19 November 2010


Friday Night Movie: Labyrinth

Read about Neil Gaiman's retelling of Snow White
--Snow, Glass, Apples--
at This Miss Loves to Read

How about another cross-over? Our long-lost Friday Night Movie feature can certainly find some common ground with the "Friday is for Fairy Tales" meme.

Labyrinth was definitely inspired by fairy tales and other classics of children's literature. It's very postmodern, yes, but its strong morality play elements (borrowed from that oh-so-medieval of dramatic forms) save it in the end. I hope you can join me for this viewing.

(Remember that live-blog style comments count as extra entries in my "100+ Followers, 10+ Friends" Giveaway!)

0:31 "A Jim Henson Film" And just like that, we know this is going to be good.
1:16 It's never too early to gush about an unmistakably 80s soundtrack! (Now it feels as if I've come home . . .)
1:39 You might know Frank Oz as the puppeteer behind Yoda, but did you know he also created Miss Piggy? *chortle/snort*
2:46 You know, I was just thinking that that was the fakest digital owl ever . . . but I like this little jump. =)
3:05 Yeah, she's "just" a girl playing dress-up. I'd say she has princess potential, though.
3:19 Foreshadowing! Foreshadowing! (Just stating the obvious . . .)
3:48 I don't believe it! It's seven o'clock! I sympathise. Time does that to me, too.
3:53 Not that she had on a very convincing costume to begin with, but I love the way the unexpected flash of her blue jeans under the gown brings us back to 1987.
4:40 Oh, it's not fair! I hate it when teenagers who live in big houses in nice towns complain about anything not being fair.
5:31 Wait a minute. She's a stepmother? That's important--because this is a fairy story.
6:01 I love poking through other people's personal libraries . . .
6:39 Man, she's got a lot of stuff. And it all screams, "I'm really, truly a fairy tale princess."
7:14 The young girl was practically a slave! Hmmmmm. Escapism isn't supposed to be make people this blind.
7:32 LOL!!! Do we ever stop to think that someone might be listening to those fantasies we so carelessly weave?
8:37 This is amazing. All these puppets are so perfectly there with each other. They're not puppets, anymore; they're characters. And they make this scene real.
8:44 When I was around her age, the words I refused to say were those which would supposedly conjure up "Bloody Mary" in one's bathroom mirror. They probably wouldn't have done anything, but I learned my lesson from this movie. We just don't take those kinds of risks.
9:45 Wow. Those goblins work fast!

0:17 All the other lights in the house are still on . . .
0:36 Tiyanak!!!
1:13 I love the way the goblins in the house are startling and unsettling . . . but not scary the way similar intruders in Horror films usually are.
1:37 An entrance worthy of one of his concerts!
2:30 And this is how we know that the Goblin King is also an archetypal Morality Play Devil. (Quick review of criteria: a) the character has to be fun; b) the character has to be a villain who doesn't hide the fact at all; c) the audience has to love him, even knowing what he is.)
2:48 I want my brother back! Finally spoken as a true fairytale princess. These girls always stick up for their brothers.
2:52 AH-HAH!!! He's game enough to let us know he is the Devil! (Criterion B!)
4:38 Our first lesson: Fairyland isn't always ethereal and pretty.
5:15 Shows what you know, don't it? LOL! Apparently, real fairies are only fit for gassing.
5:23 Now I'm kicking myself. After growing up with Frances Hodgson Burnett's Little Princess, how could I have forgotten until now that Sarah means "princess"???
7:18 LOL again! She just called him "Hogwart"!
8:18 Is it a sign of character or cockiness that she picked the scarier path?
9:49 And it's a worm that wouldn't be out of place on Sesame Street! =P
9:58 Or out of place in a friendly English village. How hospitable for it to invite giants into its tiny home!

0:21 I've told you about my time travel dreams in which I run through walls, right? (Well, I have now.) And I think I know where my subconscious picked that idea up . . .
0:54 If she had kept on going down that way, she'd have gone straight to that castle! And now he reminds me why worms get stepped on in our world. =/
1:35 Anyone reminded of Maleficent's castle in Disney's Sleeping Beauty?
2:17 Of course, the Goblin King is so much cooler than Maleficent.
2:49 Dance Magic! I can't tell you how much respect Rock God Bowie for singing, dancing and jumping with muppets.
3:30 It would be highly unfair . . . if she hadn't already been told not to take anything for granted.
4:11 What a well-behaved baby!
5:39 What a horrible place this is! It's not fair! I'll bet your stepmother's rules are looking pretty good right now, aye, sweetheart?
5:56 My first thought: Tweedledum and Tweedledee!
6:38 My bet is on the blue one always telling the truth. Yours?
7:33 So did she guess that the blue one always lies? If so, then what he told her about one of them always telling the truth and the other always lying would have been . . . a lie. =P
7:44 And now begins what has always been my favourite effect in the whole movie. So simple and yet so unsettling!
8:44 "Oubliette": a perfectly chilling medieval French word which fits perfectly into a Fantasy world oddly full of anglophones.
9:00 That's the trouble with minions. They never know when they should laugh!

0:30 If you help me solve the labyrinth, I'll give you this! Very Rumplestiltskin. This girl does know her fairy tales!
1:02 Well, it's plastic's turn to be magical, I guess.
2:10 Don't pay any attention to them! They're just false alarms! Oh, the allegorical potential in a pun!
4:06 That's not fair! . . . You say that so often! I wonder what your basis for comparison is. Oh, exactly! This is a supreme modern morality play.
5:10 LOL!!!!!!!!
7:12 And Sarah finally accepts that life isn't fair. =) Okay, she may be the heroine now.
7:33 Hoggle looks as if he's never been able to call someone a friend in his whole life! Awwwww!
7:59 The way forward is the way back! . . . Will you listen to this crap! Just when I was thinking that every would-be guru in the world should have a bird hat like that to undermine him before potential devotees . . .
8:46 . . . we see that the hat is in on the scam. =( I'm so disillusioned.
9:20 Does this maze remind you of the great houses of France . . .
9:30 . . . or of the Japanese game show Takeshi's Castle? =P

0:06 Things aren't always what they seem in this place. If the first lesson is that life isn't fair, then the second lesson is that we shouldn't take anything for granted. Give the girl a diploma already!
0:22 Where did Jim Henson get his ideas??? Really.
1:41 As I tell all my ESL students, English is so useful that it will serve you well even in fantasy worlds populated by non-human species.
1:53 Well, I certainly hope you are what you seem to be! Why does she stop there? Why doesn't she hope he's really a hot prince under an enchantment?
5:44 Now we get to ponder whether the baby would actually be better off with Jareth than with his own family. Adoption ethics are insulting like that.
6:28 Has anyone else been thinking that "Ludo" could come from the Latin ludeo--"I play"?
6:35 Very, very nice! It screams "Big Brother is watching you!" one moment and "You're just paranoid" the next.
6:48 And then you find out that you're not paranoid! Bwahahahahahaha!
8:57 This is my least favourite part of the movie. Judge me as you will, but I don't think there's any excuse for this (fake looking) musical interlude.

0:19 Even Sarah is just standing there stunned, because this extended sequence doesn't do anything for the movie at all. Seriously.
0:35 It's also the only song from the soundtrack I can't even pretend to sing.
1:36 Decapitate them ALL, Sarah!
1:43 You missed one! . . . But never mind. Yeah, just get away as fast as you can.
2:05 Aaaaaaauuuuggghhh! JUST GET AWAY!!!
2:10 Can you imagine being trapped with those creatures forever?
2:40 Don't kiss me! Don't kiss me! Bwahahahahahahaha!
2:57 Oh, my God! And her face says the rest of it! LOL!!!
3:03 It's as if the earth itself is farting . . . over and over again.
4:15 And the gang's all here! =D
4:53 At this point, I should really be saying something about the meaningfulness of this setting . . . but all I can think of are fart jokes.
6:07 Just when I thought the Fire Gang would win the Most Annoying Muppets award . . .
8:01 Now that I'm over the smell, I'd like to point out the moral in the non-violent way they ultimately solved this conflict.
8:04 You've probably heard the advice about wearing clean underwear in case you're ever in an accident, but nobody ever says that you should wear adventure-ready shoes in case you're ever sucked into a fantasy world. Why do you suppose that is?
9:14 Rocks [are] friends! I never noticed before this that friendship is a major theme of this movie. =)
9:18 All right, we know that one stray step into the swamp will make one stink forever . . . so I would have been more hesitant about stepping onto those still-slimy rocks. (Is this a plothole? Or one of those "deliberate errors by filmmakers"?)
9:29 A woman once observed that males find fart jokes hilarious, no matter what their age. Henson was obviously no exception.
9:46 It's a real dog! LOL! Very refreshing at this point of the film! =)

0:07 This reminds me of the Top 5 List about "traveling fellowships" that I've been letting percolate in my mind for the past few months. Do you suppose this merry band will make the final cut?
0:14 Oh, man! Jareth is freaking scary!
1:23 Have I mentioned how wonderfully expressive Hoggle's face is?
2:03 It's less Snow White and the apple and more Persephone and the pomegranate, you know.
3:34 What I like about this is that it's "80s Princess" (my personal favourite look) meets "Renaissance Couturier."
3:48 She is the only one here without a mask. Poor, vulnerable dear.
4:02 One of my friends has always found the Goblin King really, really sexy. I thought I'd see it this time . . . but I still don't.
4:45 But in all fairness, that's a great vampiric grin! =D
5:35 It just hit me. This song is their love theme. And it's not a romantic standard because they're the only couple who could ever pull it off. (Until I get married, that is . . . Bwahahahahaha!)
6:12 Now it's like Cinderella! Jareth really is giving her all the fairy tales that have seeded her dreams, isn't he? If you like that sort of twisted thing, it's seriously sweet.
6:45 No safety net. Just a junkyard of broken dreams. But don't be sad: it's not reality.
8:01 Wow. This storytelling is very, very good.
9:56 I mean, you know what the old woman is doing, right? She's trying to turn Sarah into her: someone so distracted by stuff that she sees the whole world as a scrap yard to be scavenged. For that's what happens when possessions become more important to you than other people.

0:33 Hooray for books! Three cheers for literature!
0:50 I'm really starting to love Sarah's learning curve.
2:03 It must be said, before we go any further, that Sir Didymus is such a Reepicheep.
2:54 Does the electronica music, coming in at just this point, remind anyone else of The Terminator?
3:21 Well, that is a fake dog . . . but the real dog comes back in about two seconds, so it doesn't really matter.
4:00 Oh, these goblins and their technology!
6:23 The girl who ate the peach and forgot everything! She's escaped the matrix!!! Bwahahahahaha!
7:36 Ambrosius might be a coward by Sir Didymus' standards, but he must have saved his master's foolhardy life a million times over by now.
7:44 Ambrosius, can we please talk about this?!?! ROFLMAO!!!
4:47 Sit! Still ROFLMAO! The comedic timing is perfect!
8:05 I love the fact that Ludo is five times bigger than any of the goblins and can still sneak through a throng of them.
8:20 You have to admire Sir Didymus' optimism. And well, in a sense, being completely surrounded by the enemy really does mean that they won't be getting away!
8:30 Does goblin technology require that someone be inside every last thing?
9:08 ROFL!!! Whoever is handling this puppet is an unheralded genius.

0:17 So? Had enough, have you? In case you haven't noticed, Sir Didymus is utterly incapable of sarcasm. He is made of top-grade sincerity.
1:08 I want to take this moment to reflect that this 1983 movie, with its "crude" special effects has aged better than last year's set of slickly produced Family Movies. And I want to predict that twenty-seven years from now, someone else will notice how well Labyrinth stands up to time.
1:27 Get out of my house! These rocks are okay! =D
2:32 Now I'm curious. Is Ludo friends with only roundish rocks, or is it just that the boxier ones can't go to him?
2:49 Does anyone else think the Lone Ranger reference is out of place? =S Now I know why J.R.R. Tolkien hated that Father Christmas makes an appearance in C.S. Lewis' Narnia.
3:48 This isn't a Horror movie, but Sarah makes a wonderful Final Girl.
3:54 Did you notice that poster in her bedroom earlier? Even if you didn't, Jareth certainly did!
4:47 Who needs Emo Rock, when you can have this?
6:10 He's probably thinking, "Oh, no! It's my angry older sister! Where's that nice man Jareth?"
6:49 How very Alice's Adventures in Wonderland . . .
7:44 I'm exhausted from living up to your expectations. He might be the Goblin King, but even he is just like every other man when it comes to What Women Want.
8:38 Just fear me, love me, do as I say . . . In case you weren't getting the Morality Play Devil signals again, consider this an alert. Don't let that hairstyle distract you more than necessary!
9:00 I want a clock like that, please.
9:56 Awwwwwwwwww! (She did it!)

0:30 She has become something better than a beautiful princess. Now she is a good big sister.
0:57 Is that figure supposed to be Jareth?
1:21 And now it's Through the Looking Glass. She is the new Alice!
1:55 Now THAT is a happy ending! =D
2:18 But I'm left wondering whether this will ultimately end the way Puff the Magic Dragon does. =S (I now officially hate that song.)
2:27 Jareth, you stalker! Are you watching from the outside because this is this your last (and best) gift to Sarah--or because she has finally taken all your power from you?

And in case you like watching the credits . . .

2:51 Toby was played by only one baby, also named Toby. I guess the actor's name came first and the character's name came later.
2:59 These are fun credits to read. Look at how many people it takes to create a single character!
3:09 And notice how many collaborations there are as the puppeteers and voice actors spread their strengths around!
4:00 Let's all just enjoy the music now, okay? . . . =)

Thanks for joining me for another Friday Night Movie!


Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

OMG, this post is AMAZING! I've only seen this movie once and I rememeber it badly, but I am so going to re-watch it with your comments. I read them and didn't know for all to which scenes they alluded, but in the evening, I'll watch the clips and have a laugh because I just know from your comments that I will.:) And, you're very insightful. I've only now started to realise how many fairy-tales are included in Labyrinth. I definitely remember what you mean with the Alice in Wonderland comment.


Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Irena! =) I can't wait to read your comments on the film, too.

What I love about Labyrinth from a storytelling standpoint (there being so much more to love from other standpoints) is that it contains recognisable elements from other famous stories and yet is totally original.

Sullivan McPig said...

I LOVE this movie!
And now I want to rewatch it for the billionth time.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Gah! I could've sworn I commented on this...I had this comment about how I loved LABYRINTH and even though it scared me a little, I still thought it was cool.

(Or something like that)

But I do love this movie!! Who doesn't love David Bowie in leather?

Paul Stilwell said...

Okay, I may have more to say later as the thoughts come...

I completely agree, this film as a whole is devastating evidence (as in A-bomb devastation) that CGI is a failure in so many respects. Just look at the scene with the two "door-knockers". The "reality" is not reducible to technicalities; but all the elements of the scene come together in a yeast-like way to evoke a truer invisible reality.

There's a whole huge artistic rant in there that I won't bother articulating.

On a personal note, I find it amazing how something so forgotten still remains in the subconscious, so that when you see it again it's like instant memory replay. Those hands, oh those hands. I had dreams about those hands as a kid. They weren't full blown nightmares but hypnotically strange; those images had such an impact on me. And the Bog of Eternal Stench; even if the film didn't show the actual bog, Hoggle's mere description of what the bog does to you would have been enough.

And honestly, I never liked David Bowie in this film, and I still don't. I remember the musical numbers embarrassing me. My other crit is with the ending, when all the goblins and Pluto and everyone is in her room suddenly. I really don't like. The film should have cut it clean with the parents coming home and asking how the evening went.

Enbrethiliel said...


Sully: If you watch it here, please share your comments as well! =)

Carol: You did leave a comment--for the Wednesday Night Trailer post promoting this one. =) And it was greatly appreciated.

Stilwell: Perhaps the musical numbers were put in for the teenagers and adults watching the movie with the younger audience? I was totally bored by all of them the first time I saw this. (Stray memory: when a girl cousin and I were young, we would fast forward through the mice vs. cat sequences in Disney's Cinderella. Imagine my amusement, fifteen years later, to see my two younger brothers fast forwarding through the bits with the "humans" so they could get back to the animals. I guess movies that have something for everybody can't help having a few "superfluous" bits for everybody, too.)

I do think that Bowie was a "novelty" choice and that Jareth could have been played just as well (albeit less musically) by another character actor. But I still think it was inspired casting, because of everything Bowie would have represented to the first viewers. We can certainly believe that a real-life Sarah would have some feelings of desire for a rock star like him, even if she doesn't understand them yet.

As for the ending, I would have been perfectly happy with your alternative ending, too. In fact, the first time I watched this and saw the huge party in her room, I thought, "Oh, great. What are they going to do when her parents come in?" And I came up with all sorts of literal scenarios--the implication of which is that the surprise ending just doesn't fit.

Since Sarah's adventure is also a coming-of-age quest, it would make more sense for her to have left them on the other side of the glass. Yeah, it's sad . . . but we've been dealing with that since J.M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan. As the story stands, however . . . now what is there to make her (real) bedroom any different from its replica in the junk yard?

Syrin said...

This is one of my all time favorite movies. Of course I love nearly everything Henson does, so that's no surprise. Puppetry will always be better than CGI, in my opinion.

I couldn't help but smile at your dislike of the Wild Gang scene. My boyfriend was scared of them as a kid, and just yesterday I was teasing him by singing their song. He was not amused. :)

I've had the same thought about the slimy rocks in the bog of eternal stench!

I've always thought of Sir Didymus as a sort of Don Quixote tribute.

I actually like the ending, mostly because of Sarah's words "Sometimes, for no reason at all, I need you. All of you." It's an explanation (or acknowledgment) that even as adults it's ok for us to get back in touch with the kid in us who loves these fairy tales. Henson himself was definitely an adult who was not afraid to do so.

Enbrethiliel said...


Hi, Syrin! Thank you for your fantastic comment.

LOL at your boyfriend's reaction to the Wild Gang puppets. If someone sang the song to tease me, I'd have the same reaction, I think!

(Note to my other readers: Now that you know, please don't take advantage . . .)

You're right that there's something of Don Quixote in Sir Didymus. I wish I had managed to fit that into the post!

As for the ending . . . well, I'm okay with it, even if I've always found it a bit awkward. (As a kid, I really, really had a problem with how Sarah would feed them and care for them if she had to go to school! As if they were all pets, you know? LOL!) I really think it would have been stronger the other way . . . but I'm also not complaining. Really. Just musing aloud.

Paul Stilwell said...

Casting David Bowie was definitely inspired, and he works, but I think it was the same deal as you mention with the fast forwarding. Every time he appeared I was sort of like, you again?

And should say that I was embarrassed by the musical numbers with perhaps the exception of the snakes and snails and puppy dogs' tails song.

And also forgot to mention about the junkyard bit. As you mention, it is a very good moralistic element in the movie.

Lesa said...

Forgive me for not watching yet-- I've been busy preparing for company and a family trip-- I'm looking forward to watching when I return.

Wonder who the number one big mouth will be now?! hahahahahahaha

Can't believe I've held the top spot for a week! Woot Woot! Is there a trophy or something?

Enbrethiliel said...


Stiwell: I'm newly fascinated by the way viewers of different ages watch this movie. When I was younger, I wasn't very impressed by him, either. I think I had a similar "You again?" reaction. Villains don't get that much screen time in children's movies, do they? Just a lot of lurking in their lairs--and then maybe a big battle for the climax.

But I think an older viewer, particularly a woman, would see in the same plot a kind of love story between Sarah and Jareth--which requires that he have almost as much screen time as she.

Lesa: Take your time! =) It took me long enough to complete this live blog--but I'm not telling how much time I needed. =P

Enbrethiliel said...


PS--I totally forgot to say . . . Have fun on your trip! =D

paul bowman said...

Tangential (with apologies) but well-meant: http://is.gd/hEVWw

Enbrethiliel said...


Please don't do that. You're making David Bowie feel neglected.