The beauty that is the movie Labyrinth came out in 1986 and was directed by Desmond Saunders and written by Jim Henson. Many have fallen in love with this magical quest time and time again, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s definitely unique and interesting, to say the very least. With fans ranging from those who saw it on the big screen, to those who grew up on it, here’s why Labyrinth is better than you remember it. To follow our series of Why It’s Better Than You Remember, also check out our editorials for Batman Forever, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel.
In case you haven’t seen (or wasn’t aware that you were seeing) a Jim Henson created movie, you should know that his imagination knows no bounds. He’s brought to cinematic history characters you may know in media like the muppets, Sesame Street, and Fraggle Rock. Unfortunately, Jim Henson soon passed away after making Labyrinth making it a true final gem of his imagination. In the movie, we follow the character Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) who is a rambunctious and dare we say ungrateful teenager who is forced to babysit her baby brother. In a frustrated rage, she accidentally says the magic words to summon the Goblin King (played by David Bowie) who obliges to take her baby brother away, who will be turned into a goblin. Sarah pleads with Bowie to give her brother back, but Bowie refuses unless she can solve his labyrinth within a thirteen hour time limit.
One thing that is amazing about this movie, is most of the effects are practical. Every foe and friend Sarah meets on her journey to save her brother is a puppet! The goblins in the Goblin King’s lair, the friends Ludo, Hoggle, and Sir Didymus she meets along the way? All puppets! In fact Labyrinth holds the record for the largest puppet ever made for a movie. Once they get inside the gates to the Goblin city they are met with a giant puppet who looks to be made of steel and tries to thwart their plan (or kill them.) However Hoggle saves the day and they move onward to save baby Toby. As Bowie tries to convince Sarah to forget about her brother, he takes a crystal ball and does only what can be described as a magic trick with the crystal in his hands. This is interesting, because it’s not Bowie who is juggling the crystal. There is a trained man behind David using his hands to juggle the crystal. Bowie’s hands are hidden to his side while the other man is juggling the crystal. If you watch special features in the movie, it is a little funny to watch how many times they had to try and make the crystal successfully juggle because the man can’t see what he’s doing.
Shari Weiser is a diminutive actress who wears the Hoggle costume while Brian Henson did a voice over for the grumpy troll. However, his facial expression, mouth, and eyes are remote controlled by professionals on set who have the task of matching his expression with Weiser’s motions in the suit and Henson’s voice. To have to get those three things in sync doesn’t sound like an easy task! While helping Sarah, Hoggle falls in love with her and decides to help her get through the Labyrinth. Honestly you wouldn’t know Hoggle had so much to him especially with all the movement he does. But that’s nothing compared to the Fierys. In 1986, there really wasn’t a huge CGI option, so they used a green screen with the puppeteers in green suits to control the Fierys, and throw their limbs and heads about. It’s actually quite exciting and interesting to watch behind the scenes of this part of the movie, should you ever feel like watching the special features.
In the second act of the movie, Sarah gets separated by friends Hoggle and Ludo. As she tries to figure out what to do, she encounters the Fierys. The Fierys are puppets that have orange hair, a crazy wrinkly snout, and big eyes. Oh, and their limbs can come off! They start to sing and take apart their bodies and make a game of it. When they try to get Sarah’s head off to play in the fun, it obviously doesn’t come off. In a state of panic and fear, she throws their heads as far as she can to get a head start on her escape. When she comes to a dead end, Hoggle shows up to her rescue and throws down a rope to save the scared girl.
Lastly, let us talk about the energy David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly bring to the film. Jareth slowly starts to fall in love with Sarah, while she starts to realize that her repeated line “it isn’t fair!” is true. That’s the way life is, and that boosts her confidence to save her brother. Even eating a poisoned peach that puts her in a trance can’t make her forget what she’s there for, and why she’s fighting the Goblin King and the obstacles he puts before her. When Sarah eats the peach, she goes into a hallucination of sorts where she and the Goblin King dance while he sings to her. (Cue most women crushing on Bowie) The beautiful ball gown and his suit are something out of a fairytale along with the guests and environment around them. Interesting enough, for this shot the camera put a giant, warped plastic bubble over the camera to give it a dreamy, surreal feeling as it wasn’t completely in focus for parts of it. When Sarah realizes something is wrong she immediately defies the Goblin King and makes yet another escape.
These are just a few of the wonderful and interesting things about Labyrinth. The costume changes Bowie makes, the interesting puppets and catchy songs, and Sarah’s pathway to friendships and maturity are all just a small piece of what this movie brings to the table. I left out a few key and interesting things that happen like does Ludo have people inside him or is he a controlled puppet? Were the blue hands that catch Sarah all real hands? And how did they do the tiny people who were switching Sarah’s lipstick arrows? That my friends you will have to discover on your own, and enjoy the movie again with this newfound knowledge. Allow yourself to go on a journey that means so much to so many people. We’ll be here, waiting for you.
You know, should you need us.