All time favorites: LABYRINTH (1986)

June 6, 2008

Judging from the flat line on my stats, I get the feeling you faithful readers are looking for something new. What better time to launch a new semi-regular feature: My all time favorites.

I begin with Jim Henson and George Lucas’ LABYRINTH. My introduction to this wonderful movie was David Bowie’s song, “Underground”. I loved the song, and when I saw the previews, I really felt this movie would be something special. Unfortunately for me, it was gone from the theaters before I got a chance to see it. Four years later, I’m reading a book about the Monty Pythons, and I discover that Python alumnus Terry Jones had a hand in writing the screenplay. If I had wanted to see it before that point, I REALLY wanted to see it after learning about Jones’ involvement.

I finally got my chance two years later (I don’t remember why it was two years later), when my sister gave me a copy of the movie for Christmas. I watched it with my parents, and I was hooked. It’s been a favorite of mine ever since.

First of all, I love the concept. Sarah (Jennifer Connolly) is fed up with being forced to babysit her baby brother every Saturday night. This particular Saturday night, she decides to tell her baby brother a bed-time story in which the Goblin King (David Bowie) offers to take the baby away to his castle if she asks him. What Sarah doesn’t realize is that the King HAS fallen in love with Sarah, and IS ready to take the baby. Unwittingly, Sarah makes the request, and there the adventure begins. When Sarah refuses the King’s gift, he tells her that her baby brother is in the castle at the center of his labyrinth. Not only that, the King is only giving Sarah 13 hours to get to the center.

The labyrinth itself seems impossible at first, as Sarah can’t seem to find any of the corners or turns. Thanks to a friendly cockney worm, Sarah learns her first lesson of the labyrinth: don’t take anything for granted. The worm also unfortunately gives Sarah some hilariously bad advice about which path she should take. That exchange is the first of many hilarious exchanges of dialog. One of my favorites is Sarah trying to solve the truth-teller versus liar door puzzle. If you’re confused by Sarah’s dizzying logic during this scene, you’re not alone.  Even the guards don’t understand!

As you noticed from that last paragraph, Sarah is far from alone in dealing with the mysteries of the labyrinth. In her quest, Sarah meets Hoggle, a goblin who has to decide where his loyalties lie, Ludo, a lovable hulking beast with power over the rocks, The Fierys, a trio that literally lose their heads over having fun, a wise man with a wise-cracking talking hat, and Sir Didymus, a stout-hearted fox who rides an English sheepdog (who’s not so stout of heart). She also meets talking door knockers, some not-so-helpful Helping Hands, and goblins of every size and description, including ninja goblins!

It’s so hard for me to pick a favorite character. I just love them all for different reasons. I guess that’s because Didymus, Ludo, and Hoggle represent some of the best qualities we have in ourselves. I love Sir Didymus’ optimistic bravery, even when he’s hopelessly outnumbered. Ludo represents to me the love and friendship that we all long for, and Hoggle to me represents the struggle we all share to do what’s right, even when it’s inconvenient or dangerous.

LABYRINTH is also a visual stunner. I don’t just mean Jim Henson’s creations, which are impressive. The sets are brilliant. I mentioned what happens when Sarah first enters the labyrinth. She can’t find any turns until the Worm helps her out. It’s a brilliant optical illusion. The Helping Hands come together and separate to make faces to have a conversation with Sarah. And when Sarah eventually does enter the castle, she finds herself in M.C. Escher’s impossible stariways room. You have to see that one for yourself. I just can’t do it justice here.

Last, but certainly not least, is David Bowie’s music. Bowie wrote some great songs for LABYRINTH. In addition to “Underground”, Bowie leads the goblins in a lively “Dance Magic” number, sings a beautiful love song during a dream sequence, and a menacing song during the final confrontation. There’s not a bad song among them either.

LABYRINTH was not a box office hit during its initial release. I guess people still wanted Jim Henson to do more Muppet movies. I am happy to see that despite a disappointing box-office take LABYRINTH has become a favorite for so many people. I’m looking forward to my next visit Underground, because, just as Sarah says at the end of this movie, sometimes, for no reason at all, I just want to spend time with these characters.


One comment

  1. This is definitely one of my all time favorites as well. At least within the top 3. I grew up watching the movie and Jereth was one of my first movie star crushes. Even now, I own the movie, the soundtrack, and a ton of associating stuff (a crystal ball, post cards, pens, notebooks, etc).

    The soundtrack has turned out to be one of my favorite parts about the movie though. Nothing beats David Bowie singing As The World Falls Down.

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