Labyrinth (1986) Review – An amazing goblin musical

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Labyrinth
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“It’s only forever, not long at all.” – Jareth, Labyrinth (1986)

Why I hadn’t watched Labyrinth until this point in my life is a genuine mystery to me. It’s one of those films that was on my watchlist for so long but I had no real intent of watching it. So it just so happened I didn’t want to watch Interstellar (2014) because that film is almost three hours long. Instead I opted for something a lot shorter, Labyrinth. Boy was I not disappointed. I should really start watching films I enjoy much more often. Bonus points already for having David Bowie in this film, the man can sing and act. But more on that later, read on for my review of this 80s classic.

Jareth (David Bowie) is the Goblin King. He kidnaps the baby brother of Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) and she needs to get him back. She has only thirteen hours to rescue her brother before he becomes a goblin. To save her brother she must navigate the Labyrinth, an intricate maze that takes her on a wild adventure. There isn’t much in the way of the supporting cast, however Brian Henson does voice Hoggle. Actually Danny John-Jules is in this film too and he voices something. Only reason I mention it is that he’s really good in Death in Paradise (2011 – Ongoing). That’s beside the point though.

So when I first heard of Labyrinth I was under the definite impression that it was a musical. It’s not all music if I’m honest. The film was scored by David Bowie so that’s probably why it sounds so excellent. I’m not complaining that this film doesn’t take the same approach as a conventional musical, I’m kind of glad it doesn’t. Now that’s not to say I don’t like musicals, I just don’t really watch them. So going into Labyrinth was quite good because, well, the music was from David Bowie. Yes, he does sing in this film.

The plot was a bit shaky at times but there was nothing wrong in the long run (Labyrinth – 1986 – CC. TriStar Pictures)

What surprised me the most is that David Bowie is in fact a very good actor, let alone singer. He plays the villainous Goblin King role exceptionally well. He must have done something right considering the Goblin King is possibly one of the most iconic 80s villains. If anything, David Bowie is the reason this film is such a large success. Now I should say I haven’t watched any of his other films, apart from that bit he had in Zoolander (2001). But from what I have seen he does seem to be a very competent actor.

I didn’t know that Terry Jones wrote the screenplay for this film either. Having two of my favourite entertainers, Jones and Bowie, working together? That’s amazing. Everything that man writes is genuine gold, and the vision of Jones is all over the place in this film. That’s a good thing though, his imagination coupled with Bowie’s music creates a fantastic bit of film. Seeing Jones’ name flash up in the opening credits got me even more excited for the film than I had been in the first place. That’s always a good thing though, the fact that a screenplay writer can excite me.

Of course the film does have a few problems, mainly because it’s 1986, what else are you expecting? The CGI in the film is pretty bad but luckily is used very little. There are some very cool scenes in the maze portion of the film that are more illusions than computer magic. Those were very impressive to see. Seeing a wall that wasn’t actually there? Yeah, fair enough, but I am impressed by the most basic of things. I managed to make myself toast last week and I’m still impressed by that.

They’re horrifying, aren’t they? There would be a lack of impact if it were done with CGI (Labyrinth – 1986 – CC. TriStar Pictures)

But possibly the most notable part of this film is the use of Jim Henson’s workshop. The puppets throughout the film were truly stunning. Honestly they look better than some of the shit I’ve seen in films this year. There’s something about puppets that freaks me out though and it’s obvious why that’s the case in this film. Obviously they’re supposed to look horrifying, and there’s no better example than in this film. That bridge guard thing was horrible. Again, that’s the point, it’s a fantasy film, everything should look strange and intriguing. Labyrinth nails that feeling on the head.

I’m really glad the film relies more on actual props than CGI. If it were CGI instead of actual props then this film wouldn’t have aged well at all. A lot of the film just looks so amazing and I’m certain that’s where a lot of the appeal comes from. It’s certainly not from the plot because if I’m honest it wasn’t the most amazing thing. I’m not saying it was bad, but without that plot I don’t think the film would have lost much. Sure, it does get better as you go, but for the first half hour I was very mixed on the plot. Not that big an issue though, Bowie’s soundtrack and the overall feel of the film was really saving me.

Verdict

So that was Labyrinth, and to be honest it’s pretty damn good. I can’t help but think that it was all thanks to David Bowie that I thoroughly enjoyed this film. He pretty much pulls double duty throughout the film. Not only is his acting genuinely quite good but he’s also created a brilliant soundtrack. It’s catchy, upbeat and it really compliments the overall tone of the film. The tone of the film is marvellous. It’s somehow gothic and jolly at the same time and I’m not sure how it manages this.

Overall then, you might like this film. I’m certainly sure that I did, but that’s because of David Bowie above anything. Jim Henson’s workshop of caricatures is truly amazing to see on the big screen and that really just adds to the marvel of the film. If you’ve ever wanted to see David Bowie morph into a really shit CGI owl then this is most certainly the film for you. Actually, if you like musicals of any kind, or even fantasy films, then give this a watch. You certainly won’t regret it.


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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Labyrinth
Ewan Gleadow
I've been writing for various different places for roughly four or five years now. Currently focusing my writing on film reviews, politics and occasional game reviews. Hopefully you enjoy my work, be sure to contact me if you have any criticisms or praise.

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