If I’m honest this is not the best film in the world for me, I know and realise it is has a massive cult following and is much loved. I can see all of that and understand it too. It’s like my first encounter with Citizen Kane (1941) but does have that alienating quality of being high-brow. Labyrinth (1986) it does, however have more of a charm and universal appeal that engages with a larger audience, For me I think I wasn’t buying into beginning which I wasn’t expecting. Which I think was because I was expecting something different, but what was I really expecting going in blind.
For me what redeems this is the lack of C.G.I. there are splashes and sequences of the stuff in places, the opening titles make use of it, however, it’s minimal throughout. The charm lies in the puppets, provided by Jim Henson who was and will always be remembered for the muppets, taking the puppet to a new level in entertainment. Here we have a film free of that world, even the standard muppet for something more sophisticated yet defiantly still in the Henson style which I respect. There’s no absence of characters to act against, or the suggestion there ever was during production (minus one sequence), it’s all there, all the magic in front of the camera. It’s the physicality of the characters that are brought to life as we see them in full frame and no strings from above or rods from below. And if there was I would still forgive it all.
Ok moving onto the film itself which is David Bowie left right and centre, although his time on-screen is just under half, his presence is felt throughout as teenage fantasy-dreaming Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is given the task to rescue her half baby brother Toby before he is turned into a goblin. Which is all started after she reads a spell out from a book titled Labyrinth is magically brought to life as she quotes from the book, venting her anger at the baby who she has to babysit. It’s the classic frustrated teenage daughter really escaping to a fantasy world that she understand and can enjoy.
I can draw comparisons to Alice in Wonderland ok she’s not falling asleep as she goes after a white rabbit, there is still that initial desire to escape reality and all its trappings to something they both understand. Before entering into one that really makes less sense. For Sarah she has a lot of growing up to do in the Labyrinth as she makes here way through the maze, complete with its own traps and tricks. Even the characters she meets along the way that are more complex than most puppets we usually meet, from the goblin Hoggle (Brian Henson) to the guard of bridge Ambrosius (Percy Edwards) they all make the world authentic and richer for all their flaws as individuals.
Turning back to Sarah who completes the whole journey with all setbacks she has she holds her own, with adolescent and strokes of adult logic to get her half-brother back in one piece. All from the minds of three men, one of which really sticks out for me, Terry Jones one of the Pythons adds another layer of eccentricity to the world, much like how Terry Gillham creates truly unique worlds. You can see the British sensibility to the film in most of the characters and dialogue, adding class to an otherwise American fantasy movie otherwise, raising it to be a richer film.
- Labyrinths and Coming-of-Age: “Labyrinth” (1986) and “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006) (femmefilms.wordpress.com)
- Cult-Movie Review: Labyrinth (1986) (reflectionsonfilmandtelevision.blogspot.co.uk)