The 80s wasn’t a decade short of cultural gems and this year, fans celebrated the 35th anniversary of a Jim Henson classic. Baby thieving goblins, the tightest pair of grey pants you’ve ever seen and one magical soundtrack are only a few of the things that we can so fondly recall about Labyrinth.
It’s sort of like Alice in Wonderland but wackier and instead of the threat of the Red Queen, there’s David Bowie in all of his glory, prepared with his magnificent hair and a catchy tune that’s enough to makes you forget he’s kidnapping babies. Okay, maybe the story’s pretty dark when you break it down but Bowie makes a compelling case when he busts out Magic Dance.
Labyrinth is a creative masterpiece. This is without a doubt Henson at his finest. The puppeteer work still manages to impress even by today’s standards – practicality comes out thriving as Henson’s artistry shines through. Every single model is uniquely imaginative (the goblins, the sword-wielding warrior, Ludo) without being overly complex or frightening, each of them asserted with a humorous quality. It set the bar in 1987 and is still to be rivalled.
Our first view of the eponymous maze is another spectacular example of the effects used in the movie. At that moment, we all share Sarah’s (Jennifer Connelly) angst but she powers ahead, leaving us to ponder what awaits her inside the labyrinth. Already, Bowie’s Goblin King has proven to be a ruthless adversary; his powers work beyond any natural laws and he continues to sabotage Sarah’s journey whenever she shows even an ounce of success. There are feelings of excitement and dread all at once as we see how close she is to rescuing her brother before he is cruelly relocated at the last second.
It’s not only the visuals that boost Labyrinth to its iconic status, the soundtrack is simply tremendous regardless on whether you’re watching the movie or just listening to it on its own. David Bowie was a musical genuis, showcasing his own individual style whilst complimenting Henson’s creativity with the animatronics and general aesthetic. There isn’t a scene that bores, the music serves as its own plot device, encapsulating the tone of the film and acknowledging the hybrid of themes present throughout.
One showstopping moment comes in the form of an everchanging staircase. The final showdown between Sarah and Jareth that reveals both of their deepest insecurites. Sarah is compelled by her love for her brother and need to rescue him whilst the Goblin King is resigned to confessing his reliance on Sarah. It brings a whole new light upon their relationship, focusing on the breached power dynamic between them and highlighting Jareth’s heniously manipulative nature.
Is Labyrinth the greatest movie of all time? Probably not by a long shot, but it gets major points for creativity. It’s still an enjoyable flick to watch over and over again just to marvel at Henson’s work and sing along with Bowie. Even though it is full of impressive visuals, the simplicity of it all is what continues to draw us in and gives away a sweet trip of nostalgia back to the magic of the 80s.