January 8, 2006

My gracious, I do love Labyrinth. I just watched the DVD again, and I always forget how engrossing it is. David Bowie turns in a superb performance as the Goblin King, scary and exotic and attractive and magical all at once. The older I get, the more patience I have with Jennifer Connelly’s performance, too. Once I thought she was much too wooden, just something existing for the creatures to dance around, but she seems more subtle to me these days — or maybe I look back on that movement from adolescent to adult with more understanding. There are certainly enough indications of a complex theme on the subject, what with the ballroom scene and Jareth’s final speech to her.

Buy this DVD

Great music, and the puppetry is incredible, of course, as you’d expect from the Henson workshop. The piece that attracted me the most this time around was the making-of documentary, Inside the Labyrinth. It’s almost an hour of astounding insight into just how all those effects were created. My favorite bits were watching the crystal juggler — who worked blind, not able to see what his hands were doing! — and seeing filming on the Escher-inspired staircase set. Amazing, wonderful stuff, a modern classic, especially the way all of these creative effects were used to serve the story instead of calling attention to themselves.

With all that in mind, I have two questions for my helpful audience: I have the original DVD release, but I know there were at least two others. Did the material on the disc itself change, or were the extras things like sketches and cels that I’m not as much interested in? Also, given how much I loved this, should I hunt down The Dark Crystal?

12 Responses  
Chris Tamarri writes:  

I’m with you on this one, Johanna, Labyrinth is a favorite of mine, one of the few films that I enjoy as much today as I did when I saw it as a kid.

(And although I’ve grown to really enjoy Bowie’s music, both in this film and otherwise, I’m still a bit frightened whenever I see him; the first thing I think of is the Goblin King, with that disaffected malevolence and, well, that codpiece, of which the less said, the better.)

Sorry to say I can’t help you with your first question; I have an old edition–the same as you, I suspect–from the early days of DVD, when “Scene Selections” and “Interactive Menus” were selling points.

As for The Dark Crystal, though, I’d say it’s well worth seeking out for anyone who enjoyed Labyrinth (and, if I recall, you’re a Muppet fan too, right?). The Dark Crystal is, in general, bigger, which means it’s more sensational, but it’s also less subtle, something which might turn off an older viewer. Each of the puppets is big and bold, almost like set pieces unto themselves, though they lack the detail and body language of those in Labyrinth. And it’s thematically large, too, not as grand in scope as the simple “growing up” concerns of Labyrinth, which can be off-putting if you’re not in the mood for Epic. So I’d say it’s not as good as Labyrinth, but it’s still pretty good, for all that.

Johanna writes:  

Thanks for the thoughts, Chris. I’m going to see if I can find Dark Crystal.

Dave Carter writes:  

Dark Crystal is a rather different piece than Labyrinth. As Chris pointed out it is much more epic and less personal; the puppetry isn’t as expressive; and there are no humans. It’s a good film, but if you’re looking for something more like Labyrinth, I’d recommend MirrorMask.

Michael Eidson writes:  

MirrorMask never made it to any local theatres, but it will be out on DVD February 14th.

Johanna writes:  

Oooh, good reminder, I thought about checking that out, too.

There’s always the Labyrinth manga adaptation, too, which I’m really curious about but have to wait until fall for.

Luis K writes:  

There’s a manga adaptation?! :)

Watched both Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal as a child — and again, recently, on DVD — and in my experience, Labyrinth holds up and Crystal doesn’t. As Dave pointed out, “the puppetry isn’t as expressive,” which really hampers the suspension-of-disbelief thing. I mean, not that the fantastic creatures in Labyrinth are realistic or anything; it’s just that you accept them as characters right away, which never quite happens with, say, the gelflings. (Funny, when you consider that they weren’t even interacting with human actors, so they should have had an easier time being convincing).

Beyond the technical aspects, Labyrinth just offers more, conflict-wise and story-wise; it has an emotional complexity that seems missing from Crystal. Sarah’s initial selfishness, her retreat into fantasy, her strange attraction to the Goblin King, even the bittersweet “happy ending” — it all adds up to something that affected me deeply then, and now.

Of course, owning both is a good thing. :) Am just saying, I was a little disappointed when I finally re-watched The Dark Crystal after so many years.

Oh, and btw, my friends and I nearly broke our wrists trying to copy The Goblin King’s crystal juggling moves, in high school. ;p

Jake writes:  

The manga in question isn’t an adaptation– it’s a sequel some 15 years after the film starring Toby, now grown up, and a mostly new cast of characters (familiar faces will appear, of course!). Look for more details soon.


Johanna writes:  

Oh, forgive my poor choice of wording. I knew that, but I didn’t phrase it properly. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of person Toby becomes, since in the movie, he could have been a puppet for all that he has a character. (Come to think of it, the puppets had a lot more personality.)

Thanks for the additional insight, Luis. You’re not the only one who risked wrist fractures. :)

Nat writes:  

Actually, the Labyrinth manga is about a 13 year old Toby who is going back to the Labyrinth to take “his” place as the new goblin king (it was in the Tokyo pop’s news and events section) . Frankly, I despise the idea, simply because The Labyrinth is not the Labyrinth unless it has the original cast in it, at least for me anyhow. I’m going to stick with my DVD and leave the manga alone. It’s bad enough they’re making a *cringes* anime-like prequel to the dark crystal scheduled for Toonami.

As for your question, I don’t think there’s a difference. I rented one version, then bought another, it seemed the same to me.

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