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Labyrinth (1986) Print E-mail
Friday, 09 October 2009
ImageThere are few films that really strike the imagination and take the audience into another world.  “Labyrinth” is one of those films.  The movie comes from the inspiring mind of Jim Henson, creator of the muppets.  His puppet mastering and visions were unique to the entertainment industry and the industry has never found a replacement since his death in 1990.  “Labyrinth” was Henson’s last major production, although there are some credits to his name since his death.

The film is sometimes considered a sequel to Henson’s other major feature, “The Dark Crystal.”  While there are no common threads between the stories and characters, Henson’s imagination is eminent throughout each and they feel tied together.  While “The Dark Crystal” was purely puppets, “Labyrinth” incorporates human actors and puppets.  George Lucas, creator of “Star Wars” is an executive producer of the film and handler of the visual effects.

“Labyrinth” is inventive and highly imaginative.  The film’s characters are memorable to say the least.  Every character has their part in the film no matter how minor they are.  The story and characters are a mix of pure imagination and Alice in Wonderland.  Sarah, played by a young Jennifer Connelly, is a girl who aspires to be an actress.  She spends all her time by herself, reading from her playbooks and dressing up in fantasy costumes.  Sarah is distraught that she has to look after her baby brother, Toby, again while her parents leave for a night.  She is also in the awkward teenage phase in which she hates her parents, especially her stepmother, but at the same time wants her father to notice her.

When Toby won’t stop crying she gets agitated and wishes for the goblins of her storybooks to come and take Toby away.  The Goblin King, Jareth (David Bowie) obliges and the baby’s crying is silenced as he is kidnapped.  Sarah immediately realizes her mistake, but the Goblin King is not going to budge.  Sarah has 13 hours to make her way through the labyrinth to the castle on the other side of Goblin City in order to save her baby brother and stop him from turning into a goblin forever.

The labyrinth is wrought with danger and unexpected challenges.  From the moment that she enters she is completely confused and at a loss as to what to do.  The labyrinth creatures are manipulative and always lead her in the wrong direction.  You would think that Sarah would eventually learn that whatever the characters tell her to do, she should do the opposite.

Along her journey through the labyrinth, Sarah meets Hoggle, a deceiving troll that struggles with his own coward nature and wanting to be friends with Sarah.  Sarah also befriends Ludo, a kind-hearted beast and Didymus, a valiant and talkative little furry creature.  Along her journey, the Goblin King begins to fall in love with Sarah, despite his attempts to keep her from reaching the castle.  He wants her to join him as his queen and remain in Goblin City forever.  However, Sarah’s will is stronger and she breaks the evil clutches of the Jareth.
“Labyrinth” is a perfect story of good versus evil.  The film has become one of the most beloved puppet classics for those of the generation.  Yes, the film is truly an 80s creation, especially when watching David Bowie.  Bowie is way over the top, but it works for the film.  His music compositions remain powerful after all these years. “Labyrinth” is truly a cult classic.

It is hard to analyze this video transfer. “Labyrinth” has had a great video transfer, so I was hope for a near definitive transfer on the Blu-ray.  Unfortunately, I have come to realize that this is perhaps as good as it is going to get.  The film was not keep in the best shape.  There is a fair amount of dust and scratches that pop up on the screen throughout the film.  Film grain is also prevalent, however, it yields a nice film-like texture to the image.  Details are so-so.  They can be absolutely gorgeous in some places, such as with the stones of the labyrinth.  However, then they can become entirely unsuitable at other times.  Black levels are above average and shadow delineation is better than on the previous standard DVD.  Colors are not vibrant, but they work well with this film.  However, I would have probably liked to see a little more boldness to the colors.  Contrast is generally accurate, although this is a film that I thought could have benefited from an artificial boost in the contrast level.  Depth comes and goes from the film.  The film drifts from sharp to soft.  But alas, every aspect of the video transfer improves over the course of the film.  Textures could also have been better.  Facial close-ups are not as textured as they could have been.  Being of such high resolution, the image affords you the ability to see puppet wires.  The green screen scene between Sarah and the Fireys has always been atrocious, but it certainly is worse than ever now.  It is at the point in which you just have to laugh.  Lucasfilm gave it their best shot, but it does not hold up well.  Overall, this is a remarkable improvement over the previous standard definition releases of the film.

Sony provides us with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track.  Right from the start the audio track is quite a treat.  David Bowie’s opening song is nicely present and spread across the channels.  The surround channels only really contain bleed from the music, and there is some precedence effect happening, but it is still pleasing to listening to.  My criticism here would have to be that Bowie’s vocals are not as tightly mixed with the music as they should be.  Dialogue is crisp and clean.  However, it loses its fullness quite often, entering the shrill domain.  Likewise, sound effects are also a bit bright.  That is not to say that there is no bass in this audio track.  Quite the opposite in fact.  The LFE channel is extraordinarily strong.  It permeates nicely throughout the room and will cause some rattling if you let it.  Some folks might be reaching for the volume control to turn down the overall volume.  Dynamics are nicely spread out.  Bowie’s music tracks, particularly “Magic Dance” sometimes become a bit muddy, but overall is clearer than I have ever heard them, so I can’t blame the transfer.

“Labyrinth” comes with a nice, and informative supplemental package.  For the Blu-ray, Sony has created a new picture-in-picture commentary track.  This track has a variety of participants including, Cheryl Henson, Kevin Clash, Rollin Krewson, Connie Peterson, Warwick Davis and Nick Dudman.  These participants cover everything from story to puppetering to make-up.  It is quite a treat.  The other special features are ported over from the standard DVD release.  There is the original commentary track by Brian Froud, who provides a very interesting and informative commentary on the design and technical aspects of the film.  “Inside the ‘Labyrinth’” is the original making-of documentary.  This is about one hour in length and covers everything imaginable about the production of the film.  “Journey through the ‘Labyrinth’” is divided into “Kingdom of Characters” and “The Quest to Goblin City.”  These two featurettes provide some more conceptual and technical information.  The disc is also BD-Live enabled.

“Labyrinth” is one of the most imaginative films in existence.  While it may have more of a cult or generational following, the film still has the potential to be enjoyed by future generations.  While the video quality is not outstanding, it is great considering the source.  The audio quality has its ups and downs, but far exceeds my expectations.  I definitely have to recommend this Blu-ray disc.

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