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‘Labyrinth’ – The Fever Dream of Film
A fantasy family adventure film that is on the borderline of nightmare fuel for children. ‘Labyrinth’ was released 35 years ago in 1986 and simply there is no other film like the sort. Filled with catchy musical numbers, hysterical supporting characters, and of course Ziggy Stardust himself. Coming from the ingenious mind of Jim Henson, he created a world that is unlike any other; goblins, fairies, and even talking knockers. Discovering this world alongside Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), a teenager aspiring to be an actress who is forced to babysit her younger brother Toby. When the cries of her sibling don’t ever dissipate she wishes for a Goblin King to take him away from this place; queue David Bowie in a sparkling suit granting her command.
There begins Sarah’s ticking clock to go through the labyrinth to rescue her brother at the Goblin King’s castle. She meets characters along the way like Hoggle, Ludo, and all-time fan favorite The Worm. This spectacular film is held in many hearts of adults who continue to share it with their children. ‘Labyrinth’ continues to inspire filmmakers and amaze the world with its extravagant set design with little help from CGI.
No Other Director
Jim Henson is most known for being a puppeteer and creating ‘The Muppets’ and also ‘Fraggle Rock’. It would be difficult to top Kermit in any way, but Henson took on the directorial role for ‘Labyrinth’. Only a few years after the release of ‘The Dark Crystal’ that Henson directed which now recently in 2019 was given a series titled ‘The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance’. He did not lay his puppeteering skills to rest and created hundreds of unique goblins and creatures to come alive for this story. Intricate parts moving and working together making this world seem almost too real for Sarah. It’s safe to say that this film would be completely different if Henson did not take the reins. In a world where every film seems to have a touch of CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery), the world of ‘Labyrinth’ was incredibly authentic with their sets and puppets.
Having this almost life-like feeling for most of the set made it easier for the actors to really believe in this world. There are many humorous images of behind the scene photos from films where the whole scene is CGI. For example, in the ‘Twilight’ saga Bella (Kristen Stewart) on screen is petting a large wolf, but in the behind-the-scenes photo, it is Taylor Lautner in a grey suit bent over. It’s the post-production of the final project on the screen that counts, but there is something so magical about knowing the actors were able to see the real thing while performing. Henson being able to give that to the actors creates a special relationship that Bowie and Connelly were able to have.
David Bowie is one of the biggest musicians of all time. With hits like “Let’s Dance” and “Heroes” that still play at weddings and grocery stores, he will always be remembered as the eccentric singer. Bowie’s acting career began with doing a couple of short films, but mainly with his own music videos. His first lead role appearance was in the 1976 film ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’, a dramatic science fiction movie where he played an alien who must pose as a human in order to save his planet. The film was directed by Nicolas Roeg and though not as popular as his later film ‘Labyrinth’ there was still a good following for the film and respect granted for Bowie’s acting. He continues his ever-growing music career while still acting in a variety of roles. Then in 1986, Jim Henson’s ‘Labyrinth’ is created and Bowie takes the role of Jareth, the Goblin King. Rumors were spread that it was between Bowie and Michael Jackson, which is why the need for musical numbers began to be brainstormed. Then hits performed by Bowie in the film like “As the World Falls Down” and “Magic Dance”.
It is easy to say that Bowie’s performance in ‘Labyrinth’ is the best of his career. Being able to dress in a flamboyant costume and become a king with magical powers is nothing less of what Bowie was in the music industry. A fun fact about the film is the crystal balls that are used with Jareth’s character. He dances the transparent balls between his fingers and balances them in a way that looks nearly impossible. It was amazing and enchanting to see it on screen and viewers were in awe of Bowie’s talent. It wasn’t until the behind-the-scenes footage came back showing that it wasn’t Bowie’s hands at all! With some perspective movie magic and an extremely talented juggler, Michael Moschen.
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‘Labyrinth’ is a cult classic that definitely did not get the attention it deserved with its initial release. With the ratings at the box office, Jim Henson was thoroughly disappointed with the results. It wasn’t until later in his life before his passing when he learned that the film had a strong following that was continuing to grow. An 80s hit that has two sides, a person who has seen it and loved it or a person that has never heard of it. Henson and Bowie made a huge impact on childhoods for years and years and now those children are introducing it to their own now.
Merchandising is always a huge market for new films, but now fan art has taken over for ‘Labyrinth’. Just typing in the title into Etsy or RedBubble there are hundreds and hundreds of results with unique t-shirts, mugs, toys, prints, and so on that show so much love for the film. As I was walking through Barnes and Nobles the other day there was an ABC book that told the story of ‘Labyrinth’ on display.
This film has affected many people and continues to do so every day. Though Jim Henson and David Bowie have passed, they have left a legacy that will always be cherished.
By Jack Colin
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Jack Colin is a playwright and screenwriter with an immense love for film & television which drives him to learn from and share his passion with anyone willing to listen. Living life as a trans man, Jack wants his writing to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ members and share the positive stories that are so often ignored through his work at The Hollywood Insider, he is eager to give readers a confident outlook on life. The storytellers of the world are the ones who decide what happiness can be. Jack takes pride in The Hollywood Insider’s mission statement to stray away from gossip and to lift up voices in entertainment with supportive and meaningful stories that will promote strength and unity.