The mid-1980s' fantasy movie Labyrinth, starring David Bowie as the Goblin King, was something of a dud when it was released. Over the years, though, it's become a genuine classic. Tanya Pai explains.
Much of Labyrinth has the vibe of a particularly vivid dream; the slow-motion falls and ouroboric logic evoke that sludgy, slow-dawning realization that you're asleep and can't quite control what's happening.
Henson creates an expansive world full of odd, disquieting beings — moss adorned with eyeballs, beautiful fairies with a vicious bite, beaky swamp dwellers that pluck out their own eyeballs and swallow them. Unseen creatures slink through the periphery of Sarah's vision, and vast, unfamiliar landscapes stretch endlessly into the distance, adding to the alien atmosphere. Labyrinth is definitely more Dark Crystal than Sesame Street.
Yet it's also ostensibly a children's movie, and Henson tempers the story's darker elements with plenty of silly humor. The Left and Right Door Knockers squabble like an old married couple, and everyone's inability to pronounce Hoggle's name correctly is a running joke that includes even Jareth. Plus, the Bog of Eternal Stench is pure 12-year-old-boy humor, complete with fart noises.
Some time ago, Heather and I sketched out a sequel (screenplay) to Labyrinth.
The concept: Jareth is cursed with mortality and is dying of old age, and needs not a consort but a "successor"—which is to say, a young man whose youth he can steal. The boy, of course, is Henson, the teenage son of Sarah, herself now middle-aged. Once again, she heads into the Labyrinth to save a loved one from Jareth.
It would have starred the original cast, with Tilda Swinton as Young Jareth in flashbacks.
The ending, of course, would be the King's poignant death, and a perhaps-predictable twist: Henson would decide to stay in and become the new Goblin King.