Labyrinth has been one of my favorite films for many years. With David Bowie’s passing yesterday, I thought it would be fitting to review this spectacular film.
Sixteen-year-old Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is frustrated by how much time she has to spend taking care of your younger brother, Toby, so she half-jokingly asks for the Goblin King to come and take him away. To her great surprise, the Goblin King (played by Bowie) appears and grants her wish. She begs for him not to take her brother, so he makes a deal with her: if she can make it through the labyrinth surrounding his castle within thirteen hours, she can get him back. How hard can it be?
Brian Froud is one of my favorite artists, and he did a wonderful, creative, fantastical job designing the characters and the look of the goblin world. The designs of pretty much everything in the labyrinth were wonderful. There are layers to everything, and the time spent realizing the vision of Labyrinth is very plain when studying the sets and all the Muppet characters made by Jim Henson and his crew. The overall look of the film was delightful.
There were two types of music in the film. The incidental music—created for the film by Trevor Jones—was often intrusive. It didn’t really fit the scenes half the time. It felt as if they spent all their money on everything else and could only afford some third-rate music production for the score. Luckily, they really got their money’s worth on the creature effects and practical set design.
The vocal songs were composed and written by Bowie, but not all of them were actually good. The ones that really stuck out as excellent and perfect for Labyrinth were “As the World Falls Down” (which is my favorite song from the film) and “Within You”. “Underground“, used in the end credits, didn’t really fit the film completely. “Dance Magic” fit the feel of the film, but just didn’t click with me. “Chilly Down”, the firey dance song, was just bizarre (which fit the scene as the fireys were very weird) and reminded me of some of the numbers on Fraggle Rock. I didn’t like that one even a little bit.
The most lavish scene was the masquerade ball scene, choreographed by Cheryl McFadden (who later played Doctor Beverly Crusher on Star Trek – The Next Generation). She did a fantastic job on the choreography in the masquerade ball scene. It was fun to see the Labyrinth documentary about the process, too. The costumes and set for that scene were over the top, yet also simple. It’s a fine line, and they pulled it off spectacularly.
I really liked the M.C. Escher-esque scene at the climax. They must have had great fun creating the set and filming the sequence. It’s still one of my favorite scenes ever. The cinematographer created some stunning shots there.
The film is definitely strong in many areas, despite the weaknesses I mentioned above. I have seen it so many times now, I’ve lost count, and I don’t regret watching it over and over. There is so much to see in Labyrinth that I definitely recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy, the Muppets, David Bowie, or Jennifer Connelly. It will remain a favorite of mine.
Release Date: June 27, 1986 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Alcohol/Drugs: 0 (other than the enchanted peach)
Language: 1 (occasional minor expletives)
Violence: 1 (slapstick violence and battles, talk of “certain death”)