Sarah Williams (Connelly) is a 15-year-old who loves reading and acting out fairy tales. The movie opens with a scene of Sarah rehearsing lines from her book Labyrinth in a park. While trying to remember the final line of a speech in the book, she loses track of time, forgetting that she must babysit her infant half-brother, Toby. Upon belatedly remembering this, she runs home to find her stepmother Irene waiting angrily for her. They quarrel, after which Irene leaves with Sarah’s father on a date, while Sarah remains behind to babysit Toby. Here, the already furious Sarah realizes her treasured teddy bear, Lancelot, is missing from her room. Storming into Toby’s room, she finds Lancelot and reprimands Toby. He begins to cry; Sarah, possibly to tease him further in revenge, begins rehearsing more lines from Labyrinth, telling an account of a maiden granted special powers by the King of Goblins. According to the story, the girl (whom Sarah apparently uses to represent herself) could no longer stand her life and wishes for goblins to take away her screaming baby brother. As she ends the story and turns off the light, she remarks, “I wish the goblins wouldcome and take you away…right now”. Toby suddenly stops crying. Worried, Sarah enters his room, to find that Toby has vanished.
A great northern owl flutters through the opened window and transforms into Jareth, the King of Goblins (Bowie), who tells her that he has taken the baby as she had beseeched. Appalled at the realization of what she has done, Sarah begs for the return of her brother. Jarethgives her 13 hours in which to solve his great maze, called the Labyrinth, and find Toby. If she fails, Jareth will change him into a goblin and keep him forever.
The Labyrinthis not a simple maze; the pathways and openings in the walls of the maze change from time to time, and are riddled with logic puzzles and tests. At its entrance, Sarah finds Hoggle, a curmudgeonly dwarf, spraying biting fairies witha solution that seems to kill them. She bribes him withplastic jewelry to lead her through the maze. Although he eventually sides with Sarah, it is later revealed that he is a halfhearted operative deployed by Jareth. Sarah’s other companions, acquired along the way, are Sir Didymus – a chivalrous, dog-like knight who rides a sheepdog called Ambrosius, lives near the Bog of Eternal Stench, and guards a bridge to uphold a sacred oath (the terms of which are never fully explained but require those who pass to do so by Didymus’ permission, which Sarah manages to get by simply asking), and Ludo, a giant, furry, gentle beast she rescues from some of Jareth’s goblins. Ludo has the unique ability to summon boulders by howling (which is of much use when the bridge Didymus guards breaks apart, and against Jareth’s guards in the Goblin City).
Sarah and her friends experience a variety of adventures, including a stop at the Four Guards, where she must solve a Raymond Smullyan-inspired Knights and Knaves logic puzzle to avoid certain death; an encounter with detachable-limbed revelers known as “The Fire Gang”, who try to remove Sarah’s head; a detour through the Bog of Eternal Stench; a junkyard-like recreation of her own bedroom; and a hallucinogen-induced masquerade ball. There, Jareth attempts to keep her until the 13thhour by dancing withher. She breaks free of his spell and makes her way into the castle beyond the goblin city with barely enough time to spare.
The film climaxes in Jareth’s multi-dimensional, M. C. Escher-inspired castle, wherein he makes a final appeal for her to abandon her quest and stay withhim. She defeats him by reciting her monologue from the beginning of the movie, including the until then forgotten final line: “You have no power over me.” The room crumbles away, whereupon Sarah finds herself in the front hall of her home with the clock striking midnight and the barn owl (Jareth) flying away.
In Toby’s room, she gives him Lancelot, then returns to her room. As Sarah clears her dressing table, she seems confused about whether she has undergone the turning point in her life between childhood and adulthood. Hoggleappears, along with Ludo and Sir Didymus, as images in the mirror. They seem to be bidding her goodbye as she leaves behind the fantasies of childhood, but remind her that they will still be available “should you need us”. Sarah insists she presently needs them, whereupon they appear in her bedroom. The film closes as the Labyrinth’s creatures celebrate in her room. Outside, the owl watches the party, and flies away into the night.
It had been a little longer than I remembered since I last saw this cult film favorite. Many of the scenesand characters I had forgotten. Guess that happens with old age.
I think when I watched The Dark Crystal a while back, I had this in mind. I enjoyed this film much more. I did feel like it drew inspiration from The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland.
The highlights are the acting and music of David Bowie, creations by Jim Henson, and a young Jennifer Connelly (before she became anorexic looking). My personal favorite song is the showstopping “Power of the Babe.”
The Muppet creatures are as interesting a mix as you will ever find, and bring to life the dangers of the labyrinth. I’m sure there are those that think the farting sounds coming out of the bog of eternal stench were a bit risque, but they need to loosen up. They were needed to portray the sense of stink to the audience.
This is a solid fantasy film. If you haven’t seen, or if it’s been a while since you last watched it, like it was for me, then time to reintroduce yourself to it. You’ll be surprised what you missed or forgot.
4 1/2 out of 5 stars