There aren’t many films that transcend a specific time and space. Many films that you look at are products of their time. Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola films dominated the 70’s. Steven Spielberg and James Cameron shaped the entertainment of the 80’s. During this time, Jim Henson was enjoying box office success and critical acclaim for his Muppet films and television shows like Sesame Street and The Muppet Show.
Like all geniuses, Jim Henson wasn’t satisfied with just doing the same thing over and over again. In the 70’s, he decided to push the boundaries of his art and he began a collaboration with British artist Brian Froud.
Froud had success with his fairy and fantasy creature designs and Henson wanted to collaborate with him on a series of new films. Henson even created a new division within his empire called The Jim Henson Creature Shop in order to accommodate his work with Froud.
The film, written by Terry Jones of Month Python’s Flying Circus and directed by Jim Henson was released in 1986 and starred an unknown Jennifer Connelly as Sarah and musical icon David Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King.
Sarah Williams (Connelly) is rehearsing a play in the park when she remembers that she needs to get home to take care of her baby step-brother Toby because her father and step-mother are going out.
After finding out that Toby not only has her favorite stuffed bear and that he will not stop crying, she wishes that he is taken away by Jareth the Goblin King (Bowie), who obliges.
After confronting Sarah, Jareth the Goblin King gives her a chance to rescue her brother if she can make her way through his labyrinth within 13 hours before Toby gets turned into a goblin himself.
Sarah takes the challenge and is confronted with the strange creatures who inhabit the labyrinth. She makes friends with some of the creatures including Hoggle (a creature with his own agenda),
Ludo (a sweet, simple giant creature who talks to rocks)
and Sir Didymus (a fox-like creature that rides an English sheepdog named Ambrosius and likens himself to a medieval knight).
I won’t spoil the movie because all of us on the Super Powered Fancast team love this film (except for Danny) and encourage you strongly to see it yourself, but I will say that it is worth it.
Personally, one of the biggest draws to me in this film is the presence of David Bowie as Jareth. Growing up in the 80’s, Bowie’s music was always a part of my personal soundtrack. My Walkman was filled at the time with mix tapes (if you’re lost, look it up) featuring my favorite Bowie tracks like Under Pressure, Let’s Dance and Modern Love. Knowing that Bowie produced and performed the songs from the soundtrack made it a must have for me. “Underground” and “Magic Dance” are standouts for being great up tempo dance tracks while “As the World Falls Down” and “Within You” are effective and haunting ballads. All of these songs could be released independently and be successful. In fact, music videos were made for two of the songs from the film.
As the World Falls Down
The movie was not a box office success. It cost $25 million to produce and its initial run in theaters only brought in about half that. Critics were even less kind to the film, ravaging it so badly that Jim Henson never directed another film. While not being initially successful, it has gone on to cult status with audiences. Watching the movie as a kid, I was always struck by how visually different it looked from other films at the time. I liked how real Jennifer Connelly’s performance of Sarah seemed and how scary and charming Bowie’s portrayal of Jareth was.
Unique storytelling, a visual style never seen before on film, creatures that transform the genre of puppetry and music that is engaging and engrossing make Labyrinth a film that you can enjoy at any age. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below. What are some of your favorite moments from the movie? Who are your favorite characters and why? I promise to respond in a timely manner even though………
Update : Nicole Perlman, co-screenwriter of “Guardians of the Galaxy” has been writing a “continuation” of Labyrinth stating that the movie was her favorite film as a child.