In the early 80's Jim Henson created one of the most ambitious fantasy films ever: The Dark Crystal. It was a movie that had a completely realized world with its own creatures and flora... and it was performed entirely by puppets. Not the Muppet kind that Henson is famous for, mind you. These were serious creations that involved serious innovations in animatronics. While many loved the movie and it was critically acclaimed many others didn't "get it". There was no human interaction in the movie whatsoever and that put off people. Also the movie was serious with none of that Muppet mayhem Henson fans are so used to. That put off a few more people.
The next evolutionary step in Jim's grand scheme of fantasy puppetry was Labyrinth, and they filled in the gaps that The Dark Crystal left for those who couldn't (or wouldn't) "get" the concept of a fully realized fantasy setting that is outside of our own. How does he do it? Let me tell you...
Step One - Human actors. Labyrinth included the young, yet already talented Jennifer Connelly as their heroine and well-established musician and actor David Bowie as her nemesis. Now you get the fun of a complete puppet world while at the same time you have human characters that interact in that same environment. Thus giving the viewer a better connection to the puppet characters.
Step Two - Better puppets. The Dark Crystal is a masterpiece in of itself, however the technology used to animate the puppets was in its infancy and if you had to be picky about it you can pick away at the limitations of the puppets in that movie. With Labyrinth you get updated technology, which gives you puppets who can show emotions better. Case in point is the goblin Hoggle, who is the starring puppet. So much attention to detail went into his facial expressions that you can actually see the fear, disgust, anger, and joy in his eyes. Add to that other puppetry innovations and you have a world of cool puppets.
Step Three - Keep it fun. The Dark Crystal was a grandiose and serious film that included some funny moments now and then. Labyrinth is the opposite. Is a fun film where the characters meet up with unexpected and often times crazy situations. Makes this fantasy adventure feel more comical in the same way it would reading a fun bedtime story.
Step Four - Keep the original concept. Jim Henson did The Dark Crystal with the thought that he wanted to create a whole different world inhabited by beings and creatures portrayed entirely by puppets. Labyrinth is essentially the same thing, but done in a different way. Walking through the movie's namesake (the maze that leads to the goblin city) is definitely like being in another world that's both fascinating and fun. Much of what you see is visually impressive and essentially relish in the fact your eyes can play tricks on you. Brian Froud is again signed on as the conceptual designer and his work shines just as well in this iteration as it did with Dark Crystal.
Labyrinth also has the destinction of having songs specially written for the movie by David Bowie. Keep in mind this movie was in the 80's so what you get is 80's Bowie, and there are a couple scenes that flow more like music videos (or musical numbers) than standard scenes.
You might get the impression I am dogging on Dark Crystal in order to lift up Labyrinth. Can't be farther from the truth. However I do know the differences between the two films and how the other was made in response to the first. Labyrinth is the folk tale while Dark Crystal is the fantasy book. I believe both are fantastic movies.
The original DVD for Labyrinth was a good compilation right from the start, and was superseded with the Anniversary Edition having remastered visuals and a couple new featurettes. Now we have the movie on Blu-Ray, and boy I thought the Anniversay Edition looked good. I was worried when this movie went high definition that a lot of the original film grain was going to be lost in the digital cleaning that's popular with some companies with older films. Luckily what you end up with is the best looking picture to date. I'm not going to say this movie is presented in supersharp crystal clarity, but then again that would ruin it. The movie look as true to the original theatrical release as you can get. Details really pop out without looking antiseptic. Visually the Blu-Ray does breath new life into this classic. The extras are pretty much identical to what was offered on the Anniversary Edition with one exception. Here's what you get:
Documentary Making of the Labyrinth - Has interviews with actors, puppet performers and production staff including Jim Henson, Brian Henson, David Bowie (who gives us some insight on his character) and Jennifer Connelly as well as lots of details on design and production of the movie. This documentary is a gem for those of you want solid behind-the-scenes details and was in the original DVD and is included on the Anniversary Edition.
Journey Through the Labyrinth: Kingdom of Characters and The Quest for Golden City - These two featurettes from the Anniversary Edition include updated interviews with the cast and crew and never before seen footage from the Jim Henson archives. Kingdom of Characters focuses on... you guessed it... the main characters in the movie including conceptual design for the puppets (although Hoggle seems to be mostly left out, likely because there is so much of him in the original documentary) and background info on the actors. The Quest for the Golden City is mostly design details on the labyrinth, Goblin City and castle itself. These featurettes do well to fill in the gaps left by the original documentary. The extra footage is test footage of the puppets and such, with some production footage as well. I noticed some of the production footage was a rehash of what's on Making of the Labyrinth, but the crosstalk is few and far between.
The Storytellers Picture-in-Picture: This is the Blu-Ray exclusive featurette. When you turn it on while watching the movie occasionally a window pops up with an interview with one of the crew members speaking some interesting anecdote about the film. There isn't a whole lot of these that pop up in the movie, but when they do you get some rather interesting and entertaining production and behind the scenes information. Hearing about the casting call for the Helping Hands scene and the interview with Warwick Davis are alone worth checking out the feature.
Commentary by Brian Froud
You also get Dolby True HD Surround in English, French, Portugese with a Dolby Digigal Spanish track (how many movies have a Portugese dub?) with subtitles in all. Kind of strange they left out the Japanese audio that the Anniversary Edition had. I recall hearing improvements from the previous release's Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, but nothing groundbreaking.
Every release of Labyrinth has been impressive from the very first DVD, and with each new release it gets even better. So is it worth the double/triple dip? Well just like how the Anniversary Edition gave you a better picture with more extras the Blu-Ray ups the ante. I say if you want to enjoy this movie in the best way visually then yes. The new extras are nice, but to be honest as long as they original making of documentary is in there everything else will always come in second.
Labyrinth is a wonderful movie for all ages. The visuals will impress and the hijinks will entertain. If you are a Muppet fan this movie will be much more accessable than the Dark Crystal, and if you like The Storyteller then you have abolustely no choice but to get this (it's like a full length Storyteller movie sans John Hurt).
on July 6, 2000
I first saw Labyrinth when I was about ten years old and it has been my dream fairytale ever since.
The story was simple -- big sister has to grow up, learn her responsibilities and rescue little brother from becoming a goblin.
But what was magical about the whole show was the brilliant M.C Escher sets, marvelously entertaining puppets created by the father of all puppets, Jim Henson, and the beautifully romantic interludes between Jennifer Connelly (Sarah) and David Bowie (Goblin King).
Present-day computer animation can make dinosaurs almost real but I preferred the cute and adorable puppets that created my own make-believe of a world of magic, fantasy and adventure. I could almost see myself running around in that maze, dodging the boobie traps and having great companions like Hoggle, Ludo and Ambrocious with me.
I admit I was pretty charmed by David Bowie's portrayal of the Goblin King but who wouldn't be? Powerful, mysterious and not bad-looking, he seemed to be in the classic Prince Charming genre, except that he was also a little diabolical compared to those in Cinderella and Snow White etc.
Labyrinth is a classic and will always be my dream fairytale, and I am still watching it over and over every now and then. Most of all, like Dark Crystal, it is one of the signature performances by the late Jim Henson and his wonderful family of puppets.
This is one of my favourite movies, because it truly understands the hearts of grown up girls, their love of fantasy and lure the dark & dangerous lad that leads us down the garden path. It's a wonderful tale, with marvellous tunes that linger on and on. From "It's Only Forever", "Underground" and "Chilly Down" but most especially "As the World Falls Down". Sigh, such a beautiful and deftly filmed Cinderella Ball for Adults. I don't know a woman that loves this film who does not say "I want that dress!".
Sarah is an easy to relate to teen. She is part child - part woman, one foot in each world and truly not belonging to either. Added to this, her father has remarried and has little time to spend on his growing daughter. We are not told, but it's clear her mother is dead. Mom was an actress and lover of the magic and she passed this on to her lovely daughter. It's very hard to believe Jennifer Connelly is only 12 years old here!!! She is the perfect Sarah, the beautiful woman-child that has no sense of her place in the world. Too grown for childish things, too young for boys and dating. Her cherished childhood toys are giving carelessly to her new baby stepbrother, again emphasizing her feelings of alienation. Her new mother has little patience, and even when she tries, she meets with a hostile resentful woman-child. Sarah pain at feeling as if she is not wanted anywhere is so heartbreaking.
Left with the crying baby, and feeling that her world is slowly crumbling around her (reflected in Bowie's "As the World Falls Down"), the child side takes control and spitefully wishes the baby to be taken away from the Goblins. In true Muppet fashion, they promptly and cheerful comply. Sarah faces the Goblin King Jareth - perfectly brought to life by Bowie - and demands he return her brother. When Jareth says he will only return her brother if she finds her way to the Goblin City, Sarah sucks in her courage and goes after him.
Along the way she meets wonderful friends such as Hoggle and Sir Didymous, and finds out her own inner value and worth. Something we all have to do in growing up.
A true faerytale for the little girl in us, wonderfully realized through the magic of the Muppets, Connelly and Bowie. This set is laced with all the wonderful goodies that will thrill all the many lovers of the film.
Kudos for the super repackage.
on July 18, 2001
It's hard to believe that when Labyrinth was released in June of '86 it didn't do well. People weren't impressed. Some people say that things get better with age. Maybe this is also true with films.
Labyrinth is the ultimate fantasy adventure story. Sarah, the heroine, has to find her way through the magical labyrinth to get her baby brother back from the evil Goblin King. Along the way she makes friends and enemies as she fights temptation and reminds us what is truly important.
The release of this DVD was a long-time coming. It was worth the wait. Presented in wide-screen, that means we can see all of the goblins in hidden in the drawers and not just the one speaking, and Dolby Surround. The picture quality is good and the hauting soundtrack has been captured excellently.
Also included on the disc is the original cinema trailer and the original production featurette "Inside the Labyrinth". Probably as valuable, if not more, as the film itself. It's a facinating glimpse into the making of a masterpiece. Including interviews from the cast and crew and, more importantly, the Muppet master himself, Jim Henson.
This movie is probably more popular now than it has ever been and for good reason. And for just over ... bucks it's a movie must for anyone who is young or just young at heart.
on December 14, 2005
This is my all-time favorite movie (it's up there with "The Princess Bride" and "Willow"), and when I heard that this Collector's Edition was coming out, I had to buy it. However, I was very dismayed to find that this Edition has hardly any decent Special Features, apart from the 'behind the scenes' documentary that was not remastered and has muffled/distorted sound. I was looking for audio commentary (maybe by David Bowie and/or Jennifer Connelly, or possibly a Henson family member) or some better behind-the-scenes docs (maybe click on a button while the movie is playing and you get a behind-the-scenes look of that particular scene). I was also hoping of some more conceptual artwork (or even a commentary) by the great Brian Froud. (I have always been looking for an "art of" book for this movie, but all I have found is Froud's 'Goblin Companion'--which is great, but there has to be more conceptual artwork for this movie than that).
Anyway....I love this movie, but the Collector's Edition could have been more significant.
on October 22, 2002
Wolfgang Petersen's 'The Neverending Story', Ridley Scott's 'Legend' and Jim Henson's 'Labyrinth' could very well be my Holy Trinity of fantasy films of the 1980's. All three of them set landmarks in the genre by showing great imagination and spectacular spirit of adventure. In the case of 'Labyrinth', a movie more intended for children would prove to be the most harsh of the three by touching a subject not very uncommon: stepping into adulthood and leaving infancy forever.
Jim Henson had already delighted us with his magnificent film 'The Dark Crystal'. In this movie, he shows once again why he's one of the best puppeteers of the world. Although there are many characters in the film, only two of them are played by human actors. The rest is all puppets. This was Jennifer Conelly's first big role, and she does quite a nice job. The brave, yet sometimes overconfident Sarah manages to capture our attention even when surrounded by all the puppets and artistry of the magical world she's in, but it's David Bowie, as the Goblin King, who gets the best of the movie in a scene-stealing role. His presence alone is astonishing, and even when he could seem a little rigid in his acting moments, he feels right at home during the musical numbers, showing us why he was the one and only option for the part. I hadn't watched the movie in over 10 years, and I still loved all the songs, specially the ballroom sequence, where Sarah and the Goblin King face each other in a masquerade where the two of them are the only ones unmasked. In fact, the only musical piece that I didn't like was 'Wild Gang', basically because it doesn't feature Bowie (and the special effects are pretty lame). As for Henson's work, all the puppets are magnificent and brilliant in detail. This is specially good in the big ones, like Ludo the beast, the Helping Hands and the big robot-like creature at the gates of the Goblin City. Adults with a less 'delicate' sense of humor will crack up with the Bog of Eternal Stench.
Unfortunately, once again, fans of a good film will feel betrayed with this edition: a poor presentation, an old documentary, absolutely no commentaries (one by Jennifer Connely and David Bowie would've been the greatest thing on Earth!!) and, worst of all, a mediocre transfer. There is basically no improvement over the VHS version, neither in picture quality nor sound. Bring me the head of the Lucasfilm executive who gave the OK on this paper-napkin edition! Being realistic, I don't think a Special Edition of 'Labyrinth' is planned in the near or far future, so you'll have to deal with this one. But in spite of all this, the movie continues to be one of my favorites, a fantasy classic nobody should miss.
on October 27, 2002
"Labyrinth", directed by Jim Henson, is one of my all-time favorite children's fantasies. It's about teenage aspiring actress, Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), who's sick and tired of being mistreated by her parents (Shelley Thompson and Christopher Malcolm) because she thinks her baby brother gets all the attention. Sarah soon begins to hate her baby brother and wishes that he would be taken away by evil goblins. Miraculously, Sarah's wish comes true...but now she's afraid of what might happen to her brother and wants him back. So to get him back, she must embark on a journey through an enchanted labyrinth maze to get her brother back from the evil king goblin (David Bowie). Along the way, she meets many magical creatures and defeats dangerous tasks as she learns what's really important about family.
The film's special effects were done by the Lucasfilm company (yes, George Lucas's effects company). The acting is superb from the entire cast, especially a very young Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie. The storyline is wonderful, but the DVD is lacking, with only trailers, production notes, and one documentary on the making of the film. "Labyrinth" might actually not be for all ages, since it can be a little scary...esepcially the goblins might creep some young children out. But it is still a must.
I highly recommend "Labyrinth".
on August 5, 2005
S. Stone wrote "Anyone who takes this film seriously needs to get out more. Its just that bad". Well Mr. Stone, I would have to respond by saying people like you need to develope a sense of humor, a sense of wonder and perhaps NOT take things so seriously! You'd have to be a pretty sad sack with a chip on your shoulder if you found this film appalingly offensive to your intelligence!
Jim Henson was a true artistic genius. He redefined puppetry by creating living breathing worlds both in his beloved Muppets and in films such as Labrynth and the Dark Crystal. I grew up on Sesame Street and other Muppet shows and was always fascinated how he, like his friend George Lucas, managed to convey an image of traditional folklore and story telling with modern imagination.
The world of Labrynth is astounding. A world of fluttering faeries, furry worms with Cockney accents, dark underground catacombs, putrid swamps, towering warrior robots, and much more. The scope of this film is very rich and detailed with amazing imagination. The characters, both human and otherwise, are easy to likable and suprisingly realistic(Hoggle's arrogance and cowardice, Didymus's brash sense of bravado, Ludo's gentle interior).
Despite his silly poofy 80's wig, David Bowie commands a very powerful and formidable presence as Jareth, King of the Goblins. He, as well, turns out to be a slightly more complex character than your traditional villain.
All in all, this is a highly recommended fantasy adventure.
R.I.P. Jim Henson.
I almost gave this movie four stars, until I realized how many times I've come back to it. It really is worth watching again and again.
The story's opening should appeal to many kids: teenaged Sara rebels at the baby-sitting duties that interfere with her vivid fantasy life. She would never hurt the child, but creates a fairy tale around her frustration. In this story, the beautiful princess (Sara, of course) is set free when denizens of Fairy-land abduct the evil infant. Then, suddenly, the fairy tale becomes real.
The story is Sara's quest to recover the lost child from Jared, played by David Bowie. He works well as the world's dark lord, even if his song scenes seemed gratuitous. Sara traverses the mythic Labyrinth guided, misguided, and befriended by beings from Jim Henson's wonderful imagination. This is the true magic of "Labyrinth," the sustained vision, comical and fantastical, of Brian Froud's world peopled by Henson's creatures. The whole world is simply amazing - and it goes on, in changing scenes and amazing detail, for the rest of the movie.
This is a wonderful kids' movie, with no real violence or adult themes, and with a happy ending. It does have a dark edge, however, that may scare the very youngest. Although it's a kids' movie, the kids are optional. Feel free to enjoy it just for yourself.
on November 13, 2000
I think I was a little too old for this movie when it originally came out. As a teen I thought it was a kid flick. In my 20s me and my 10 year old nephew rented it and laughed our heads off (especially the scenes with the creatures tossing body parts around). Now I'm in my 30s and it is the best DVD I own. The DVD really shows the colors well. Love the sky, the distant shots of the maze, and Jennifer shows up nicely too near the beginning. I first saw Connelly in Once Upon A Time In America. Lovely actress. Check her out in Dark City too. As far as the sound, it is better than you can imagine. Bowie's songs will have you singing along even if you don't want to. The detail is startling. Henson's team works magic! The attention to detail on each creature is amazing. And it all comes out clearer than ever before thanks to DVD! As far as extras I didn't need them. However, the expected trailer, talent files and unexpected "making of" documentary are nice to have. Henson fans should have this on your shelf.