Sunday, 30 September 2007

On DVD: Labyrinth: Anniversary Edition - Review by Emma J. Lennox

Director: Jim Henson
Screenwriter: Terry Jones, Jim Henson & Dennis Lee
Running Time: 101 mins
Certificate: U
DVD Distributor: Sony Home Entertainment
Released: October 1st

Without doubt one of the best children's films of the last few decades, Jim Henson's Labyrinth is getting a deserved 20th anniversary special edition release. Has it really been 20 years already? Looking back, Labyrinth is clearly a production of its time strung together with synth beats, quality animatronics and sheer Eighties flamboyance but this enigmatic fairy tale has affected viewers beyond its era, not least in women of a certain age. That's right guys, it's Labyrinth that has corrupted the 25-30yr old women around you. If you've heard the complaint 'you're just too nice' it's because of evil bastard, Goblin King Jareth, A.K.A. pompadour groomed, spandex crotched David Bowie A.K.A. many a young impressionable girl's first crush. It could have been worse; Michael Jackson and Sting were also considered for the role. It must have been a twisted mind, however, that decided to make the baby snatching, woman poisoning and let's face it: slightly peado, Jareth, so damn sexy but Bowie delivers it with sadistic charm and velvety vocals. Despite swinging his ridiculously adorned hips, shouting at puppets and jumping around singing 'dance, magic, dance!' the man still smolders with cool.

It's one of the many illusions in this smoke and mirror fantasy where nothing is what it seems. As intricate as the title suggests, Labyrinth thrives in the subversive details, turning childhood fables upside down and running amok with preconceptions. Pretty fairies can leave a nasty bite and ugly monsters can be the best of allies, it's all a bit puzzling for teenage Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) who has to travel beyond the Goblin city to save her baby brother from Jareth's incessant singing. Yet its plot plays by age old rules; basically a coming of age story, Sarah grows from spoilt brat to strong willed woman, it also has a traditional quest narrative with twists, turns and set backs and as a children’s film there is a variety of quirky characters, songs and slap stick. It's because it achieves all of this with the imagination of Henson and famed Python Terry Jones, that still makes it a joyous film today.

The visual achievements are also worthy of note. More remarkable even than Bowie's eye shadow is the family of rubber faced characters brought to life by a complicated mesh of technicians and choreographers. Sadly now a largely defunct art form, the puppetry in Labyrinth established the talents of artists such as Ron Mueck in Henson's creature workshop. Interestingly, the less satisfying CGI effects that saturates our cinema experiences today has its roots in Labyrinth. The owl in the end scene is the first entirely computer generated animal in a feature film proving, because the owl is an incarnation of Jareth, that CGI is inherently evil. But no matter your opinion of cinematic special effects, the innovation involved in creating Labyrinth should give this DVD pride of place next to that other technological break through kid's film: The Wizard of Oz. Oz may have coloured the silver screen, but Labyrinth coloured the imaginations of a generation.

Disc 1: Main Feature
2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
English DD5.1 Surround
French, German, Italian and Spanish DD2.0 Surround
Subtitles: English, English HOH, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish
Commentary with Brian Fround
Disc 2: Extra Features
”Inside the Labyrinth” Making of Documentary
”Kingdom of Characters” Featurette
”The Quest for Goblin City” Featurette
Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery
Cast and Character Photo Gallery
Concept Art Photo Gallery
Storyboards Vintage Posters

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