For many of us who grew up in the 1980’s Jim Henson’s Labyrinth is something of a touchstone movie, but, though I have a very hazy recollection of seeing it ‘back in the day’, it isn’t one that imprinted itself on my mind like it seems to have on many others – though the image of David Bowie as Jareth The Goblin King is pretty indelible, especially in those trousers – so I came to it again now, somewhat fresher than many.
At first it seems like so much mid-80s kids’ movie nonsense, the girl is a fairly stereotypical teenager, feeling put upon by parents she clearly thinks don’t really love her and caring more for her younger sibling, but, as things go on this really develops into something else.
That said the movie isn’t really about the story as that is cobbled together by Monty Python’s Terry Jones into something very episodic, but still enjoyable, that largely acts as a vehicle for director Jim Henson’s team of world-famous puppeteers (or should that be Muppeteers as they are Henson).
This is where the film really shines as every scene features a host of amazing detailed puppets that push the boundaries of the technology available at the time to create a fairly deeply constructed world. From the tiny worm in the wall to the massive Ludo, each puppet displays an attention to detail that can easily be overlooked in ‘kids’ movies’ creating here something akin to a movie full of Yoda’s.
This pupeteering combines with a fairly charming, but not boundary pushing, performance from Jennifer Connely that has one astounding factor due to her age at the time, to create a movie that was, even for someone of 31 years old, generally amusing and entertaining and certainly technically impressive – particularly the character of Hoggle who took four puppeteers and one actress all working in unison on set to bring to life.
The only real missteps came when David Bowie, who is otherwise suitably otherworldly and odd and Jareth, was allowed to squeeze in what felt like very out-of-place, almost music video like, musical numbers, that certainly fall way below his best musical output and, it is hard to take him seriously here, though that maybe due to the many parodies that have come since (for some of the best see the general work of Adam Buxton).
So, in the end, Labyrinth is a film that still holds it place as a charming fantasy movie that, while not as epic or grand as the likes of Lord Of The Rings, knows this and actually ends with quite a good message for people as they grow up. While it may be time to put away childish things sometimes, don’t ever forget them, because they can be just as important as they make up a big part of the person you become.
And cus, well, how could I not, here’s some Bowie/Buxton action: