Staff Editorials

Labyrinth Blu-ray review
Posted: 31.08.2009 11:34 by Richard Walker Comments: 5
“I move the stars for no one!” Ah, Labyrinth…staple viewing during our formative days at primary school where every year, just before the Christmas holidays our teachers would dust off the old projector and screen the 1986 classic onto the whitewashed wall in the main hall. Personal nostalgic anecdote aside, Labyrinth was a groundbreaking movie upon its debut 23 years ago, exhibiting unparalleled puppetry from the late, great Jim Henson of Muppets fame.

Over two decades later, the movie finally glides onto Blu-ray and it’s almost every bit as magical as we remember. Almost. While the effects and marionette work still stand up fairly well to this day, some of the non-puppet performances are a tad shonky to say the least. These days, Jennifer Connelly is known for being a reliably robust actress, turning out an Oscar winning performance in A Beautiful Mind, but in this the then fifteen-year old, who plays lead character Sarah, is more wooden than any of the supporting cast.

 
Still, this isn’t nearly enough to tarnish your overall enjoyment of a movie that is delightful of its time, especially with its synth-noodling David Bowie soundtrack. Penned by Python man Terry Jones, Labyrinth is an effects-laden fantasy spectacle that sees Sarah wish aloud for her younger brother to be taken away by the Goblin King (David Bowie) only to have her selfish request duly granted, spurring an epic journey through the titular maze to rescue the kidnapped sprog.

Given only thirteen hours by the slightly cocky, slightly malevolent Jareth the Goblin King (Jazza, to his mates), Sarah must work her way through the labyrinth where not everything is as it seems. Cue a string of weird and wonderful characters from the lumpy headed Hoggle, to the friendly, lovable furry giant Ludo, all brilliantly performed and brought to life by Henson and his team. Each and every encounter - no matter how fleeting some may be - are packed with charm and humour, so it’s easy to see why the movie remains utterly watchable to this day.

As Sarah makes her way ever closer to Jareth’s looming castle, she encounters increasingly perilous obstacles like talking doorknockers, riddle posing dog thingies, the cleaners and the farting Bog of Eternal Stench. As more and more barriers arise to slow her progress, the pace keeps you hooked until an ill-advised, airy fairy masquerade ball puts a dampener on proceedings as Jareth attempts to trap Sarah in his frilly fantasy world. Luckily, the MC Escher inspired climax more than makes up for this short lapse, ending the movie with a suitably surreal, mind-bending sequence.

Labyrinth is a genuinely fun way to spend 101 minutes of your life. The music might have dated somewhat, but the effects and puppetry are as fresh and strikingly fantastical as they were twenty-three years ago. The serpentine walls of the maze hold some truly memorable and appealing characters that will stay with you long after the final credits roll. Watched it when you were a kid? Watch it again - you’ll absolutely love it. Never seen it before? What the hell’s wrong with you? See it right now!

In fact, buy it on this shiny new Blu-ray that comes in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio, with MPEG-4 AVC encoding and a full 1080p transfer. As you’d expect the picture quality is superb, which seems to be standard for pretty much every Sony Pictures Blu-ray release at the moment. Clarity and contrast is stellar throughout with only a wee bit of grain here and there, which arguably adds more natural warmth to the image. The enhancement that an HD quality image lends to the movie is huge, adding increased depth and luminosity to the picture.

Audio is equally excellent, with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack providing nice, full-bodied bass, clear, distinct dialogue and although the score is ultra 80s, synthesised fare, it sounds great. There’s also no hissing or distortion to the soundtrack, which means you can finally set fire to that wonky old VHS copy that you’ve watched to destruction. This Blu-ray release also predictably puts the standard def DVD release firmly in the shade, although the two discs share an identical set of supplemental features.

Labyrinth arrives on Blu-ray with the same engaging, in-depth documentaries that cover almost every facet of the movie’s making from the DVD. Candid interviews with nearly all involved including an affable Bowie recounting on-set stories in his own inimitable style being a particular highlight. These docs may be presented in standard definition and look just as scruffy and grain riddled as they did when first broadcast, but they’re packed with vintage footage covering every interesting detail about the film’s production.

 
An informative commentary from conceptual designer Brian Froud fleshes out the package, giving insights into the CGI work, other effects, characters and difficulties encountered during the process of making the movie. There’s also a neat Picture In Picture function featuring a variety of different contributors who chip in with thoughts and other facts. Additionally, there’s also all the BD Live gubbins you’d usually expect.

Labyrinth is a charming and entertaining movie, filled with amusing, likable characters that look just as tangibly real as any of the human cast. If you’ve yet to add the movie to your collection, then this Blu-ray edition with its unparalleled sound and picture quality is definitely worth considering - this disc really does have the power of hoodoo and voodoo.

Extras:
- Commentary with Brian Froud
- Making of Documentary: Inside The Labyrinth
- Journey through the Labyrinth: "Kingdom of Characters"
- Journey through the Labyrinth: "The Quest for Goblin City"
- The Storytellers (PiP - Blu Ray Exclusive)
- BD Live


Film: 8/10
Disc: 8/10

Purchase:
Amazon.co.uk - £13.98
Play.com - £13.99
Zavvi.co.uk - £12.95
HMV.com - £13.99

Comments

By Jamie5555 (SI Newbie) on Sep 06, 2009
Jamie5555
Such a great film and a great soundtrack too:P
By Richie82 (SI Member) on Sep 07, 2009
Richie82
Well said!
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Sep 18, 2009
herodotus
David Bowie actually looks normal in this movie, and the most relaxed I've seen him in ages. As for Jennifer...dinner, my lady?
By Siddy16 (I just got here) on Sep 28, 2009
Siddy16
well said too, you just carn't get any better than Labyrinth
By HELLKNIGHT13 (SI Elite) on Oct 04, 2009
HELLKNIGHT13
I love this one seen it so meny times :)