Sunday, September 11, 2016

Zaki's Retro Review: Labyrinth

It’s easy to forget now, given how much of a beloved cult artifact it has since become, but director Jim Henson’s genre-bending fairytale Labyrinth was a sizable disappointment upon its theatrical release thirty years ago. Despite advanced puppet effects, a story shaped with an assist from Star Wars guru George Lucas, and global superstar David Bowie headlining the cast, Labyrinth not only failed to recoup its then-lavish $25-million budget; its failure proved so painful for Henson that the man behind the Muppets would never again step behind the camera before his untimely passing in 1990.

And yet. Thanks largely to Bowie’s visually striking Goblin King Jareth, an appealing performance by future Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly, and the charming use of puppets and practical effects to visualize its fantasy landscape, Labyrinth has not only endured, but become exactly the kind of shared multi-generational experience that one would expect from both Henson and Lucas. And with the film returning to theaters for a brief run marking its thirtieth anniversary, there’s never been a better time to retrace some steps along its road to becoming a cult classic.

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