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Film Review: Labyrinth
In 1986, Jim Henson released Labyrinth, based upon conceptual designs by Brian Froud and ideas discussed following a screening of The Dark Crystal. Starring David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Malcolm and Shelley Thompson with Brian Henson, Ron Mueck, David Shaughnessy, Percy Edwards, Timothy Bateson, David Healy, and Denise Bryer providing voices, the film grossed $11.6 million at the box office. Though the film was not nominated for any awards, it has become a cult classic enough for the Jim Henson Company and Sony Pictures to look into making a sequel, which was never made. However, there was an adventure game based on the film released by LucasArts.
Sarah is an unhappy teenager due to her father’s remarriage and half-brother Toby, causing her to hide from life by dressing up and acting out fantasy tales in the park. However, one night, she wishes that the Goblin King would come take Toby away. He does and gives her a chance to rescue him by taking her to his realm and putting her through the Labyrinth to the citadel.
An incredibly creative and fun fantasy film, Labyrinth is quite a good film, especially in what it’s trying to tell its audience. Sarah looks to be on the older side of the teenage years, but acts like a child, especially how she acts out fantasy to escape her life. But throughout her time in the Labyrinth she comes to realize that she needs to grow up and act her age. Take the time she ends up in a garbage dump outside the Goblin City. While this certainly is another obstacle for her to face on her way to save Toby, at first she’s show to be content to sit and be idle with her dolls and toys, but her realization that the reproduction is a little too perfect helps her to remember that she has a duty to get back to. This scene is a good demonstration of the point the film is trying to make in that people have to grow up and leave their toys and dolls in order to focus on responsibilities. But the film still says that growing up doesn’t mean that one has to reject everything that was loved as a child, with Sarah admitting that she still needs her friends by her side. Instead, it ends with the message that those things can be loved as an adult, but in different ways.
Yet, there’s evidence that everything happened in Sarah’s head and she’s coming to the aforementioned realization on her own through acting out this particular fancy. Notice that she deals with the revelation that her brother has been kidnapped by goblins who are indeed real, that the Goblin King has taken him and that she sees the labyrinth as a chore she has to take care of. Either her reaction is this way because she’s just that into fantasy or maybe she’s imagining all of this and is thinking of how she’d react to all of it. After all, the film’s plot was a play in her room.
But even so, Bowie did a fantastic job as the Goblin King and the character itself is very well done and looks as if he’s essentially the rock star version of Satan. What’s interesting is that everything he does, from stealing Toby because Sarah was careless about announcing wishes to giving Sarah less time upon her declaration that the labyrinth isn’t all that hard, is done simply because he finds it amusing. Further, whenever someone claims that he’s acting unfairly, he responds by telling them that he’s being completely fair. However, he does seem to be quite nice to Toby and enjoys playing with him. Plus, when Toby starts crying, he starts singing to make him stop.
The effects are done very well too, as is to be expected from the Jim Henson Company. One really great effect is the Helping Hands. It’s really interesting to see a bunch of hands coming out of the wall form a face in order to speak to Sarah and then to see all of them act in conjunction with each other. There’s also some good puppetry present from all of the goblins. However, there are a couple instances where the effects look outright terrible, like the Fireys, which seem to be a really badly done blue screen effect. It’s kind of noticeable when almost every other effect looks really good.
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