Comfort Movies: Jim Henson’s ‘Labyrinth’

Screenshot of Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie in ‘Labyrinth’ (1986). Copyright goes to the Jim Henson company and Lucas Films.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Given the current circumstances, I’m kind of surprised that I didn’t come up with this category earlier. But I was particularly reminded of this one because it has been rainy and snowy where I’m at, and I love to watch comfort fantasy movies when the weather is bad. Especially Jim Henson’s ‘Labyrinth’. This is one of my favorite movies of all time and it’s a shame that I haven’t talked about it earlier. If you’ve ever wanted to go on an adventure through a beautiful fantasy world filled with Jim Henson puppets and ruled by David Bowie in too-tight pants; then this is for you. I would just tell you all to go watch it because you are absolutely insane if you answered ‘no’ to the above statement; but I’m here to sell you on this movie. So this is why you are missing out if you haven’t seen this masterpiece.

Jareth:

The number one reason to watch this movie. When Sarah wishes away her baby brother to the realm of the goblins, she is immediately greeted by David Bowie standing in her windowsill with glitter clouding around him. What an entrance, huh? This movie would not be nearly as good without David Bowie playing Jareth the Goblin King. Firstly, he can transform into an owl. How cool is that? But on top of that, David Bowie just kills it in this role. Any other big name celebrity who could have taken this role would have thought the project was insane; I mean, it’s Jim Henson who was best known for creating the Muppets. But David Bowie has always embraced weird. That’s probably why he is the only actor who could have done this, taken it seriously, and went all the way for this role. This was something that could have been so easily phoned in and David Bowie didn’t do that. He delivers the sarcastic lines with impressive dry wit, sings his heart out, and looks like he’s having the time of his life while doing it all. Even if those pants were probably uncomfortable. He also had a say in the script writing because he was involved in the process so early on. I thank him every day for this because the original script involved a kiss between Jareth and Sarah, which David Bowie outright refused to go through with. That would have been really weird to put it lightly. But if I haven’t sold you on David Bowie alone, I’m not quite sure I understand you.

Sarah:

She is the main character of this film played by an absolutely gorgeous young Jennifer Connelly. Sarah is a bit dramatic, but she has a love of theatre so it’s honestly understandable. She is very resourceful and brave; she was definitely a role model for me growing up. She also passes the ‘sexy lamp test’ which most eighties movies do not. For those of you who are unfamiliar with that, the sexy lamp test basically says that if you can replace a female character with a sexy lamp and the plot doesn’t change, then your movie doesn’t pass. And obviously that also means your movie has very poor female representation as a whole. Sarah creates and drives the plot. It is her friendship with other characters, her drive, and her demeanor that saves the day. Jareth attempts to win her over several times and she always faces him without being tempted. In the end, he has no power of her. Pun intended. She’s kind of like Alice from Alice in Wonderland if she was braver and a better overall character. Jennifer Connelly has always been an excellent actress, and this movie is no exception. As an aside, you should look up behind the scenes pictures and videos of David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly. It’s so adorable and you won’t regret it.

The Puppets:

What’s a Jim Henson movie without the puppets? Jim Henson is well known for his puppets, and the puppetry never fails to disappoint. Whether it’s the orange and yellow Fireys that have removable heads, or the goblins which all look completely different, or Ludo who is a giant furry and adorable monster. They all look amazing. The puppetry skills also come through in other places too. At one point of the movie, Sarah falls into a pit of helping hands. The hands come together to form faces, all of which are completely different. Ludo is my personal favorite of the puppets in this film. He’s just the type of large adorable creature that you want to run up to and hug. Jim Henson is a genius and it’s hard to not love any single one of his or his company’s creations.

Jim Henson:

This was Jim Henson’s passion project. Unfortunately, it didn’t do well in the box office initially; but it was something that he loved and poured a lot of himself into. His heart is in every element of this movie to the point where it just feels like a movie made with love. I’m glad that it’s been getting more recognition as the years have gone on.

The Labyrinth:

The labyrinth itself is one of my favorite fantasy places in anything ever. As every good fantasy world should be, the labyrinth feels like a character in itself. It is both fun and vast. You get the feeling that the movie is not able to show you just how many places actually exist in this labyrinth. Jareth’s castle is probably my favorite of all of the places that exist in this world, especially with the M.C. Escher concept that comes in later in the movie. On top of this, the movie uses mostly practical effects for this fantasy world. Including a track that flipped one of David Bowie’s stunt doubles right side up after having been upside down. This is the type of fantasy world that you could get lost in forever and wish you could actually visit. ‘Labyrinth’ theme park anyone? I wish! However, there is a place in Los Angeles that holds a Labyrinth themed ball every year, but I’ve never been.

The Ballroom Scene:

That it. That’s all. It’s a gorgeous sequence and one of my favorites that I’ve seen in anything ever. Also, a gorgeous David Bowie song is playing in the background of it. What more could you ask for?

The Soundtrack:

The pieces are beautiful, especially ‘Sarah’ which is the theme song for the main character. It’s absolutely transportive and one of those soundtrack pieces that I find myself listening to just for fun. The soundtrack also features several original David Bowie songs created specifically for this film. All of them are great and some of my favorite songs to ever exist. My favorites are probably ‘As the World Falls Down’ and ‘Within You’, but they’re all winners. I listen to this entire soundtrack very often with my family. Fun fact; during ‘Magic Dance’ it is David Bowie who is making those baby noises on the soundtrack.

If you’ve watched this movie I hope some of the facts here were something that you hadn’t heard before. If you haven’t, I really hope you’ll give this movie a try! It is a gorgeous and fun film and deserves international recognition. Maybe this is a movie that can bring you as much comfort as it brings me. This movie is seriously the equivalent of having a bowl of mac n cheese to me. It’s one of those movies. Happy watching on rainy days!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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