Published as part of Realweegiemidget’s Pop Stars Moonlighting Blogathon 2020.
There’s an immutability to the best of Jim Henson’s work and it’s that sense of timelessness that marks “Labyrinth” out as one of the finest classics of his astonishingly rich legacy.
While many of Henson’s frequent collaborators – George Lucas, Frank Oz – were involved in putting the story together, the end result is pure Henson magic, with even the late, great Terry Jones (on scripting duties) taking care not to eclipse magic. Essentially a loose reimagining of “Alice In Wonderland”, “Labyrinth” brings us a coming of age story full of important lessons about being careful what you wish for, especially as you’re growing up and learning who to trust, not least of all in yourself. Henson brings these themes to the screen with his uncanny ability to know just how dark to take things to give the families watching just enough of a thrill without ever pushing it too far and populates the beguiling world of the Goblin King’s labyrinth with a cavalcade of wonderful creature and character designs.
At the centre of it all is David Bowie, an androgynous, enigmatic antagonist who grants the wish Sarah (Jennifer Connolly) is unwise to make in haste and then meddles continuously to thwart her efforts to rescue her younger brother as she repents at leisure. Bowie brings just the right amount of ambiguity to the role (although quite possibly the wrong amount of codpiece), walking a fine line between being a mischievous villain and, perhaps, a kind of teacher with a particularly cruel approach to tough love. Striking to look at, in the hands of a lesser performance the role of Jareth The Goblin King could easily have become a twee pantomime of excess but Bowie’s brooding subtlety gives the high fantasy a solid dramatic anchor.
He’s a wonderful adversary for Connelly’s pugnaciously pure heroine and by turns playful and sinister in the treatment of his various monstrous maze minions. Full of delightful flights of fantasy and fun, with plenty of laughs for kids and adults alike, tragically “Labyrinth” would be Jim Henson’s final feature film as director but it’s a triumphantly high note to end on. It’s a dazzlingly showcase for the technique and artistry Henson brought to everything he created.