Geek Girl Watches Labyrinth
As the World Falls Down
So, logic states to me that there is no better way to start out this blog than to talk about my favorite movie of all time. That movie, of course, is Labyrinth.
Let me set a scene for you: Fantastical world full of puzzles, beautiful scenery, strange creatures, and the adrenaline rush of having to complete your task on time. You are faced with terrible challenges bestowed upon you by the Goblin King, a beautiful and terrifying man (whose makeup is better applied than anything I could ever do) with some of the most memorable hair of all time. This character is Jareth, and he is played by none other than David Bowie (in the most glorious tight pants you've ever seen). The story is brought to life by Jim Henson and is filled with wonderful puppetry.
Oh, and it's a musical so... beat that.
So, let's talk facts.
Labyrinth first 'magic-danced' into our hearts the summer of 1986, when it first came out in theaters, and was presented by Henson Associates and LucasFilm. The film starred David Bowie and a 16 year old Jennifer Connelly in one of her first big roles, and they were accompanied by (if not upstaged by) the puppets and puppeteers of The Jim Henson Company.
Unfortunately, though the film is now a cult classic, it didn't do to well in the box office. With a budget of $25,000,000 the film actually only ended up making 12.7 million dollars in theaters. It was written mostly by Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame, though he states that the final draft is "significantly different" than his original ideas. Though Mr. Jones is said to have written most of it, there were many people who advised and changed the story, such as Jim Henson himself, George Lucas and others, who wished to take the raw clay of the script and turn it to something more comedic and light hearted than it's Dark Crystal predecessor. Brian Froud, the conceptual designer for Labyrinth, had also worked with Henson on the movie Dark Crystal, and Henson said that it [Dark CrystalI] had "got kind of heavy--Heavier than we expected." (labyrinth.wikia.com)
They started filming Labyrinth in April of 1985 and filming continued up until September of that same year. To me, it seems like quite a feat for such a complex and set/ costume heavy movie to be filmed in such a short time, but Henson and company has been known for being able to pump out pure magic in very short time frames. The movie was filmed mostly in England, save for some that was filmed in a studio in New York.
The film was the last film Jim Henson ever directed, incidentally. He died suddenly in 1990 of septic shock, making Labyrinth his swan song.
That soundtrack, though.
One of the best things about Labyrinth, in my opinion, is the amazing soundtrack it had. It consisted to a score that was put together by Trevor Jones, and none other than the Goblin King himself, David Bowie. Though I personally loved all of the songs, critics were not overly excited by any of David Bowie's original songs for the movie saying that they "fell flat." The song that was accepted with open arms the most was the opening and ending theme, "Underground" which hit number 18 on Billboard's "Mainstream Rock" charts in 1986. (http://goo.gl/8AvMmy)
The songs set the tone for the story, especially the orchestral compositions thought up by Trevor Jones; I really think that the music made the movie, and broke up the sometimes dark and moody imagery. In particular, I enjoyed "As The World Falls Down" which is a love song of sorts played in an ethereal ballroom scene. The song itself is haunting and gorgeous, with beautiful lyrics like, "I'll paint you mornings of gold, I'll spin you Valentine evenings. Though we're strangers 'til now, we're choosing the path between the stars. I'll leave my love between the stars." (azlyrics.com)It truly grabs at your heart and makes you feel like you might be in love with David Bowie (though, that may just be me).
Overall, the soundtrack to Labyrinth was fun and fit the movie so well; David Bowie and Trevor Jones hit it on the nose. Originally, there was another big artist at the time who was considered for Jareth- Michael Jackson- but I don't think he could have done the role or the soundtrack the justice that Trevor Jones and David Bowie were able to. They truly conjured up some voodoo (who do?) with this soundtrack.
What, these old rags?
When you are thinking of a character one of the first things you imagine is the way they look; It is inevitable. Think of some of your favorite characters (whether it be from television, movies, cartoons, etc.) and what do you see? If I say, Velma Dinkley (Scooby Doo) you automatically think glasses, orange turtleneck, yes? And if I say Joker, you will almost definitely think green hair, purple coat, and red-lipped clown like makeup. Characters are not defined by their costume, but it is without a doubt that they are oftentimes more memorable because of them. Costumes can give clues to the character's back-story, or what the director is trying to make them convey. Sometimes the costume is full of symbolic things and even hints at where the writer got the inspiration for the character. The right costume can make a character iconic.
The costume work in Labyrinth was extravagant, memorable and definitely important to the movie. Even Sarah's plain costume throughout most of the movie does it's job by marking her as very out of place, especially when you start to notice Jareth's style, which is a very dark and stylized sophistication. The most memorable scene costume wise is the ballroom in the bubble scene, where Jareth and Sarah are in very elaborate formal wear. The dress that Sarah is wearing is larger than life, and beautiful; it very much makes her look like some sort of princess. And then there is Jareth, dressed to the nine's and in a stunning sapphire blue jacket, that's all sequins and flash; Not to mention his majestic hair and makeup in this scene. It is definitely his most memorable look from the movie.
The rest of the "Ball-Goers" in this scene (as well as Jareth) are wearing Venetian-styled masquerade masks that look gruesome like monsters. The costume designer for this scene said that he was trying to "have a satire of the goblins" in that "the ball-goers were pretending to be goblins."
The Labyrinth, The Goblin City & the Castle Beyond
The world that sprang to life in the Labyrinth was alive with muted colors and spooky details that created a truly unique experience for the people watching. Though to todays standards, the effects are sub par, when it first came out everything was cutting edge. The crew were definitely thinking outside of the box when it came to making a unique world with innovative techniques.The movie seems so dreamlike and fantastical; the captured essence of a young girl's daydream.
I feel like they tried to keep everything just on the edge of absolutely bizarre, and that's what makes it so good. The world seems unkempt and possibly on the edge of ruin, which is an example of Jareth's disinterest with the entire kingdom. The abundance of difference sets really makes the land seem like it's neverending and always changing; it truly comes to life before your eyes.
You're pulling my strings!
The puppets, muppets, animatronics and all the wonderful creatures made in Jim Henson's Creature Shop are really the stars of this movie. In the "Magic Dance" scene alone, there were 48 puppets with 53 puppeteers. The creature shop outdid themselves with this movie, making their most complex puppet head ever, as well as their largest puppet ever. So many interesting creatures were made to inhabit this world, and they clue you in on what being a goblin is really about, sometimes without ever muttering a word.
Hoggle, one of our heroine's companions, is one of the most complex puppets ever made by the creature shop. There are 18 motors in his face operated by several puppeteers, and the head was placed on the actress that does Hoggle's body motions, Ms. Shari Weiser. The voice of Hoggle was provided by Brian Henson, Jim's son, and the person who now runs the Creature Shop. So when you think about it, how complicated would it be to get this one characters acting all synced up? It must have taken tremendous teamwork and tons of practice.
Towards the end of the movie, you get to witness the largest puppet ever made by Jim Henson's crew: a steam-punkesque gate guard credited as "Humongous." He was said to altogether be around 20 ft tall.
So as far as Reviews go...
I know until now I've really just been writing things on why it's my favorite movie... but that's not really a review. I find it hard to write a review without being incredibly biased; I mean, this movie is basically my childhood. On a completely non-biased stand, I will say that Labyrinth is incredibly cheesy, and the acting could have been better. But it's a movie meant for children, and I feel like it was okay for it to be kind of goofy and eccentric.
If I were to give it a "star" rating, I'd have to say 4 out of 5. I'm an incredibly generous person, and one of those stars is reserved specifically for David Bowie's painted on pants. The movie was whimsical, fun and beautiful. Labyrinth is truly a movie that I will continue to love for the rest of my life.