“It’s Only Forever”: Jim Henson’s “Labyrinth” Turns 30

Explaining the magic of Jim Henson is something that takes a lot of time. His impressive resumé included The Muppets and Sesame Street, as well as some of the most risk-taking projects of his generation.  One of them was a live action film called Labyrinth: it told the story of a girl looking for her lost baby brother, all the while encountering strange creatures, and David Bowie (in his ridiculously tight pants.) Now 30 years later, Labyrinth is still a cult classic. And although it isn’t exactly a movie for everybody, it’s definitely an important piece of Fantasy filmmaking that should be given the respect it deserves.

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I was somewhat of a late bloomer when it came to Labyrinth, mostly because my first experience wasn’t exactly spectacular. On a dark stormy night in 1997, I was shown the movie inside the house of my childhood best friend. She was a long time fan of the movie, and told me I was in for a treat – but during the scene in which Sarah’s little brother gets taken away by the goblins, I was terrified and ran into the bathroom. I wouldn’t go back to watching the movie till my late teens, where I purchased a limited edition DVD copy on the cheap. Then, Labyrinth became a favorite in my eyes. My love of David Bowie was at its most intense levels at that age, and this movie hit me right in “the feels” – those fairy tale mystic feels.

Featuring music by Bowie himself, many will say that their favorite aspect of Labyrinth is the tunes it introduced. The amount of weddings I have been to or heard about that played the always romantic “As The World Falls Down” for the first dance is incredible, and almost every week someone makes a “Magic Dance” joke with me – all of these, and more, are examples of the staying power of Bowie’s impressive (yet very commercial) work for the film. Personally, I adore the main theme “Underground”, specifically the pop end credits version. There’s something about the funk mixed with almost-gospel aspects to the song that make this one of David’s best, and was a sure sign of brilliance of his possible future in music composition for film.

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Just as clever (and sometimes hokey) is the Labyrinth dialogue, which still brings me a smile from cheek to cheek. Particularly the Worm sequence, in which a small blue bug-like puppet makes a small cameo appearance, steals the first act of the movie away from its leads. That’s not to discredit the cast, for they are a huge reason why this movie has remained the classic that it has. Though she was young and comes off “whiney” at times, Jennifer Connelly as Sarah is beautiful and confident in her scenes. And of course Bowie as Jareth is one of the most iconic aspects of his acting career, showing the power and presence he had on stage as a musician in a way no one else had really seen on the big screen.

Unfortunately, with all the magic that the film had in store, it became a financial disaster for Jim Henson and Company, basically ending Jim’s career as a live action director. Thankfully, Labyrinth has since developed a strong following to make it a memorable and decent money-making property, one that even might have gotten a rumored sequel. But even if that film never comes to fruition, Labyrinth is a perfectly great film all on its own. It might not be your favorite 80’s fantasy, but you have to admit that it is beautiful and special, and showed how incredible of a mind Jim Henson, Brian Froud and George Lucas had back then.

Happy 30th, Labyrinth! You’re still the “babe with the power” – always! What are your feelings on the movie? Comment below and tell us all your memories, magic dances, and more! 

 

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