Cult Classic: Labyrinth

Labyrinth (1986)

Direct Certificate: PG

Running time: 101 minutesor: Jim Henson

Cast: David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, Brian Henson, Dave Goelz


 “You remind me of the babe. What babe? The babe with the power”

AFTER the unfortunate passing of David Bowie last week , it only seems fit to review one of my all time favourite movies, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth which returned to cinemas across the UK as a celebration of the musician’s life, with release proceeds going to Cancer Research UK.

If you ever thought there wasn’t a chance you could love a man in tights, you clearly haven’t seen Bowie’s magnificent portrayal as the Goblin King. As a child I felt deeply disturbed yet intrigued by the wonderful creations Henson brought to life in the movie yet Henson regrettably found the initial release as one of the most difficult times of his career. With a budget of $25 million, Labyrinth grossed just $12.7 million on its release and was an initially deemed to be a flop.  Years later the film has an extensive cult following, with a four volume manga sequel release and talks of a graphic novel prequel in the works.

Labyrinth tells the story of fifteen year old Sarah Williams, played by a pale faced Jennifer Connelly, who is sick and tired of her parents taking her for granted and caring more about her baby brother Toby. Sarah’s love for all things fantasy and fairy-tale like causes her to call upon the Goblin King, played by Bowie, who takes away badly behaved babies and turns them into his goblin minions.

And yes, this is supposed to be a children’s film.

Upon realising her mistake, the Goblin King whisks Sarah away to his kingdom were he challenges her to complete his labyrinth in thirteen hours or she can say goodbye to her baby brother. Throughout the movie Sarah is met by a magical array of characters who along the way, either help and or hinder her path, as she attempts to complete the labyrinth in time.

The film stems a lot of its influence from Henson’s previous feature, The Dark Crystal, which alludes to a fantasy world with a magnitude of similar characters and similar themes yet Labyrinth feels like it tells a better story. We see a distinct influence from The Wizard of Oz, noted by film critic Richard Corliss, who suggests that Sarah is a modern day Dorothy Gale lured into this fantastical world where she feels like she may belong.

Labyrinth is guided along by the sweet soundtrack written, composed and performed by David Bowie who through his talent perfectly portrays this magical world that Sarah so longs to be a part of. Initially Sting, Prince, Mick Jagger and Micheal Jackson were all considered for the role of the Goblin King but looking back now, Bowie’s unique talents and sound are more of a suitable choice to tell this fantastical story.

With the cast predominately made up of puppets and creatures, you can only begin to imagine how many were actually used during filming. In the “Magic Dance” sequence alone there were over 48 puppets, 52 puppeteers and 8 people in costume all to achieve one sequence. Each puppet varying in different shapes and sizes, there could have been at least two or three puppeteers to one puppet. The three main characters who help carry the story are Hoggle (the dwarf), Ludo (the beast) and Sir Didymus (the heroic knight/fox) and much like Dorothy’s three friends, each guide Sarah on the right path.

As the film reaches its climax viewers begin to clearly see the direction Sarah’s character arc takes. The main themes in the movie deal with Sarah’s transition from child to women and her need for her parents to take her seriously and not for granted. The Labyrinth allows her to have this almost adult like independence and responsibility, specifically in the sequence were she arrives at the ball.

It’s hinted throughout the film that the Goblin King may have a soft spot for Sarah and this is explored through the weirdly romantic dance sequence, which swiftly takes a turn for the worst as Sarah is exposed to what being an adult is really like. The breaking of the mirror symbolises her realisation that her little fantasy world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and maybe the need to be taken seriously, can be dealt with in a different way.

Whether or not this review may sway viewers in the way of watching Labyrinth, for me it was a massive piece of my childhood and with Bowie’s untimely death will remain a pivotal time in his career. I understand this movie might not be everyone’s cup of tea but from what I’ve learnt; fairies will bite, caves can be a handful (watch the movie) and beasts are your best friend.

Check out Labyrinth and Other Films Featuring David Bowie on our online Movie Club

written by @therese_rea
written by @therese_rea

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Share This