Today we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Labyrinth!
First things first. We must pause to think of two of the biggest driving forces behind the creation of this cult classic who are no longer with us. Jim Henson died in 1990 of pneumonia and David Bowie passed earlier this year of Cancer. There would be no Labyrinth without Jim Henson and I think some of the enduring legacy of the movie must be placed fully on the shoulders of the man who played the iconic Goblin King.
There are all kinds of announcements to be made. New merchandise licensed. The movie is returning to theaters for 2 days in September. The price of Labyrinth collectibles continues to rise astronomically (have you tried looking for a copy of the original paperback novel??), but let’s talk about the movie itself. I sat down and watched it again recently. Several times in fact to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything in the literally dozens of other times I have watched it since I first saw it in theaters in 1986.
It is not a perfect movie and the storyline is deceptively simple. A young girl who pretends to do all sorts of grown up things like fight Goblin Kings and save kidnapped babies is given the chance to live out her dream when her wish that her baby brother would disappear comes true. The resemblance to the fantasy is about the same as real life is to a 5 year old pretending to be grown up and going to work in their parent’s clothes. There is nothing charming, innocent, or remotely safe, about challenging an all powerful Goblin King. As I get older I admit Sarah becomes less of a sympathetic character to me, but her desire to be responsibility free and left alone to play with her dolls is still a very understandable thing!
Neither the puppets nor the Goblin King have lost any of their magic, allure or menace. The Helping Hands are still one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen and the Fieries are quite a serious menace if you think about the threat “Now we’ll just take your head off!” (Keep in mind that this isn’t an empty threat.) These things are countered by Ludo’s loving innocence, Sir Didymus’ almost unhinged bravery and Hoggles’ lessons in friendship and loyalty.
No woman I know who grew up in the 80s or later can resist the Decadent Ball scene, but while, much like Loki these days, it would be easy to forget that Jareth is a menace and not a love interest, one should never lose sight of the fact that if he wasn’t being played by the very charming David Bowie we may not feel such an attraction to a man who kidnaps babies and turns them in to Goblins. The entire story is about Sarah learning to grow up, and while some may see the ending as a a reversal that she is allowed to then party with Goblins and all of her friends in her room while an envious and defeated Jareth watches as an owl from outside, one must always remember that growing up does not mean that it must be a joyless experience.
Let’s see what others say about this movie on its Anniversary:
There are so many reasons I love Labyrinth. I have loved it since the first time I saw it as a young teenager in 1986, but I’ve never stopped to think about why. There are so many easy and seemingly obvious answers; because it stars David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly and Jim Henson’s amazing creations; because of the exciting storyline or the fun music; because of the incredible ball in a bubble sequence; any and all of these are true but I think it’s something more than that. Labyrinth is more than a fun movie. It’s an encapsulation of what it’s like to be a young teenager; when you love stuffed animals but the allure of adult romantic relationships are looming; when you’re family drives you crazy and you just want them to go away but would fight anyone and go anywhere to get them back if they were actually gone; when you learn that even though it seems like the world is against you sometimes it’s just your own attitude that’s the problem. I think that is why Labyrinth has become a cult film with such a loyal following and why it will continue to gain fans. – KS
Being 12 years late to the prime of the Labyrinth party doesn’t mean I can’t love it as much as everyone else did. I saw Labyrinth one day when I was 7, completely entranced by a world I always imagined. Growing up, I’d always watch it to remind myself of the magic that is out there. The whimsical characters and, lets face it, David Bowie’s fabulous hair hypnotized me every time. Every time I watch it, it makes me feel at home because my mind has always been as wild as the world I love to watch. – D
Join the conversation and leave your own memory about the movie!