Directed by Jim Henson
Written by Dennis Lee, Jim Henson (story), Terry Jones (screenplay)
Starring: David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, Toby Froud
PG, 101 minutes
On June 27th, 1986, I had been seven years old for exactly nine days when my parents took me to see Labyrinth in the theater. It was a foregone conclusion that we would go. My mom was in love with David Bowie. (Something about his teeth. I know, weird, but that’s what she said. I mean, just his teeth? No way.)
If for some reason you haven’t seen the movie, it focuses on Sarah—a lonely teenage girl whose father has recently remarried and had a baby. Sarah resents her step-mom and brother, and when she has to baby-sit she’s pissed.
But what Sarah doesn’t know is that the Goblin King, Jareth, has fallen in love with her (in a creepy love you/hate you sorta way), so when she asks for her brother to be taken away…the goblins do just that.
With the help of a group of unlikely friends, she has thirteen hours to reach the castle beyond the goblin city, which lies at the center of the Labyrinth. If she doesn’t, her brother will become a goblin.
Being newly seven is a perfect time to see Labyrinth for the first time but to make it just that much more apt, I had a younger brother who was around twenty-two months old—too little to do anything interesting, yet managing to soak up all the attention like some sort of charismatic cult leader. One could say I was primed to love Labyrinth. And I did.
Was Sarah a brat? Yes. Yessssssssssssssssssss. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. She wasn’t a prissy Pollyanna who smiled at everyone and was polite and spread her sunshine around like beautiful rays of pure gold.
Nope. She was late. And she was mad. And she had toys she didn’t want to share. When her toy bear Lancelot went missing from that shelf, no baby did it. An adult had to go get him. THAT WAS RIGHTEOUS ANGER!
I UNDERSTOOD this. I didn’t feel like I could express myself in that way, but I wanted to.
Also, she was a GIRL and she got to go on an adventure. And not as a sidekick, not as the brainy-but-annoying tag-a-long; she went on her own.
SHE WENT ON HER OWN. Because even though her brother was annoying, she loved him.
And when she went, what was the message sent to her over and over? Don’t take things for granted. Even when people are trying to be helpful, just doing what you’re told without knowing why will cause problems.
Stand up to bullies. You’ll make important friends that way.
But the lessons were secondary to why this movie changed my life. This movie introduced me to the idea of travel between worlds. For the first time, fiction didn’t just take me to a different place in my own world, but to another one entirely. This was a place where things were different, where there were monsters and magic and impossible men in very tight pants juggling glass balls.
I wanted to go to those places. I wanted to stay. This movie made me start writing stories.
As an aside: my love for the film is not perfect. Even as a child I hated the Fire Gang. They didn’t move the plot forward. They didn’t add to story. They were apparently super hard to make happen, but it always felt like a showoff move to me. They weren’t even properly scary.