Labyrinth (1986)

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7.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 7/10

David Bowie

Story identity crisis

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Labyrinth

Studio:  Henson Associates

Genre(s):  Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Musical/Family

Release Date(s):  June 27, 1986

MPAA Rating:  PG

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Just try to get “Dance Magic” aka “You Remind Me of the Babe” out of your head!

Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly) is a teen who just wants to be left alone.  When she is saddled for another Saturday night with her half-brother Toby, she wishes that the Goblin King (David Bowie) would take him away forever.  Gareth is listening to her request and takes Toby deep into the castle at the center of his labyrinth.  Now, Sarah must get her baby brother back before time runs out.

Directed by Jim Henson, Labyrinth was a failure upon its release.  The movie received mixed reviews and had poor returns at the box office.  Since its release, it’s become a cult classic.

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If they had ripped her head off, it would have made for an interesting twist…

I know it is a geek sin, but I’ve never been a huge fan of Labyrinth.  I was possibly slightly too old when it came out and didn’t feel it has the darkness that filled Henson’s previous adventure film The Dark Crystal.  Rewatching the movie, I still think Labyrinth underwhelms but is decent kids’ entertainment.

The reason why Labyrinth underwhelms is that there is a lot of potential in the story.  The story plays like The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland but with an older Dorothy (than the Alice and Oz books at least).  The story has some darkness to it, but constantly makes it kid friendly.  I think if they had cast a younger lead, it would have been more identifiable to younger kids to match the story (like Pan’s Labyrinth for kids).

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The idea of Sarah’s attraction to the Goblin King would be perfect for a more adult version of the movie…but here it is just weird.

On the flip side, I think if they had cast an older lead and made the film a bit more adult, you could have explored the transformation from childhood to adult hood for Connelly’s character like The Company of Wolves.  Exploring her budding sexuality and her relationship with the Goblin King isn’t the direction the movie chose to go, but I feel like it is stuck in the middle with not enough one way or the other.

David Bowie however is perfect.  There was some talk to have Michael Jackson or Sting play the lead, but Bowie looks unreal (ok Michael Jackson would look really unreal as well, but for different reasons).  Proven by his Ziggy Stardust days, Bowie has that transgender-esque appearance that fits the King of Goblins (he would have made a great elf for Lord of the Rings).

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Portions of the movie like this work!

Visually, the movie also suffers.  I felt The Dark Crystal really created a whole world, and though there were some puppet-y creatures, it remained dark and scary.  Labyrinth doesn’t have that same appeal with creatures that can pop off their heads, goblins, and other monsters that aren’t monstrous enough (though I do love the worm at the beginning).

Labyrinth is good for kids, but I don’t really understand its lasting appeal when it feels like many obsessed with it are a bit too old to be obsessed with it.  With some tweaking, it could have been a great film…kids like to be scared a little and it just doesn’t quite make it over the hump.  There have been multiple attempts to launch a sequel including manga and comics, but as of yet, the Labyrinth remains sealed.

Related Links:

The Dark Crystal (1982)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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