"You have thirteen hours in which to solve the Labyrinth, before your baby brother becomes one of us...forever."
— Jareth, the Goblin King
Labyrinth is a 1986 Jim Henson film executive produced by George Lucas, a musical fantasy starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly (and David Bowie's package). Sarah is an unhappy teenager, who hides from life in fantasy tales to the point of dressing up in a long flowing dress and acting bits of script in the park. The cause of her unhappiness is her father's remarriage and the resulting half-brother, Toby (played by concept artist Brian Froud's son Toby), about a year old at the time of the action. One night, in a particularly big sulk, she wishes that the Goblin King (called Jareth) would come and take Toby away — which, to her horror, he immediately does. He then offers her a dream-fulfillment crystal if she'll agree to forget Toby, which she refuses. Jareth gives Sarah a chance to rescue Toby; he takes her to his realm, where she must find her way through the Labyrinth to Jareth's citadel before thirteen hours elapse. In this she is aided by various goblins and monsters whose allegiance to Jareth is highly conditional or non-existent.Is a Spiritual Successor to The Dark Crystal, and was itself Spiritually Succeeded by MirrorMask. Although a box office flop, it has since become a Cult Classic.The film is mainly aimed at children, but has plenty to engage an adult audience — not least of all David Bowie's area, a few fan-made drinking games, and the many, many tropes available for hunting...It should not be confused with Pan's Labyrinth, which is not aimed at children.Brian Froud, who designed much of this film, later published an art book entitled The Goblins of Labyrinth featuring humorous biographies of the various goblins written by Terry Jones. Many of the illustrations are concept art made for the film, with some small deviations (Sarah, for instance, is a redhead).A four-novel English manga sequel called Return To Labyrinth was published by Tokyopop over 2006-10.Archaia Entertainment announced a graphic novel prequel detailing the backstory of Jareth in early 2012; Development Hell kicked in and it won't be arriving any sooner than 2014. In the meantime, Archaia's most recent Free Comic Book Day compilations both included stories about other characters from this film ("Hoggle and the Worm" in 2012, and a story featuring Sir Didymus in 2013).
This film provides examples of:
Accidental Misnaming: The only time that Jareth gets Hoggle's name right is on the occasion of the "If she ever kisses you..." threat. He's just as bad with Mayor Spittledrum's name in the manga.
All Musicals Are Adaptations: Averted — it draws elements from folklore and fairy tales, but is not based on any one story (though the basic premise is similar to Maurice Sendak's Outside Over There).
Androcles Lion: Sarah saves Ludo from some goblins and he returns the favor by becoming her companion. He later saves her twice over with his ability to call upon rocks: first when the bridge over the Bog of Eternal Stench collapses, and second when their party proves outnumbered in the goblin city.
"It's a piece of cake!" or a variation thereof. This always leads to Jareth or the Labyrinth itself increasing the difficulty level considerably. For example, when Sarah exclaims this after solving a logic puzzle in her path, the floor falls out from underneath her and drops her into an oubliette from which she only escapes thanks to Hoggle's help.
Bad Bad Acting: Sarah's moments of acting for rehearsing her play, or when she's being deliberately melodramatic ("GOBLIN KING, GOBLIN KING!") are obviously intended to be bad acting. Unfortunately, they're not really any different from the rest of Connelly's performance, leaving there to be no real line between when she's just a drama queen teenager and when she needs to get serious.
Bishōnen: The creator of Return to Labyrinth actually referred to Jareth as one. Too bad the comic's art beyond the cover didn't follow true to that word; there were many a disappointed fan after opening the book...
Blue and Orange Morality: The Goblin King claims to be generous with Sarah by living up to her expectations: taking Toby away at her request, being frightening when Sarah expected him to be, and setting up the entire adventure for her "benefit".
Book Ends: The barn owl in flight — arriving in the beginning to observe Sarah in the park, and leaving at the end after seeing her celebrating with her friends. The significance of this is that by the end, the audience knows full well what it really is (namely, Jareth's shapeshifted form).
Chekhov's Armory: Sarah's entire bedroom. Plush Didymus, plush Ludo, the musicbox with Sarah's Pimped-Out Dress, a Jareth-looking statue, a print of that Escher drawing, it's all there. Not to mention, there's a picture of David Bowie with Sarah's actress mother in the scrap book and in the mirror, although this is not a Celebrity Paradox at work. That relates to All There in the Manual backstory: The novelization explains that this fellow is Jeremy, the fellow actor she left the family for. He gave Sarah, who found him glamourous and charming, the music box.
In OEL Manga form, there's Tokyopop's Return to Labyrinth, which picks up the story with a now-teenaged Toby and adult Sarah, the latter now with a Literal Split Personality.
Archaia Entertainment's prequel will be a traditional graphic novel telling Jareth's origin story. (It won't be compatible with Return to Labyrinth, which came up with its own backstory for the character.)
Extremely Short Timespan: Less than thirteen hours pass in the goblin world over the course of Sarah's journey — and in Sarah's world, less than six hours pass over the course of the film. (This is largely Jareth's doing, owing to his Reality Warper abilities.)
Face Palm: Hoggle does this when Sarah says to Jareth that the labyrinth is a "piece of cake."
The Fair Folk: Most of the goblins don't fit this trope, but it describes Jareth perfectly. Arrogance, rules lawyering, and being as unfair as possible while claiming he's being totally fair.
Female Gaze: There's a reason the internet is more than a little bit obsessed with David Bowie's crotch.
Better yet, it was intentional. Bowie's design was meant to look like a young girl's dream rock star.
Growing Up Sucks: Subverted, in that Sarah comes to the realization that while she cannot let childhood nostalgia and fantasy overtake her life, they are things that are important to remember and learn from "every now and again" as she enters adulthood.
Horse of a Different Color: Sir Didymus, a chivalrous, fox-like knight who rides a sheepdog called Ambrosius. This is also an example of Furry Confusion, in that we have a normal, barking and growling canine serving as mount for an anthropomorphic canine (or possibly a squirrel or skunk) who can walk and talk, but also barks and growls along with his mount on occasion.
Laugh with Me: Just before the "Magic Dance" sequence, Jareth laughs, then demands that his goblins join in. Once they do, he shuts them up for the song. Much the same happens after Sarah is trapped in the oubliette.
Mind Screw: Reciting a line from a play defeats the Goblin King. Really, that's what finally stops him.note There is a parallel between this and what got the adventure started in the first place. Sarah makes a long histrionic speech exhorting the Goblin King to come spirit Toby away; the goblins are notably unfazed. He immediately turns up, however, when Sarah makes the request in direct terms. Compare to her reciting her highly poetic line at the end, only to finally cast Jareth away when she declares him powerless.
Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: If Jareth had settled on just giving Hoggle orders then there would have been no problem, especially since Hoggle is a dyed-in-the-wool misanthrope. However, Jareth just can't seem to stop insulting Hoggle, belittling him, physically mistreating him, and issuing dire threats (it was probably his threat to dump Hoggle into the Bog Of Eternal Stench that finally tipped the scales). The manga reveals that Jareth makes good on his threat.
Musical World Hypotheses: Alternate Universe, with a touch of All In Their Heads for "As the World Falls Down". All four song-and-dance numbers take place in the Magical Land; moreover, unlike many musicals they aren't spread out amongst the main characters — the Fireys get one and Jareth gets the other three, suggesting that singing is simply a way they communicate with others and/or amuse themselves.
There are things more significant than death at stake here: this isn't a battle of mortality, this is a battle of the spirit; a battle between going with what's easy vs attaining some form of self realization. Death is easy, being someone you can live with is harder.
Nothing Is Scarier: Toby begins crying absolutely uncontrollably, and Sarah says, "I wish the goblins would come and take you away— right now." And instantaneously, there is silence, and the audience (and Sarah) realize that's exactly what happened.
Ominous Owl: Jareth's shapeshifted form is that of a barn owl.
Only Smart People May Pass: The entire labyrinth...although it's not really judging cleverness so much as the ability to think "outside the box".
Hoggle: Oh don't act so smart. You don't even know what an oubliette is.
Sarah: Do you?
Hoggle: Yes. It's a place you put people... to forget about 'em!
Other Common Music Video Concepts: This movie managed two Movie Tie-In Music Videos, both of which have Bowie as himself: "Underground" sends him into a mysterious alley where he meets seemingly half the puppet cast (no Video Full Of Film Clips here!) and "As the World Falls Down" has Hoggle bearing witness to a Love Before First Sight situation (a woman falls for Bowie via a photo, he falls for her via a painting). The latter initially went unaired when the single release was cancelled, but both videos have since been featured on career-spanning Bowie compilations.
Pan Up To The Sky Ending: This bookends the movie's opening credit sequence, which panned down as it followed the barn owl's flight.
Parental Abandonment: The novelization says that Sarah's mother, an actress, walked out on the family and took up with a charming fellow actor named Jeremy. While most of this is All There in the Manual material, in the film there is a picture of the mother with a male co-star in Sarah's scrapbook, and he looks awfully like Jareth...
Place Worse Than Death: The Bog of Eternal Stench. It not only stinks with a odor that's too horrible to describe, it curses anyone who puts so much as a foot in its waters with the same odor - forever.
Reality Warper: The Labyrinth is essentially Jareth's plaything; he's capable of altering time and space at will. But he holds no power over humans who enter his realm unless they give themselves willingly.
Rhetorical Request Blunder: When Sarah mutters to her colicky infant brother, "I wish the goblins would come and take you away. Right now," she has no idea they are listening.
Road Sign Reversal: Sarah draws arrows on the ground to show which path she's already taken. When she's not looking, goblins flip and turn the tiles with the arrows on them, so she loses her way.
Senior Sleep Cycle: The Wise Man falls asleep mid-sentence, much to the chagrin of his talking hat.
Severed Head Sports: Although the heads aren't severed, the film has the fire-starters who remove their heads and use them to play something akin to volleyball. While singing. Naturally, this concerns the protagonist. She gets even more concerned when the they try to remove her head.
Amongst the books in the panning shot of Sarah's room are Where the Wild Things Are and Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak; the latter picture book (1981) is particularly significant because it's about a girl rescuing her sibling from goblins, though it's a much simpler and different tale. (According to Brian Froud in the Empire retrospective, "The link between his work and ours was only noticed well into production", as the concept of goblins stealing babies is well-established folklore and the original jumping-off point for the project.) Henson's "artistic debt" to Sendak's work is acknowledged in the end credits.
Slouch of Villainy: Jareth's preferred way of "sitting" in his throne. (Used to provide the trope's page image.)
Smooch of Victory: Sarah gives Hoggle one after he helps her escape the Fireys — not knowing that Jareth had warned him that if she ever did that, he'd make good on his threat of the Bog of Eternal Stench...
Surrounded by Idiots: "Well, laugh!" No wonder Jareth fancies Sarah, he's probably desperate for a conversation with someone with a IQ above one digit.
Take Our Word for It: For obvious reasons, the odor of the Bog of Eternal Stench. In fact, when Sarah asks if all it does is smell, Hoggle says, "Believe me, that's enough." And judging by the look on Sarah's face when she finally sees the place, he's right.
Talent Double: Used for the contact juggling, which Bowie himself was unable to do. Thankfully. (In other words, someone else is playing with Bowie's balls!)
Tempting Fate: Never say the Labyrinth is "a piece of cake." Especially to Jareth's face. You will swiftly regret it.
This Is Gonna Suck: The look on Jareth's face when Sarah finally remembers her line and stands up to him is priceless.
When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Or thirteen (goblin time being what it is) Toby will become one of them if Sarah doesn't solve the Labyrinth by then. The ballroom dance sequence climaxes just as the clock strikes twelve, as per the Cinderella motif. When she defeats Jareth, it's just as the clock strikes thirteen; when Sarah and Toby are returned to their world, it's midnight there.
In a subversion, Jareth actually spins the hands on his clock forward after Sarah works up the nerve to boast that the Labyrinth is a piece of cake.
Wicked Stepmother: The stepmother invokes this, saying Sarah insists on treating her like one.
World Building: As is normal when Henson and Froud work together, with no small assist by Terry Jones; the tie-in book The Goblins of Labyrinth (written by Jones and featuring Froud's concept art) goes into hugely goofy detail about their society and folklore.
YellowBrickRoad: Although she is of course running around (and often getting lost) in a deadly maze, Sarah has only one goal: to find Toby in the center of the labyrinth and every step she takes is to try to get her further towards that goal.
You Keep Using That Word: When Sarah tells Jareth the Labyrinth is "a piece of cake", he proceeds to magically reduce her remaining time to solve it.