Goblins he is also Emperor of the Confederated Realm of No Backsies. Jareth tells her that if she wants Toby back she’ll have to make her way through the labyrinth to his castle in thirteen hours.

Jareth then disappears and Sarah sets off on her journey, saying “C’mon feet!”
She’s talking to her own feet.
"Wow. Shes craaaaaazy."

“Wow. Shes craaaaaazy.”

"You said it buddy!"

“You said it buddy!”

At the entrance to the labyrinth she meets Hoggle, a dwarf, who’s spraying fairies with flit and oh yes, again! Again!
Now step on em! Crush their little heads!

Now step on ’em! Crush their little heads!

Sarah, feeling sorry for the gold-hoarding little shits actually picks one of the fairies up which then bites her and Hoggle asks what she expected from a fairy.  Yes. Yes! Exactly! It’s them or us, listen to the dwarf!
I’ve got to make mention of Hoggle here because, as well as being remarkably clear-eyed about the fairy menace, he’s an absolutely amazing effect. Apart from the design, which is a perfect rendition of Brian Froud’s style, Hoggle was achieved by having little person actor Shari Weisner portray his body movements while essentially wearing a robot face controlled and voiced by Brian Henson (it was originally going to be Terry Jones doing the voice but that ended being too much hassle). It looks gorgeous.
Gorgeous.

Gorgeous.

Hoggle shows her the way into the Labyrinth and then leaves her to it. At first Sarah doesn’t know what to do because the Labyrinth actually seems to be more of a corridor that just goes on and on without any turns (and I gotta admit, as a way of keeping people out of your castle, that’s a pretty good labyrinth). Fortunately, she’s helped out by a friendly worm who shows her a hidden entrance and she’s on her way.
Meanwhile, in the Goblin King’s castle, Toby won’t stop crying because he’s a baby surrounded by a bunch of creepy ass Goblin puppets and I don’t like this. This kid’s not acting. He’s a one year old baby who’s obviously really scared and they filmed that and put it in a movie for our entertainment and I do not like that.
Anyway, to shut the kid up Jareth sings Dance Magic. and tells the goblins that they remind him of the babe.
"What babe?"

“What babe?”

"The babe with the power."

“The babe with the power.”

"What power?"

“What power?”

"What power you ask? How about the power of flight? That doing anything for ya? That's LEVITATION homes.."

“What power you ask? How about the power of flight? That doing anything for ya? That’s LEVITATION homes.”

"What are you talking about?"

“What are you talking about?”

"I...think hes talking about Power Girl."

“I…I…think he’s talking about Power Girl.”

The babe with the power.

The babe with the power.

Bowie is awesome in this song. His goblin backing vocalists are not however, and they really drag the song down. Other than that this song is only really memorable for the scene with Bowie throwing the baby high into the air.

Yeah. I could definitely see Michael Jackson playing this part.

Yeah. I could definitely see Michael Jackson playing this part.

Meanwhile, Sarah comes to two doors that are guarded by Scottish accented moustachioed camels (one of my favourite Saturday morning cartoons from the eighties incidentally) and has to solve a version of the Liar’s Riddle. This scene I actually really like, Connolly seems more engaged in her performance and it actually shows Sarah using intelligence to solve a problem rather than trusting to blind luck. If the movie had done more of this (I say “more” because it does do some) and actually showed how Sarah’s character learns and becomes a better person through her struggles in the Labyrinth I think it could have been a much better movie. The potential is definitely there, and shines through a lot of the time, but the script really needed more work to make the story more about Sarah’s journey rather than a random series of shit that happens to her. Anyway, she chooses correctly (I think?) and falls through an endless tunnel of grabbing hands.

Poor girl. Like travelling on an Italian subway.

Poor girl. Like travelling on an Italian subway.

This scent shows off some really cool hand puppeteering (not using puppets with hands, but actually using hands as puppets) with the puppeteers creating talking faces with just their hands. The faces ask her whether she wants to go up or down and she says “down” because she used up all her intelligence points in the previous encounter.

She ends up in an oubliette deep under ground and Hoggle appears and to take her back to the beginning of the labyrinth. Instead, she bribes him with a bracelet to take her as far into the labyrinth as he can. He says he can’t promise anything but he’ll do what he can.

They walk past the False Alarms, massive stone heads who solemnly below out things like “TURN BACK! BEWAAAAARE!” until Hoggle shuts them up. I’ve already mentioned that Terry Jones wrote the script and honestly, there’s very little “pythoness” on display here, which I think it could really have used. There is one bit here though, where one of the False Alarms gets cut off by Hoggle mid-bellow and says “Oh please?” like a Knight of Ni asking for another shrubbery that I do love.

Suddenly, Jareth appears and angrily demands to know why Hoggle is helping Sarah and Hoggle says that he’s actually been leading her back to the beginning of the labyrinth all this time. Sarah gives a big infuriated “WHAT?!” (I was going to say that’s stupid since Hoggle is quite clearly just lying to Jareth, but then she should still react as if he’s telling the truth to throw Jareth off the scene so, I dunno, maybe she’s smarter than I’m giving her credit for.) Jareth then tells Hoggle that if he betrays him he’ll hang him headfirst over the pit of eternal stench. He then asks Sarah how she likes his labyrinth and she says that it’s a piece of cake which he uses as an excuse to shave some hours off her time and chase her and Hoggle down the corridor with a massive razor sharp machine of doom.

Good comeback, bro.

Good comeback, bro.

 They manage to escape to the surface and Hoggle says that he’s taken her as far as he can and that she has to go on without him. Sarah calls him a cheat and steals his stash of jewellery even though he has done literally exactly what he said he’d do. Take her as far as he could towards the centre of the labyrinth and then tell to screw off. Those were the damn terms. Hoggle says that it’s not fair and Sarah says that fairs are for carnies and that if wants his shit back he’d better recognise that Sarah’s calling the shots now.

They come across the Wiseman, voiced by one of my all time favourite voice actors, Sir Michael Hordern (he was Badger in Cosgrove’s Wind in the Willows) and he gives Sarah some advice “The way forward is sometimes the way back.”

"Great. Okay. Thanks for that, Ill file THAT away."

“Great. Okay. Thanks for that, Ill file THAT away.”

 They press on and come across Ludo (Ron Mueck), a gigantic wookie-like creature who’s been caught in a trap and is now being tormented by goblins with little piranha fetuses on sticks…

I’ve gotta be the first person in history to type that sentence.

Anyway, Sarah picks up some rocks that are mysteriously rolling around and starts milling them at the goblins and drives them off. She then gets Ludo down and he follows her because once you save a wookie’s life they owe you a life debt and they will never leave your side, ever.

"What have we talked about, Chewie? Bathroom time is "Hans time"" "EEEEEYYYAAAAARRR"

“What have we talked about, Chewie? Bathroom time is “Hans time””
“EEEEEYYYAAAAARRR”

Hoggle runs off after hearing Ludo’s first bellow, and he gets waylaid by Jareth who gives him a peach to give to Sarah. Meanwhile, Sarah and Ludo suddenly set upon by OH JESUS NO!

LIVE ACTION BAHIA!

LIVE ACTION BAHIA!

Alright look, I’m not in this movie’s fandom. I don’t know how fans of this movie feel about the Fireys. All I can say is, I’m pretty sure they are of the devil. These are some of the freakiest things I have ever seen in my life, my very soul goes tharn at the sight of them. Here, just watch for yourselves.

Sorry about that. Also, you now all have seven days to live.

I absolutely hate this scene from start to finish. The puppets are hideous. The voices are maddening. The song is awful. If that greenscreen was any more obnoxious it would be loudly screaming “I’M THE GREENSCREEN BITCHES! WHERE MY HOS AT?” and to top it all off it’s entirely pointless. It’s pretty much a perfect Big Lipped Alligator Moment (yes, I know they show up again in the last scene but then that’s such a BLAM moment in itself it still counts). Anyway, Hoggle rescues Sarah from the Fireys who are trying to rip her head off (you know, for kids) and we all agree to never speak of them again.

"Under penalty of TORTURE."

“Under penalty of TORTURE.”

Hoggle, Sarah and Ludo come to the Bog of Eternal Stench and to escape they have to cross a bridge guarded by a fox-knight named Sir Didymus (David Shaughnessy). Didymus  says that no one can cross the bridge without his permission and after Ludo tries to fight his way through Sarah realises that all she needs to do is ask his permission. Didymus grants it. The bridge collapses when Sarah tries to cross it and Ludo uses his rock powers to create stepping stones for her to cross. Oh yeah, Ludo has rock powers, didn’t I mention that? I was actually going to rip on the movie for just pulling this out of thin air but watching the movie again I noticed that in the scene where Sarah saves Ludo he’s actually directing the stones that she throws at the goblins so it is established earlier that he can do that. So fine. You win this round, movie.

"Youre getting sloppy, Mouse."

“You’re getting sloppy, Mouse.”

"Curse your insolence sir!"

“Curse your insolence sir!”

Once they escape from the swamp, Hoggle finally gives Sarah the peach and she takes a bite. She then sees a vision of David Bowie playing with his balls.

Alright, you knew the joke was coming, I knew the joke was coming. Lets just move on with our lives.

Alright, you knew the joke was coming, I knew the joke was coming. Let’s just move on with our lives.

She dreams that she’s at a Masque Ball, dancing with Jareth, set to Bowie’s As the World Falls Down. She sees a clock though, reminding her that she’s got very little time left to rescue Toby and so she snaps out of it and finds herself lying in a rubbish tip with no idea of how she got there, which is how you know it was a really good party.

She meets The Junk Lady (Denise Bryer), a creepy as BALLS goblin covered in junk who brings her to a perfect recreation of her bedroom and starts slowly cocooning Sarah inside her books and toys and gadgets and gizmos and whos-its and whats-its galore. But Sarah again snaps out of it and breaks through the wall and finds herself outside the Goblin City. She meets up with Ludo and Didymus and they sneak into the city. They’re attacked by a giant robot but are rescued by Hoggle who’s been racked with guilt over the business with the peach and Sarah is all “Don’t sweat it brah.”
They fight their way through the goblin city but, let’s be honest, how are goblins going to kill Ludo if they couldn’t even kill Sean Bean?
I mean, he'd die if you sneezed on him.

I mean, he’d die if you sneezed on him.

With the help of Ludo’s rock summoning powers they show the goblins what’s what and they finally reach Jareth’s castle. Sarah tells the others to stay behind because she has to do this alone.
Alice Facepalm
After giving her the runaround  on some MC Escher stairs Jareth finally confronts Sarah and they have their final climatic confrontation. Sarah demands that Jareth give her back the baby and he says that he’s been generous up until now. She asks him what he’s done that’s been so generous and he answers:

“Everything! Everything that you wanted I have done. You asked that the child be taken. I took him. You cowered before me, I was frightening. I have reordered time. I have turned the world upside down, and I have done it all for you! I am exhausted from living up to your expectations. Isn’t that generous?”

Ahem.

Excuse me a moment.

boo

Weak. Lame. Feeble. Would not bang.

This is one of the reasons why this movie is so frustrating to me. It could be so good, it really could but the writing just is not there.  “You cowered before me, I was frightening”? What the cock does that even mean? I know what the words mean, but what does Jareth mean by saying that? Any line of dialogue needs to have a purpose. There has to be a goal that the character speaking it wants to achieve by saying it. Dialogue should be action. It should do something. It should convince, or threaten, or cajole, or infuriate but there should be a purpose behind it. There are so many ways this could have been made to work. Jareth could challenge Sarah with how her experiences in the Labyrinth have made her a better person, smarter, braver, more compassionate. Or you could push the angle that the labyrinth is just an elaborate seduction on Jareth’s part and that he really did create this just for her (and don’t tell me that he did, otherwise he wouldn’t be so angry every time she made progress in solving it). But there’s really nothing to what he says, it’s just flowery nonsense that sounds profound until you actually look at it for five seconds.

Anyway, Sarah doesn’t fall for it (thank God) and tells Jareth she has no power over him. The clock strikes thirteen and Sarah and Toby are spirited back to their house. She puts Toby to bed and then goes back to her room and then Hoggle, Ludo and Didymus appear and they have a big Shrek-style dance party. The end.

Party

Oh look. There’s one of the guys who tried to decapitate her. And one of the goblins that was torturing Ludo.                   WOOOOO! PARTY!

***

Labyrinth was a fairly massive flop when it opened. Audiences stayed away, and the critics cocked their legs for the most part. Jim Henson took the failure very hard and by some accounts became quite depressed after its release. In any event, he never directed again. Labyrinth is of course now a massive cult film and has undergone significant critical reappraisal but…
Sorry.
I actually think this is one time when the original critical consensus was on the money. Roger Ebert, for example, praised the craft that obviously went into the movie while noting that the story is basically just a bunch of stuff that happens with very little connective tissue. And I think that’s more or less the movie in a nutshell, a triumph of craft over art. They have all these cool creatures and sets, but no worthwhile story to tell with them.
Scoring
Animation: n/a
“Mouse, why do you bother even having this category when you’re reviewing live action films?”
 “I’ve extreme OCD. There? You happy? Now that’s out there in the open.”
Leads: 6/20
Awful character. Indifferent performance.
Villain: 14/20
I’m happy. Hope you’re happy too.
Supporting Characters: 13/20
Something you’d expect to be a strong point for a Jim Henson film but this is actually a very uneven showing. Hoggle, Didymus and Ludo have real charm but the Goblins are downright creepy and not in a good way. I don’t even know what to say about the Fireys.
Music: 13/20
The song’s aren’t bad but any connection to what’s going on in the movie tends to be wafer thin. And the Goblins can’t sing.
FINAL SCORE: 58%
NEXT UPDATE:  25 September 2014
NEXT TIME: I’M GONNA REVIEW IT!

 Wreck-It-Ralph

Neil Sharpson aka The Unshaved Mouse is a playwright, blogger and comic book writer living in Dublin. The blog updates with a new animated movie review every second Thursday. He’s also serialising his novel The Hangman’s Daughter with a new chapter every Saturday. Like Unshaved Mouse? Let the good people at the Blog Awards Ireland know what’s what by voting for me HERE.

51 comments

  1. This is a shame, Mouse! I know this movie (I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about it lately) but I never saw it. I don’t want you to spoil me anything so I can’t read your great review full of sarcasm and funny fart jokes. But don’t worry I, as a great citizen from this planet we call Earth, will watch the movie online in order to avoid paying anything. I’ll be right back in two hours and a half (the movie may not be that long, but I’ll have to do some “exercise” after watching David Bowie and his famous costume ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) ).

      1. Well, it’s just a joke and totally isn’t one of my multiple personalities. I looked for that movie and I couldn’t find the right video so I figured what the hell and I just read your review. You haven’t disappointed me!

  2. “I’ve gotta be the first person in history to type that sentence.”
    I have no interest in being number 2.
    I could not get througth the Firey sequence (I stopped watching at 1:33). I am really excited for Wreck It Ralph, which I consider to be the fourth best film in the cannon.
    For the animation grade I would have suggested the special effects and puppet effects, which I think you included with the side characters score.

  3. Great review, as expected. I saw this movie for the first time as sa sophomore in highschool at the behest of my drama teacher and… I gotta agree with you. This movie is all style over substance. It’s great to look at but maddeningly disappointing in the story department. But at least Bowie is beautiful.

  4. Put it there, my fellow philistine.
    I quite liked this as an eight-year-old (the Helping Hands blew me away) but I watched it again last year with my brother and sisters and twelve of my cousins. I wasn’t sure at first if it was genius or tripe, but everyone else was a hundred per cent convinced of the latter and in the end I had to say the same. Although, granted, it’s pretty difficult to follow a story when a third of the audience are heckling, another third are fighting over the chips, and the rest are trying to explain the plot to Nan.

      1. “They’re puppets, Nan. No, puppets. Scary dancing puppets. I have no idea why. You’re right, it is a bit disjointed.”

  5. I had to watch this movie after finding a rather hilarious webcomic where the characters from the movie make up part of the main cast: http://pika-la-cynique.deviantart.com/gallery/772068/Girls-Next-Door?offset=264
    After actually seeing the movie I decided the comic featured highly romanticized versions of the characters, but it’s still funny. Anywho, I’m mostly ‘meh’ about the movie. Really cool effects and puppetry, creative world, but a flimsy story and a mixed bag when it comes to characters. Still, I wouldn’t say it’s BAD, it’s just not GREAT.

    Wreck-it-Ralph next time!? Yay, I love the movie, one of my all-time favorites!

    1. Same here although I actually quite liked the Dark Crystal. One thing I really liked about Labryinth was the idea of words having to be meant. So, she actually has to want her brother taken away for her to get the words right. And she can’t say “You have no power over me”, because she doesn’t believe it. At the end Jareth’s words don’t really make any sense. “I ask for so little. Just fear me. Love me. Do as I ask, and I shall be your slave.” But, then she realises the fact that he’s asking her to stay means she doesn’t have to, he has no power over her. And now she can say it and mean it.

      As for the stuff about “You cowered before me; I was frightening”. Well everything in the labryinth is based on things in Sarah’s room. Even Bowie resembles the actor her mother ran away with. So, if we think that the goblin king is real (and not nothing but a pack of cards) he’s based everything off things in Sarah’s mind.
      Also he doesn’t want her to succeed before the clock runs out so, he doesn’t mind her making some progress, the question of how he doesn’t know she’s at the gate? A wizard did it!

      The biggest plothole is the bit at the end where they all turn up again. Sursum Ursa suggested that this meant you shouldn’t give up on imagination but, I don’t think that idea really carried through. It’s like in Flight of Dragons, if you deny all magic you don’t get to keep the gold shield and the girl. I’ve never minded too much about character development, lots of people change little in life but, I thought it was a problem that she never really stops and doubts herself.

      I’d never thought that about little Toby though 😥 Must be because you’re a parent. 🙂

  6. OK, yeah, those fire things are absolutely fucking terrifying. And I love them for it. This is the kind of movie that I appreciate for the effects, the creativity, and the atmosphere. Oh, and the camp. David Bowie brings so much of that. Yeah the plots kind of stupid and yeah Connelly doesn’t give a particularly great performance but I just can’t help but like this movie. Jim Henson’s style just wins me over every time.

  7. I first heard of this from the Nostalgia Critic’s anniversary movie, the one where the look for the glove of Malacath, i think, Still don’t understand the thing with the balls, lol.

    1. Basically they saw a juggling magician and thought it looked cool. That guy became Bowie’s stunt arm. I think it works actually but, can’t really explain why.

  8. Question!!!!!!!! Since this film was made by Jim Henson and Lucasfilm, does that mean Disney now owns this film? Coz I heard they’re making a new Labyrinth film…….
    And if everything Lucasfilm made r theirs, does that mean Land Before Time, Howard the Duck, Willow, and American Graffiti are now part of Disney?

      1. but mouse, don’t the rights for those films from other studios? Star Wars was Fox, Jones was Universal, Labyrinth is Jim Henson’s right?

    1. Since theyre making Big Hero 6 animated film, do u think theyre gonna make an animated film based on a Lucasfilm property? Star Wars is out of the question, but how about their video games? Money Island?

      or maybe a reboot of Land Before Time? jk guys, don’t panic. But considering how Lucasfilm has so little good films and most of them r all forgotten except for Land Before Time, Star Wars and Indiana Jones, and famous for their disastrous Howard the Duck, I kinda want them to reboot their whole film library. JUST A OPINION, DONT kill me.

      and has anyone ever tried saying Lucasfilm films? even the name needs a reboot.

  9. I never saw it…I wouldn’t even know that it exists if not for a persistent fanbase which keeps mentioning it. Though I saw a trailer for another Labyrinth movie when I watched Guardians of the Galaxy (awesome movie), and I guess it is a remake?

  10. Wait wait wait, there is going to be another one?! EEEEEEE fan girl squee away. Sorry my unshaven mouse friend but I love this movie. And another fan girl squee for Wreck it Ralph next time! But seriously how can they do another one the story was fairly over with nothing really left hanging as it were. Maybe Toby all grown up and needing therapy for this weird experience he had when his teenage step sister baby sat him.

      1. Why not a gritty reboot?

        Dramatic music.
        Endless passageway.
        A hand with a striped sleeve slings a bandolier of bullets across a muscular body.
        Eyes glare from filthy sockets in the dark.
        ‘They dragged him into their lair.’
        A gun is holstered on the left hip and the right hip.
        A red and orange figure scuttles around a corner.
        ‘Now, he’s going back in…’
        Sinister laughter in a garbage heap.
        Pan up the body of a totally ripped guy wearing a leather jacket over his grubby red-striped T-shirt.
        ‘… for REVENGE.’
        The face of our hero: sunglasses reflecting an impossible maze, toothpick clamped between teeth, a face as bald and smooth as a baby’s.
        Blackout.
        Title card: DANCE, MAGIC, DANCE.

      2. The unforgettable showdown culminates in Toby grabbing Jareth under the armpits and hurling him into the stratosphere.

      3. And he kills the Fireys with a huge explosion. And walks away without looking at it. And his sidekick is all, ‘How did you do that?’
        And Toby spits out his toothpick and says, in the gravelly tones of a six-foot sixty-year-old chain-smoking construction worker, ‘Sometimes you gotta fight fire… with fire.’

      4. Clearly they call you “paper alchemist” for your penchant to turn written text into solid gold.

        I mean, damn.

  11. Never saw it…puppets and effects look very nice though, I didn’t really grow up with Jim Henson films other than TMNT 1990 and Secret of the Ooze (which are both awesome). 🙂

  12. Fun story/me howling into the void: I had a gerbil that my sister named Didymus and I completely forgot that that was because of this movie.

    I know I saw this when I was a wee one but I don’t really remember it. It looks like the sort of thing that would have given me the creeps as a kid, honestly.

  13. This is another movie that you held me at gunpoint and forced me to watch before I could read this review, and I found it extremely “meh.” I appreciate the effort that went into the sets and puppets, but I don’t care much for the story setup of her bumbling around. And it reminds me of one of my least favorite Disney movies, Alice in Wonderland (prepares to be hurt over that statement).

    At least you’re doing Wreck-It Ralph next. I’ve been anticipating that one for a while, so get ready for me to unload quite a lot about it.

  14. Ok, I am one of this movie’s die-hard fans, but I can concede the points here.
    I guess it hit me at just the right formative point in my youth? Also, I read the novelization. (Yes, there is one). And many things about the movie that seem not to make sense become much clearer in the book. That in itself doesn’t make the film better; you shouldn’t have to read a book to understand a movie; BUT, it does make me approach the film with better appreciation. Reading more of Sarah’s thought processes as she traverses the maze, angsts over her past and family, and reorganizes her priorities allow you to realize what the story was actually supposed to be about. It’s a shame they ultimately failed to convey that clearly. But for what it’s worth, here’s a brief analysis:
    Sarah comes with an angsty backstory of a flaky actress mother who runs off with her broadway lover, abandoning Sarah to live with her boring father, the nonentity in the film. In typical fashion Sarah, instead of being righteously pissed with her mother, idolizes both her and her boyfriend and imagines her life with them as glamorous and dramatic. The book’s brief mentions of the boyfriend come off as pedophilically creepy but then so does Jareth, who is modeled after him. You can see all this in the photos and articles clipped to her mirror. She’s got a crush on her mom’s boyfriend (that he encourages) but she’s a teenager so she’s naive and fears her own emotions.
    She’s also an escapist who lives in her own fantasy world and dreams of being an actress like her mother – hence the scene in the park, where she is acting out a scene from one of her books. You can see her lean toward escapist fantasy in the book titles on her shelf, which are mostly prototypes of her own story (Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan).
    Jareth is, ultimately, a manifestation of her subconscious. He’s not blowing smoke in that final monologue. He is frightening because she wants him to be. She desires a villain so that she can be the heroine of her own story; she desires attention and wants to be wanted; Jareth fills these roles, and her final rejection of him is her rejection of her childishness, her bitterness, and her selfishness and arrogance. Witness how at the end she is taking down all the clippings and pictures of her mother – she’s putting away her naivety. The film almost ruins this with all the characters appearing in her room for a final party, but the scene symbolizes that she can embrace her dreams and emotions (even the darker ones, i.e. the fireys and goblins) without letting them rule her (as Jareth would).
    So there you go. I don’t know if it helps at all.
    Also there are apparently bits that were cut from the final edit that made more sense after reading. The line about “the way forward is the way back”? In that scene in the book, she and Hoggle keep trying to walk out of various gates only to be deposited right back in the same spot. Then she thinks about the cryptic comment and they walk /backwards/ through a gate and it works – they are transported to the next area. It’s actually kind of a fun little Alice-type nonsense wordplay and I’ve always been disappointed that they didn’t use it in the film.

    1. I haven’t read the book, but I interpreted the “cowered before me” scene with Jareth the same as above. My sisters and I watched this film almost every day for years (on our old VHS copy we taped from the tv broadcast – I still know when exactly the breaks would appear when I watch it today), we loved it so much. We are still able to recite it word for word to this day. It didn’t make much sense to me back then, but I loved everything about it – the craft especially. Being a fan of this and both the Muppets and Fraggle Rock as a kid got me seriously into Jim Henson in a big way when I got older. I love everything he’s done.

      Coming back to the film in later years I carefully took note of everything I had not been really seeing in that way when you’ve seen something so many times that you miss out on bits and pieces. The make up of Sarah’s bedroom is especially important, even though they are there and gone in a flash – the news cuttings on her mother especially being important enough to have the camera focus on them for a moment. The books – Alice in Wonderland, Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are and Outside Over There, Grimm’s and Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales. The objects seen are the same, even more so – the firey puppet, the music box and dancer, the Sir Didymus puppet, the hedge maze, Hoggle figure, the Escher painting, the Jareth-alike figure on her dresser, and so on. Also in there is a Judge Dredd book, but I’m not sure what meaning we can ascribe to that one! Putting all that together with Jareth’s strange lines made it fairly clear to me what was going on.

      I think that, yes, the script needed work to better explain this, but despite the faults Mouse and others have pointed out, I can’t help but love it. It’s Jim Henson at his best, with truly incredible puppetry and the inventive world of Froud’s imagination to play in. It had a lot of talent behind it, including one Mouse hasn’t said – Gates McFadden (then Cheryl McFadden) of Star Trek – The Next Generation, who was responsible for the choreography of the ball as well as the battle(the Dancing Doctor, indeed!). It’s extremely disappointing that it’s failure at the box office stopped him from directing – just think of what more we could have gotten from him in film form. Apparently Brian told him before he died that it was picking up a cult following through VHS sales, and he was surprised and happy to hear it. Incidentally, anyone interested might look up the next somewhat serious puppet effort he tried, The Storyteller. It’s a strange series but it’s wonderfully narrated by John Hurt and the puppetry is quite inventive.

      It’s not a great film, I can admit that, but it’ll forever be one of my absolute favourites. I love the little bits of British humour, too – the milk bottles at the castle gates always slay me 🙂

    2. I haven’t read the book, but I interpreted the “cowered before me” scene with Jareth the same as above. My sisters and I watched this film almost every day for years (on our old VHS copy we taped from the tv broadcast – I still know when exactly the breaks would appear when I watch it today), we loved it so much. We are still able to recite it word for word to this day. It didn’t make much sense to me back then, but I loved everything about it – the craft especially. Being a fan of this and both the Muppets and Fraggle Rock as a kid got me seriously into Jim Henson in a big way when I got older. I love everything he’s done.

      Coming back to the film in later years I carefully took note of everything I had not been really seeing in that way when you’ve seen something so many times that you miss out on bits and pieces. The make up of Sarah’s bedroom is especially important, even though they are there and gone in a flash – the news cuttings on her mother especially being important enough to have the camera focus on them for a moment. The books – Alice in Wonderland, Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are and Outside Over There, Grimm’s and Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales. The objects seen are the same, even more so – the firey puppet, the music box and dancer, the Sir Didymus puppet, the hedge maze, Hoggle figure, the Escher painting, the Jareth-alike figure on her dresser, and so on. Also in there is a Judge Dredd book, but I’m not sure what meaning we can ascribe to that one! Putting all that together with Jareth’s strange lines made it fairly clear to me what was going on.

      I think that, yes, the script needed work to better explain this, but despite the faults Mouse and others have pointed out, I can’t help but love it. It’s Jim Henson at his best, with truly incredible puppetry and the inventive world of Froud’s imagination to play in. It had a lot of talent behind it, including one Mouse hasn’t said – Gates McFadden (then Cheryl McFadden) of Star Trek – The Next Generation, who was responsible for the choreography of the ball as well as the battle(the Dancing Doctor, indeed!). It’s extremely disappointing that it’s failure at the box office stopped him from directing – just think of what more we could have gotten from him in film form. Apparently Brian told him before he died that it was picking up a cult following through VHS sales, and he was surprised and happy to hear it. Incidentally, anyone interested might look up the next somewhat serious puppet effort he tried, The Storyteller. It’s a strange series but it’s wonderfully narrated by John Hurt and the puppetry is quite inventive.

      It’s not a great film, I can admit that, but it’ll forever be one of my absolute favourites. I love the little bits of British humour, too – the milk bottles at the castle gates always slay me 🙂

  15. Unshaved mouse, I have an idea. When you review live action movies, instead of having an animation section, you should have a production section, like how well the film looked. For example, in this one you could have given the film points for the good sets and excellent animatronics.

    1. I second this, replacing animation with special and practical effects along with general aesthetics would be a good idea.

  16. Hmm, I remember seeing Labyrinth once, I think, and kind of enjoying it, but being from the 90s, it isn’t exactly in the scope of my nostalgia filter lens, so I’m not exactly in love with this movie. I mean, I’m surprised you don’t think much of it, I do seem to remember its effects being very, very impressive, so I’d think you’d appreciate it, but I’ll see what you have to say about it. Also, am I, like, the only guy who never thought Leia is that hot? Am I crazy or something? Wait, don’t answer that.

    And I’m suspicious. You don’t like pro-fairy creators? What exactly would you call J. M. Barrie, huh? Also, poor, poor Lucas. He always seems to be the butt of these things, doesn’t he? As for Sarah, can you really blame her? Just you try being dumped in the care of Everything That Is Wrong With The Paper Industry.

    Hmmm… I wonder, if you came across a pair of doors saying “here be Fireys” and another door saying “here be Gurgi”, which one you’d open. Of course, in this situation you would be being pursued by the Other Mother who has just devoured the Coachman and gained his powers and choosing a door was your only means of escape.

  17. As for the point of the FIreys, they feed into the very extensive “how guys relate to a girl growing up” theme that the movie has going on. Their scene more-or-less amounts to them asking Sarah to do an erotic dance for them, and them trying to tear her limb from limb when she refuses. They’re basically the internet.

    The whole movie is like this, almost entirely theme-driven. The plot basically exists only insofar as it allows more opportunities to include more permutations of its single, overriding theme. It’s very, very effective if you can immerse yourself into that style of storytelling (or if you don’t mind it and are particularly drawn to the theme), but will fall almost entirely flat if you can’t or won’t engage with it on that level. Makes it an almost perfect cult movie.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s