VIDEO: Labyrinth (1986)

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Part Three:

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BONUS! Web comic review

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Sursum Ursa dissects Labyrinth, starring Jennifer Connelly, David Bowie, and a bunch of Muppets, and uses it as an aid to explore the Hero’s Journey! What do Labyrinth, Harry Potter, and Star Wars have in common? Well… quite a lot, actually.

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  • Bouncy X

    i apologize for being the typical pervy boy with the pervy boy comment but daaaamn, you looked great in the red dress. :P

    and yes, as much as i love this movie, “the crotch” is just distracting. lol

    • Jill Bearup

      Rule 1 of Internet comments: if I said this to the person’s face in a crowded room full of strangers, would everyone stop and look at me in disgust?

      So on that score I think you’re OK. :)

      I have always found The Area (yes, the fangirls have named it) to be a bit distracting myself. But Jareth’s in the film so little that it’s maybe ten minutes of distractingness, tops. Which is a shame, because he’s a great Ham and Cheese with a side of Creepy villain, manga hair and crazy costumes and all.

      Of course, having read the webcomics he is, to me, a much more Sympathetic Villain, but I realise there’s not much of that in the film itself.

      “So, Sarah, how are you enjoying my borderline sexually harassing you…er…I mean, my Labyrinth?”

      • MephLord

        Its not a movie I’ve ever seen (but have thought about it from time to time, I just have this weird aversion to David Bowie most of the time) but the review makes me want to see it to judge it for myself. And for that, and for the brilliantly placed random movements to add to the commentary, I commend you. Its obvious you are a fan of the material and it really shows, and I’m glad for Sofie to introduce me to your material it’s really impressive.

        • Jill Bearup

          Labyrinth is…well, it’s a children’s movie, and while it has some fairly subtle stuff going on under the surface, don’t expect miracles. It’s the product of some fairly brilliant imaginations, but they were brilliant imaginations in conflict, so it can be a bit all over the place in terms of message or theme or tone.

          But I still rather enjoyed it.

          Thank you so much for watching, and I’m glad you enjoyed the review!

          • The movies “Labyrinth” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” are both, at the same time, a fantasy movie, modern fairy tale (in a literal sense), and a coming-of-age story of a female protagonist.[*]

            I remember that when I first saw Labyrinth in 1986, as a barely pubescent girl, I watched it just as a fantasy movie. All the subtext and symbolism went right over my head. Additionally, at no point in my life had I been a girl who dreams about being a pretty princess in pink. So my twelve-year-old self thought Sarah was a bit of a moron. As far as movies with Henson muppets in it went, I liked Labyrinth but I prefered The Dark Crystal.

            Then, when i rewatched the movie 15 or so years later, as an adult woman (and one who had read Joseph Campbell), I sat there openmouthed — especially during the surreal ballroom scene with the dancers in masks and the mirror — and muttered to myself, “How could I not have noticed before??”

            [*] Pan’s Labyrinth is far darker and far more violent though. Labyrinths in both titles; although the Goblin King’s labyrinth in the Bowie movie is technically a branching maze, to keep people away from the center, while in Pan’s Labyrinth there is much use of the ancient pagan symbol of the triple spiral, which inevitably leads towards the center: to death and apotheosis.

            P.S. I’m convinced Bowie’s Jareth was the inspiration for the fairy lord called the Gentleman with the Thistle-Down Hair in Susanna Clarke’s excellent novel “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell”. Both Jareth and the Gentleman with the Thistle-Down Hair are quite amoral, as fairies often are in the old stories, but the Gentleman is quite evil, taking delight in tormenting people with his boundless magical powers and acting out his own mercurial desires on a whim, switching between generosity and pettiness in seconds, while Jareth merely acts to fulfill Sarah’s wishes, without true understanding of right and wrong.

          • Sofie Liv

            Pans Labyrinth.. oh boy. No, you just can’t compare.
            I love both movies, but as “Labyrinth.” is merely that out of many movies I love for various reasons, Pans Labyrinth is definitely some-where in my top five favourite movies of all time.
            It’s just… unbelievable beautiful and grotesque on the same time.
            Pans Labyrinth is absolutely not a childrens movie, yet it explores what fairy tales in reality is, why we have them, what purpose they serve and how some people need them to just survive.
            Pans Labyrinth is a cruel movie that yet enthralled me while it was disturbing me, still I can watch it over and over and just become lost.

            If you life in a place, with no hope, with every-thing being so grim that there’s no reason living.. then what else do you have then your fairy tales? It is what keeps the girl in Pans Labyrinth alive, the only thing. And yet, also the fairy tale element is as cruel as old time fairy tales indeed was. There’s nothing sugar sweet about that movie. It just tells the situation as it is.

            Needles to say if I had a say, every-body in the world should watch that movie. That is a freaking fairy tale movie telling what fairy tales are and what they purpose are. And it’s not to be sugar coated and sweet.

  • Sofie Liv

    You all ready know what I felt about these videos, but what heck! lets just comment for the heck of it!
    I just watched this movie again last evening, you really managed to put some thoughts into my head.

    Never realised how much the entire labyrinth is in reality Sarah’s own creation, she brought it to life. And yeah, the Goblin King, completely her own creation, which makes him a slave to all of her whimps, which makes him.. pretty darn tragic. It would have been cool if the movie dwelled a bit more into that aspect.

    In fact.. I got to think a lot about. “The fantastic.” character, a character whom takes the lead and introduces the lead to his fantastic world. This character is indeed Javert, but also Sherlock, the Doctor, Willy Wonka, The Phantom of the opera.. characters whom does not belong to our world and invites the main and the audience to theirs.. and some-how, they are also all just so tragic. It’s tragic they can’t ever belong in the real world..

    Am I just ranting now?

    • Jill Bearup

      Nope, you’re not ranting. There’s a real tragedy inherent in Jareth’s story (which the webcomics pick up on) as well as with all those other characters.

      As Jareth says to James Norrington in Roommates:

      “Did you ever wonder, sir, why at the end of the movie or the play it was always us who lay fallen and alone? We are all villains of a sort, Jamie, but not a one of us thought of ourselves as “evil”. And yet, we fell.”

      They’re fantastical and amazing…but they are not of this world, and they don’t get to be happy in their stories.

      It’s like X-Men. We envy their powers, but not the responsibility that comes with it.

      • Sofie Liv

        They don’t even need to be a villain, just a fantastic character out of a fantastic world trying to show our main and through the main the audience his fantastic world.

        Here I of cause mean Sherlock, the Doctor, Willy Wonka, heck maybe even Hagrid.

        There’s of cause a balance, either the fantastic character is what the main need (Sherlock.) or he is what the main character definitely doesn’t need (The phantom of the opera.)

        In option one, all is happy we can go on adventure and discover this fantastic world through our main character as the fantastic character explain all of this to us.

        In option two it becomes an escape story where the main needs to escape this fantastic but incredible dangerous world (Phantom of the opera, Labyrinth.) but to escape it at all, the main needs to grow. And it’s of cause here, the fantastic character is completely left in the dust.

        And.. I spoke wrong, I meant Jareth not Javert.. I don’t think Javert (The les mis man right?) is a fantastic character, he is a complicated man with a revenge plot, but he doesn’t introduce us to some fantastic world.. in fact.. no body in les mis does, it’s not a fantastic tale introducing us in a fantastic world, it’s a tragic tale loving to pan the audience down with the realities of such a situation and world, and instead of being an escape it’s a story telling “There’s no escape, sorry.”
        Les mis is not a fantastic tale… I should probably go make my own video about this stuff…

        And when I say “Fantastic character.” I of cause mean some-one out of and representing an fantastic world, meaning.. not our world.

  • Cristiona

    You were very spot on when talking about how one views Jareth after multiple viewings of the movie. It’s kind of interesting how he can morph from “Bowie playing a stock villain” to really a rather tragic character. I also think it’s a testament to Bowie that despite hamming it up and being dressed like a walking avatar of fanservice, he still manages to inject some subtlety into the role. The clip you played where he was talking to the goblins, his facial expression told so much more than his words. You could almost see that he was trying to convince himself that she’d give up, while at the same time knowing she wouldn’t.

    • Jill Bearup

      First: “walking avatar of fanservice” made me sporfle :)

      But yes, absolutely to all the rest. One of my favourite (and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it) moments is Sarah in the ballroom, just before the CG-chair-breaking. She realises that she has to save Toby, she pushes away from Jareth and she starts to fight her way through the crowd.

      She’s desperate and frightened and the dancers are mocking and impeding her and Jareth…you see him for literally a second, but the look of…sadness? Guilt? Wistfulness? Regret? on his face took my heartstrings and gave them a good, solid yank nonetheless.

      Anyways, glad you enjoyed the review, and thanks for watching!

  • I like this kind of in-depths analyses of movies. Nice to see Labyrinth reviewed this way.

    I shudder to think of the day when a film studio decides to remake Labyrinth, because hey, it’s a classic 1980s fantasy movie, right? What could possibly go wrong with adding some CGI monsters, and casting that actress from Twilight into the role, and as for Jareth… okay,okay, I’ll stop. :-P

    • Jill Bearup


      Now I’m going to have Twilight/Labyrinth crossover nightmares.


      But thanks for watching and commenting!

  • Garferty

    That was fascinating and fun. I really like Labyrinth – it used to be my antidote to The Dark Crystal, which gave me wake-up-screaming nightmares, and my favourite character is Sir Didymus. I’ve seen it a bunch of times, but this video made me go “Oh!” quite a few times. So, thanks for that.

    My one complaint: that damned UPS advert. :P

    • Jill Bearup

      So you’re in the UK too? I have seen that advert So. Many. Times. I now have an innate dislike of UPS.

      • Garferty

        Why yes. I’m tucked neatly away in Hampshire. But I’m from Somerset. /lifestory

        So that video played at the beginning and end of every segment. Why does she keep singing about logistics? WHY WON’T SHE STOP?

        Another weird thing I really love about Labyrinth (because hey, you find it fascinating, right?) is the goblins’ technology. The way there’s a teeny goblin in *everything*. My favourite moment might be when one of them gets fired out of a cannon, and says rather hopefully: “I hit something, yes?”

        • Jill Bearup

          “Why does she keep singing about logistics? WHY WON’T SHE STOP?”

          I DON’T KNOW! I wish she would though.

          Yes, goblin power is awesome. :D

          (Nowadays, on the ad front, I keep getting a guy pretending to be Morgan Freeman)

  • Jusenkyo no Pikachu

    If we’re looking at the Hero’s Journey in Star Wars, you could do much better by looking at the trilogy as a whole.

    In ANH, Luke gets the REAL call to adventure when Obi-Wan dies. Up until then, he wasn’t particularly confident in his abilities, and hell, his aunt and uncle kept his feet on the ground far too long. Sure, the Empire’s actions made him decide to go to Alderaan with Ben, but once Ben dies, he no longer has any connection to his old home But then Ben dies and tells Luke he really can do all this cool shit and Luke spends the rest of the movie hero-ing, instead of coasting by largely on luck. Han gets a wake-up call of his own, too, once he realises what he’s really in for.

    Then comes the sequel. Yavin’s been compromised, so the Rebels, along with Luke, have relocated. However, Luke gets separated from the rest of the group, and things really go to shit, as he realises that he really shouldn’t have faced Vader directly so early in his training. Han, also, has really pissed Jabba off by this point, and is doomed to spend part of the movie encased in a giant slab. And Lando gets a wake-up call when this happens. Han gets taken away to Jabba’s palace, while Luke gets the mother of all wake-up calls and is forced into a position where he can only get the hell out. It rarely gets hairier.

    Then comes VI. Luke’s taken his level in badass, and has gotten it into his head that he can win back his father. Mission turns out VERY accomplished, given that Vader throws his boss into the Death Star’s core. Unfortunately, while Luke saved Vader from himself, Vader is mortally wounded and dies moments later, but hey, Luke gets the closure he wanted. Meanwhile, Han gets saved by Leia and actually does something useful for a change (well, he did have that moment in ANH), while Lando is the one to land the finishing blow on the Death Star.

    • Jill Bearup

      An excellent analysis :D

      I only have the VHS tapes of Star Wars (what? I dislike the stupid extra CGI bits…) so all I had was a trailer from YouTube, plus I wanted to focus on Labyrinth, but…maybe a future episode or three?

      But yes, the arc over the trilogy is much bigger in scope. (Though Joseph Campbell would be peeved that they rescued the princess so early on)

      Thanks for watching!

  • Spokesnight

    I lovce Labyrinth, it’s one of my favourite movies ever. I saw it for my friends birthday, the day it was released in the UK in Decmeber 1986. They gave us poster artwork stickers and badges on the door which was cool.

  • Gazette

    Really quite good. Quite.

  • Mali-chan

    Maybe I should watch you… Whoever likes the Building-verse can’t be bad. :D (I waste a lot of time on these series… maybe even unhealthy amounts. But I’m a fangirl damn it!)

    • Jill Bearup

      Welcome to the fangirl club. We have T-shirts. Or at least postcards with GND!Erik on them. And we (by which I mean ‘I’) occasionally burst into helpless laughter in inappropriate places because we’re thinking about Sarah walking into lampposts. XD

      “Well, that one’s a keeper.”

      • Mali-chan

         If fanmade stuff counts at least one Building-verse T-shirt design exists (For “Roommates – Such Stuff…” ) … I made it. I’m a shameless self-promoter here. ^^;

        Oh yeah… lampposts and psychic links don’t mix well for the great delight of all fangirls (we are EVIL!). :3 And as Pika wrote a box full of “dreams about Sarah” crystals is a lot more stylish than… something else he could keep under the bed.

        • Jill Bearup

          I want this T-shirt to be a thing which exists in the real world. Very badly. Because awesome.

          • Mali-chan

            Me too! And as it can be seen in my gallery I’m more on the Roommates side of the ‘verse. ^^; Even if I first found and read GND and then ,when that was on hold for some months, drifted to DTS and then to Roommates for some unfathomable reaso… who am I kidding? I ended up on the Roommates side because I fangirl Mr. King. BADLY. *facepalm*

          • Jill Bearup

            S’OK. There’s no judging here. :P