Labyrinth (1986)

labyrinth poster 1986 movie david bowie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 7/10

David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly

Unbalanced storytelling

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Labyrinth

Studio:  Henson Associates (HA)/Lucasfilm/The Jim Henson Company

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

Release Date(s):  June 27, 1986

MPAA Rating:  PG

labyrinth sarah hoggle ludo didymus jennifer connelly

The gang’s all here!

Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly) feels her life isn’t fair.  She’s constantly made to watch her baby brother Toby (Toby Froud) by her step-mother (Shelley Thompson) and her father (Christopher Malcolm), and she has no freedom of her own.  When she wishes Toby would be taken away by the Goblin King (David Bowie), she gets her wish…but instantly regrets it.  Sarah must journey deep into the center of Jareth’s labyrinth to reach his castle before times runs out…and her only hope could be a dwarf named Hoggle, a monster named Ludo, and a valiant knight named Sir Didymus with his dog steed Ambrosius.

Written and directed by Jim Henson, Labyrinth is a family fantasy musical adventure.  The film was released to positive reviews but underperformed at the box office.  Since its release, Labyrinth has gained a cult following.

I loved The Dark Crystal.  It was an adventure with amazing creatures and characters.  When Labyrinth was released, I wasn’t as into it as The Dark Crystal.  Reassessing Labyrinth in the years afterwards, it is both a deeper movie but also a more unbalanced film.

labyrinth jareth goblin king david bowie costume toby froud

You remind me of the babe!

The movie falls along the lines of Alice in Wonderland.  Connelly’s character is somewhat unlikable as the put upon Sarah at the beginning of the film and whines and cries about “unfairness” and her life.  Through the course of the adventure (which is largely episodic), she finds the errors in her way through friendship and adventure.  The Alice in Wonderland problem (like Alice in Wonderland) is that some aspects of the story are very dark but some are too light…it has to keep kids entertained but it can’t terrify them.

Connelly is a good Alice stand-in.  She demonstrates her star-power early in this movie (and became the crush of boys while having young girls envy and emulate her).  Her age presents a strange “in-between” that ties into the story…she’s supposed to be on the cusp of adulthood and that creates a strange fear/attraction to the Goblin King.  As the Goblin King, the scene stealer is David Bowie who is almost at his David “Bowie-est”.  The only disappointment is that Jareth doesn’t get to do even more or perform more songs (the songs also sometimes feel a bit out of place in the tone of the story).

labyrinth ending jareth goblin king sarah toby david bowie jennifer connelly

Does anyone escape Jareth’s maze?

Like The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth has a great visual look.  With human players, it doesn’t quite create the same world and some of the green-screen stuff (like the head-popping monsters) doesn’t hold up like Dark Crystal’s largely created set based world.  The designs were based on the art of Brian Froud (Froud’s son Toby plays the baby Toby).

Labyrinth has grown a bit on me.  I like the adult aspects of the story, but a lot of what I didn’t like as a kid, I still don’t like now.  What has changed is a better understand of the story and how it fits in the literary world from which it was birthed.  Both Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal have continued on in various formats…with continued popularity, I expect both will stand the test of time.

Related Links:

The Dark Crystal (1982)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @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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