Labyrinth: Two Kinds of Magic

by | Jul 23, 2020 | Fantasy Commentary, Movies & TV | 0 comments

Rumors have circulated (as rumors are wont to do) about a potential remake of the fantasy classic The Labyrinth.

This is, of course, blasphemy.

Not every old movie needs to be remade/retold/repackaged. If a new generation needs to experience it, they’ll enjoy the original just fine. That’s a feature of a classic: timelessness.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, I’m going to spoil a 34-year-old movie. Be forewarned.

Simple version: A young Jennifer Connelly gets sick of her baby brother and summons Davie Bowie to kidnap him. Experiencing near-instant buyer’s remorse, she embarks on a journey into the heart of the Labyrinth to find him and bring him home. David Bowie uses several original songs and a variety of muppets in an attempt to thwart her. She remembers a poem and wins. The end.

Stripped to its bare essentials, there’s not much to it. A teenager makes a bad decision and has to remedy it. But the telling of the tale is what counts. David Bowie is uniquely creepy as the Goblin King.

The muppets were done by Jim Henson. On the Sesame Street to Dark Crystal continuum of muppet grittiness, it leans heavily toward the latter.

The movie is gleefully evil.

Whether it’s the talking hands or the birds with interchangeable body parts trying to pluck off the protagonist’s head, the Labyrinth is constantly a little unsettling.

Tone matters.

Pulling off this story without either losing itself in camp or wallowing in its darkness required a walking fine line. The original balanced it masterfully.

Certain visuals and aesthetics endemic to the mid-80s were ideal for this sort of “is it taking itself seriously or not” vibe that worked so well.

It didn’t explain its mysteries. No one tried to give a backstory on the bog of eternal stench or explain how that room with the M.C. Escher stairs worked. The magic remains magic.

Sadly, neither David Bowie nor Jim Henson is with us any longer. Jennifer Connelly is older now than Bowie was for the original.

Baby Toby is old enough to run for president, and creating Henson masterpieces of his own (notably, the recent Netflix Dark Crystal series, which I’m sure we’ll discuss in a future post).

There’s no recapturing that magic.

However… if you wanted to sell me on an adult Toby now mysteriously drawn back to the Labyrinth where he was held captive as a baby, and he’s destined to become the new Goblin King… well, maybe we can talk.

Looking to rekindle some nostalgia or introduce someone new to this classic adventure?

The Labyrinth is available to rent or buy from Vudu and Prime Video, as well as plenty of DVD and Blu-Ray options from Amazon.

I also saw an article claiming it came to Netflix recently, but I couldn’t find it, so no promises. It might be regional, or it might have just had an infuriatingly short run, even for Netflix.

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