The movie Labyrinth came out in 1986, created by a star-struck team of creative visionaries. Though the film was not very successful in America, it was quite popular internationally, starring David Bowie alongside Jennifer Connelly. Labyrinth was directed by Jim Henson, the artistic genius behind The Muppets, with help from Lucasfilm Ltd., founded by George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars and Indiana Jones. The screenplay was written by Terry Jones, a writer and member of the Monty Python comedy troupe. Each of these great minds brought unique passion to the movie, but at times it gets muddled.
The story starts when 16-year-old Sarah’s baby brother is taken by Jareth, the Goblin King, and Sarah has to venture into the labyrinth to try to save her baby brother. I felt disturbed when Jareth expressed his love for Sarah, as it felt like an unnecessary aspect of the film. To me, it made the idea that this is a kids’ movie a bit ridiculous and unsavory. What I didn’t know before watching this movie is that it is a musical. So you can imagine my surprise when twenty-three minutes into the movie David Bowie’s character broke into song. There’s a contrast of terrifying goblin puppets, David Bowie’s jovial dancing, a frightened distraught baby, and an upbeat song. The musical numbers feel very awkward and out of place. But they grew on me, and I came to find that the music added to the ambiance and overall camp of the movie.
The puppets were clearly thoughtfully made. Although grotesque and haunting at times they were also endearing. This movie stands on the edge of that claymation feeling and the uncanny valley. It is clear that this world and the aesthetics of it were the initial inspiration for the movie. The elaborate set and over-the-top costumes confirm this. Especially for Jareth the Goblin King whose outfits resemble an elven space pirate. As the audience and Sarah delve deeper into the world of the Labyrinth, the set becomes grander and Sarah evolves as well. Her dress in the ballroom scene is an extravagant 80s puffy-sleeved fantasy. It was used as a representation that to defeat the labyrinth, you have to join it and learn to use its rules against it.
I don’t think the 80s audience was ready for this film, and honestly, when I started watching it I didn’t feel prepared either. I’m doubtful that a movie remake would be successful. Without the original creators, I worry that a remake would fall flat. As interesting as it would be to dive deeper into the world of Labyrinth, it feels impossible to capture the mood of the first movie. The goal of the film was to show that life isn’t always fair. It sought to highlight growing up and learning to take responsibility for yourself.