Dance, magic dance…

I've been looking back over a lot of old films and TV shows that I watched in my youth and I'll admit a lot of them haven't aged well. I probably view some of them in a nostalgic light, so my opinion on a lot of films is a little biased to say the least. I love this film even though it feels very dated now. If they made it today, they would most likely use a lot of CGI and green screen, but for me the film would lose a lot of its charm and magic because the mixture of puppets and live actors are so effective in this story. Jim Henson's work in creating these characters is both loveable and nightmare inducing. Looking back at all his work I was surprised at how much of it shaped my childhood, from the Muppets to Fraggle Rock and even the terrifying Dark Crystal (I still get shivers from that one).

The story is pretty dark, a young spoilt girl who has a temper tantrum about having to babysit her baby brother on a Saturday night decides to ask the Goblin King to take him away from her. Enter David Bowie's Jareth who throughout the film has an uncomfortable relationship with Sarah. Is he a father figure? A love interest? He is clearly in his 30’s and she is a teenage girl, and that part never sat well with me. The heart of the film is Jim Henson's puppets, I love Ludo because he reminds me of a big loveable loyal puppy dog, despite his monstrous size and appearance he is a big softy. Hoggle the dwarf is desperately just looking to fit in somewhere and wants a friend. Not forgetting the very energetic Sir Didymus and his trusty steed Ambrosio who, despite being small in size, has the biggest fight in him than any living being. All of these characters play their parts and help propel the story (they also show more emotion with animatronics and puppetry than any Keanu Reeves performance). The film reminds me a lot about the Wizard of Oz, a young girl's adventure across a mysterious land finding new friends on her journey, but realising they were with her all the time. Only this time she isn't looking for a way home, she is battling the Labyrinth while David Bowie and his goblin minions try to stop her from reaching her goal. She also rights her wrongs along the way.

I love David Bowie and he seems to be having so much fun in the role of Jareth even though most of his scenes are very creepy. When I was younger I was too innocent to really notice this aspect of the film; but, maybe I am more aware of these kinds of things now, due to the current climate and changes in our own culture. Many of Bowie's scenes are shot like a music video, he doesn't show that much range of emotion in the film but he is so charismatic that you can't take your eyes off him whenever he is on screen. There have been rumours throughout the years that he wasn't happy with his look in some scenes and made them digitally enhance a certain area to make it stand out more. I do find this hard to believe but you never know, these rumours always start somewhere. Jennifer Connelly's Sarah is sweet yet a little annoying, I feel like her journey was to help her grow up and be a lot less selfish; I think she does a good job of this. I do end up warming to Sarah more as the film progresses and she realises what is important in life: family and friends over possessions.

What I remembered most about Labyrinth was the songs, they are catchy and fun and most of the lyrics are just silly but with an 80s vibe to them. From ‘Magic Dance’ that stays in your head for days even after one listen, to the bonkers ‘Chilly Down’ which features these fluffy fox creatures called 'Fireys' that are all about taking their own head off and throwing them around. The Fireys are nightmare fuel! There are other elements to this film that scared me as a kid, such as the ‘helping hands’ that cleverly make faces from a number of different pairs of hands (it's scarier than it sounds trust me) to the bog of eternal stench. Just thought of being somewhere that smells so bad that it stays with you forever. Not to mention the almost drug-induced final act of the film where Sarah pursues her baby brother through a load of Escher-style staircases that defy the laws of physics. The film loses me a little when Sarah is given the poisoned peach by Hoggle and she drifts off to a strange masquerade ball where she is almost seduced by Jareth, which again is a little uncomfortable to revisit. I feel lucky the film doesn't dwell too long here and then moves on to the adventure at hand.

I don't know if many people watching the film for the first time would enjoy it as much as I do watching it again. It does remind me of my childhood, of watching films with my family, and making my poor dad revisit the Labyrinth over and over again. For me, the film is dripping in nostalgia and happy memories. The charm and the amazing work of the puppeteers does put a kind of magic spell on you. But, a word of warning, always be careful for what you wish for! You never know who might be listening, you never know what that wish could lead to.….

Thank you for reading....