LABYRINTH is … it’s… how do you describe a movie that includes elements of the traditional coming-of-age genre, Monty Python-inspired medieval images, and the combined zaniness and creativity of both David Bowie and the mob of different sized Muppets? Unlike some of the previous movies I’ve gotten to review so far, this movie I had seen before. Multiple times. Like all good stories, and films, I see something different each time.
Of course, when I first saw this Jim Henson movie as a young teen in 1986, I identified with Sarah, the teen who solves the Labyrinth despite the fact that “It’s not fair!” – something Sarah says a lot. I agreed with her back then. How awful her step-mom is to her, how it isn’t fair that she stay home taking care of her constantly crying baby brother. The medieval setting had my imagination running wild. And I grew up with the Muppets. Who wouldn’t have a fun time with any of them, monster and goblin and animal alike? As a 13 year old girl, I also had noticed that Sarah was like me, brown hair and vest and blouse with the collar turned up like all the cool kids in 1986.
Years later, in watching the movie with my own son, I was amazed by how sarcastic the characters are, in a fun witty way, like Monty Python. I believe Henson must have liked Monty Python at least as much as I do! I was also impressed by the different types of creatures created. You have Hogsworth… I mean Hoggle! He’s a cowardly dwarf-like resident of the Goblin City who learns what friendship really means. Next Sarah meets Ludo, a kind yet scary monster who commands stones and rocks. Sir Didymus guards the bridge over the Bog of Eternal Stench. With his trusty steed, Ambrosious, Sir Didymus bravely fights anything in his way. The ingenuity of Henson’s mind is clearly shown in the scene with all hands that morph into faces, or the fiery creatures that remove their own heads and limbs.
Watching this movie in “reviewer” mode, the former literature teacher in me comes out. I noticed more the themes or overall ideas of the story. Obviously, a major idea is that Life is not fair. Just when you think you know what’s going on or can bravely get through a situation, the rules and scenery change on you. Another theme is that not everything is as it appears. The Goblin King often looks good; Ludo is big and noisy, the walls of the labyrinth look like there are no turns or openings. Then there’s the idea that we all have to grow up at some point, but should you need them, the fun parts of childhood are there, you just need to call out to them for help.
It would be so incredibly easy to go on, to talk of the fight scenes at the end, the huge ax-wielding gate keeper, the runes on the shields of the 2 2-headed guards, the door knockers, the silliness of teen girls living in huge houses, the numbers on the helmets of the soldiers, down to the nipper sticks. But I’ll conclude with David Bowie. I don’t know if you like him or think he’s crazy, but either way he does a great job in portraying the Goblin King. He’s creepy, funny, and I can’t imagine any other rocker in that hair and make-up singing Dance Magic Dance with a room full of goblin muppets and an infant. I had 2 questions, no 3, form in my mind as I watched this movie. First, does the Goblin King love Sarah? I used to think yes, now I’m not as sure. Second, was Bowie the first choice, and what reason did he accept the role? Third, where’s my partying set of goblins and muppets who are always here should I need them?