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YMMV / Labyrinth

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The Movie

  • Alternate Aesop Interpretation:
    • The moral of the story is obviously about letting go of one's childhood. Not to mention that Life Isn't Fair and complaining won't help your situation. However, fans seem to think there's something else there. Most fans seem to think it's about the one-sided love story of Jareth and Sarah. A lot of people have created fan works dedicated to this "romantic" movie. When you watch it, what really comes to mind? Do you view this as a man trying to make the girl he loves happy, but being constantly rejected? Or do you view this as a young girl trying to fix a mistake she made and growing up during her journey?
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    • As an extension of the growing-up Sarah does over the course of the film, part of what she has to realize is that sometimes, it's just not fair. The situation you're in puts you at a disadvantage, and although you may not be able to change your situation, you are able to choose how you handle it. To declare "You have no power over me" is directly rejecting Jareth's manipulations and tyranny, and sets the tone for Sarah's independence from her parents.
    • It can also be interpreted as a direct subversion of the typical coming-of-age moral, because Sarah admits at the end that she still does need her imaginary friends by her side. Growing up doesn't mean rejecting everything you loved as a child just because you were a child when you came to love it, growing up means learning to love those things as an adult.
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    • Communication is important. At the beginning, Sarah is upset because her stepmother didn't check if Sarah had any plans that would interfere with babysitting Toby. Throughout the movie, Sarah falls deeper into the Labyrinth because she takes others' comments at face value without asking for critical details.
    • Another Aesop could be interpreted from Sarah's attitude to Toby. At the start, she takes out her frustrations from how her parents are treating her on him. But when the baby is put in danger, she realises he's an innocent and he didn't do anything to deserve how she treated him. In the end, she lets him play with her stolen teddy bear, understanding that the baby isn't responsible for how her parents mistreat her. The Aesop here could be that one has no control over how others treat them, but they can control how they respond and react to that, and shouldn't punish innocent people because of it.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Sarah's father and stepmother. The movie wants us to think that Sarah's just being a brat in need of some growing up, but in her short time on screen the stepmother makes a few insensitive comments that seem to justify Sarah's resentment, and her father seems either oblivious or apathetic to her obvious difficulties (Marvel's comic adaptation portrays her more sympathetically). Return to Labyrinth seems to go with this in the case of the stepmother, given that the now-teenaged Toby is having his own problems with her.
    • Is Jareth a tragic villain who wants a family of his own, or is he a Manipulative Bastard who was bored and wanted to mess with Sarah? Or is he just one of the Fair Folk, acting according to the Blue-and-Orange Morality of being a faerie king? Or was his villainy just a facade to teach Sarah a lesson?
  • Angst? What Angst?: Sarah deals with The Reveal that goblins are real, her brother's been kidnapped by them, and Jareth showing up to offer her a deal with remarkable aplomb, and treats solving the labyrinth as a mildly annoying household chore she can't get out of. Either this is a brilliant statement on it all being her imagination as she sits around the house bored, or Jennifer Connelly thought her character should handle it as an Unusually Uninteresting Sight. Alternatively, Sarah is Genre Savvy and knows the story she's got herself into, so she figures she just has to play it out and there's no time for dilly-dallying. Alternatively, it's All Just a Dream and she's running with the absurdity the way we all do when we dream.
  • Best Known for the Fanservice: In this case, "Best Known For David Bowie's Pants". They probably exaggerate a little, but this is the reason most anyone remembers this movie if some fans are to be believed. Either that or Jennifer Connelly looking very nice in that white princess dress she wears at the beginning. Or the Pimped-Out Dress from the ball scene later.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The Fireys' scene (though there was a very small reference to it beforehand, it was still unimportant to the plot). Alternatively, it is about adolescence — a Villain Song and Hakuna Matata rolled into one. According to the "Making Of" documentary, the scene basically came about because Brian Froud, the guy who designed all the goblins, doodled the Fireys in his sketch book, took a liking to them, and then wanted to see what they could get away with doing using Blue Screen technology.
  • Cult Classic: The film grossed $12.7 million on a $25 million budget and was savaged by critics, but has since gained this status. David Bowie's presence also contributes.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: There's no shortage of fans who willingly admit that if they were in Sarah's position, they would abandon Toby and accept Jareth's seduction.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Jareth stole a baby, tried to bribe its older sister into forgetting about it, and tried to stop her numerous times when she went into the Labyrinth to rescue him, but you'll be hard pressed to find any fangirl who acknowledges that (or, for that matter, anyone who doesn't treat the Foe Romance Subtext as canonical). He's a Draco in Leather Pants in the movie, too; VERY tight leather pants!
  • Evil Is Cool: The bad guy is played by David Bowie and he has an army of Adorable Evil Minions, what's not to love there??
  • Evil Is Sexy: Jareth, as played by David Bowie.
  • Fanfic Fuel: How did a handsome Reality Warper like Jareth, who looks for all intents and purposes human, wind up ruling a land of Adorable Evil Minions who steal babies to turn them into more of their kind? The All There in the Manual material has no answer, and even the Expanded Universe isn;t concerned with this question. Alternatively, the video for the opening song suggests that he kinda fell into the job.
  • Fanon: Now has its own page.
  • Fan Nickname:
    • The Area. Yes, the internet has named Bowie's crotch.
    • "Underground" is the name of Jareth's kingdom according to a big part of the fandom, coming from the Bowie song that bookends the film.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: There's some Jareth/Sarah subtext in the movie. By the end, there's not much subtext about it, at least on Jareth's part. Stalker with a Crush indeed:
    "Fear me, love me, do as I say, and I will be your slave."
    • In earlier versions, Jareth outright tried to kiss her at the ball. This was most likely written out when they cast an actual 15 year old as Sarah.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Jim Henson was devastated by the movie's lack of success at the box office, because the project was so emotionally close to him. The fact that he never lived to see it become the beloved cult classic it is now only seems to rub salt in the wound. However, it's worth noting that his son did inform him, towards the end of his life, that this and The Dark Crystal were gaining appreciation in cult status.
    • Jareth apparently having the hots for 15-year-old Sarah, since, shortly after Bowie's death, accusations of him sleeping with underaged groupies resurfaced.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Sarah mistakenly calls Hoggle "Hogwart".
    • At one point Jareth calls Hoggle "Hogger", which can be pretty hilarious to a viewer who's a World of Warcraft fan.
    • Also, the line "The excitement of David Bowie" from the trailer takes a whole new meaning now that his crotch has gone memetic.
    • George Lucas and the Jim Henson company collaborating on a film, considering fifteen years later Farscape would basically be "The Jim Henson Company does the Star Wars Cantina scene every week", and that it would be evicted from its Australian studios so Attack of the Clones could be filmed.
    • An issue of Starlog Magazine which had Labyrinth as its cover story, also had an article announcing that a sequel to The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) was being planned. The sequel ended up never happening, but the remake came in 2008 and happened to star Jennifer Connelly.
    • Labyrinth came out the same year as Top Gun, another huge favorite of '80s nostalgia. Three-and-a-half decades later, Jennifer Connelly was cast as Tom Cruise's co-star in Top Gun: Maverick.
  • I Am Not Shazam:
  • Jerks Are Worse Than Villains: Jareth the Goblin King - who kidnaps a baby and has a creepy attraction to a teenager - is given the Draco in Leather Pants treatment because he's so attractive, charismatic and entertaining. Sarah's stepmother - who rudely assumes Sarah will babysit without asking, tries to make her feel bad for not dating and plays the victim when Sarah gets annoyed at this treatment - is especially disliked.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Jareth the Goblin King is a charismatic, manipulative goblin. First summoned by heroine Sarah, Jareth kidnaps her baby brother to lure her to him, spending the film manipulating the rest of the cast and tricking Sarah into eating an enchanted peach to make her more susceptible to his influence. Jareth shows genuine care for Sarah, even if he is not above ruthlessly manipulating her and everyone else in the film, but never loses his sense of charm, flamboyance and friendliness, even seeming to care for the child he kidnaps after his sister's rash wish.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Every mention of Labyrinth will almost invariably make mention of "The Area". Including singing adapted lyrics to "Magic Dance" (Pants magic pants! You remind me of the bulge...).
    • Here's one that predates the Internet: Go into any group of nerds and say;
      Jareth: You remind me of the babe.
      Chorus: What babe?
      Jareth: The babe with the power.
      Chorus: What power?
      Jareth: The power of Voodoo.
      Chorus: Who do?
      Jareth: You do.
      Chorus: Do what?
      Jareth: Remind me of the babe!
    • This one is actually Older Than They Think, first appearing in the Cary Grant/Shirley Temple film The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer in the form of "You remind me of the man."
    • "If you have seen Labyrinth, you are not a virgin."
  • Narm:
    • Those who aren't turned on by Bowie's costume choices are laughing at it instead. Or probably both.
    • Sarah's overt, dramatic and sincere invocation for the Goblin King to whisk her baby brother away is such a weirdly specific thing to ask for that she almost has no business being shocked when it works.
    • Jareth's line, "Nothing, tra la la?" is either this or intentionally funny.
    • Sarah's line "Come on, feet" when she sets off for the labyrinth. Who says that?
    • As mentioned in Special Effect Failure: Ambrosius is so often an obvious puppet that you have to wonder why they even bothered getting a real dog. It's not like the puppet would have looked at all out of place with the rest of the film.
  • Nightmare Fuel: While The Dark Crystal has disturbingly realistic violence and alien creatures, Labyrinth goes into Surreal Horror Uncanny Valley with surreal David Bowie faces, Body Horror Fireys, the eerie ballroom scene with the grotesque masks, and almost everything being alive. Even half of the soundtrack sounds like something out of a horror movie.
  • No Yay: A 15-year-old being romantically pursued (implied by the line "Just let me rule you...") and watched over by a stretchy pants-wearing goblin king (David Bowie at 39) makes some folks squeamish. There may be some disturbing Reality Subtext here, considering the reports that Bowie had an affair with a teenager, although these reports have thankfully been cast into doubt.
  • Older Than They Think: The "You remind me of the babe" exchange has long since overshadowed the original "You remind me of the man" exchange from The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Danny John-Jules provides the voices of two of the Fireys (the ones operated by Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire).
  • Signature Scene:
    • The "Magic Dance" musical number.
    • The "As The World Falls Down" sequence, particularly Sarah's fancy ballgown.
    • The climax in the Escher room.
  • Special Effects Failure:
    • The scene with the "Fireys"note  — ya know, those fuzzy pink things that routinely decapitated and amputated themselves and others for fun — is notorious for having unusually bad Chroma Key special effects, even for its time. This is weird considering how good the special effects were in the rest of the movie. Now, wispy fuzzy semi-translucent fringes are about the most difficult possible item to chroma-key, but it hasn't been remedied at all in "remastered" DVD releases. (That said, though they were far from the awesome advances we have now, it's pretty good for a bunch of puppeteers in black velvet suits.)
    • The child switches from a real baby to a doll a few times in "Magic Dance". note 
    • The owl at the beginning may have been a step forward for CGI back then. But it looks terribly laughable nowadays.
    • During the confrontation with Humongous (the giant robot guarding the entrance to the goblin city) Ambrosius runs off to hide behind a rock and brushes against the "metal" spikes behind the group that sprang up just beforehand. They visibly wobble, indicating they are actually soft rubber.
    • The film repeatedly alternates between using a real dog and a puppet for Ambrosius; the latter is very unconvincing, looking more like a stuffed toy than an actual dog.
  • So Bad, It's Good: Not the movie itself, which is a cult classic on its own. But Jennifer Connelly's acting requires either very thick Nostalgia Goggles or an appreciation for the camp value of her breathless, melodramatic performance. Connelly herself claims to have never watched the film due to how embarrassed she is by it.
  • Tear Jerker:
    • Sarah is a frustrated, insecure fifteen year old whose stepmom, whom she already has a mutually difficult time relating to, acts as though Sarah doesn't deserve respect for not dating. This can be painful to see if you were in the same boat as a teen.
    • Jareth's strangely somber demeanor during his climactic confrontation with Sarah, which forms a huge part of his appeal, as it seems there must be some kind of deep emotional issues behind it.
    • Hoggle lamenting in the junkyard about how he betrayed Sarah. It's especially sad when we see how Jareth torments him and how it's implied he never had any friends before Sarah.
  • Ugly Cute:
    • Awwww, how can you hate the lovable little goblins?
    • Ludo is especially adorable.
    • The Worm looks like a miniature Jabba the Hutt, but he's so nice and endearing that it's hard not to like him.
    • The Firey Gang can be adorable if you can get past their grotesqueness and habit of taking themselves apart.
  • Unintentional Period Piece:
    • This is perhaps the most 1980's of 1980's fantasy films: there's the extensive use of special effects techniques (matte paintings, puppets and animatronic costumes, bluescreen, early CGI) that were largely abandoned by Hollywood once CGI became high-quality and commonplace in the next decade, a synthesizer-heavy underscore, and a serious case of '80s Hair on the villain. Said villain is played by David Bowie, whose international popularity peaked in this decade, and he also wrote the musical numbers.
    • The musical numbers themselves probably embody this trope more heavily than anything else Bowie did in his music career, being far more Synth-Pop-oriented than the pop rock he was putting out everywhere else in the 1980's.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: Sarah is intended to be seen as a Bratty Teenage Daughter who's late home and thinks only of herself rather than the baby she's taking care of, and the story is about her redeeming herself for letting Toby be taken away. Except she wasn't asked if she'd babysit Toby; her parents just assumed she would, and they even see no problem violating her privacy by giving one of her toys to the baby without her knowledge. Add that to how her stepmother seems to try to make her feel bad for not dating (at only fifteen!) and some of her supposed 'brattiness' seems quite tame.
  • Vanilla Protagonist: Like a classic fairy tale, this story is less about Sarah and more about the supernatural world she travels through and the supernatural creatures she meets. Notably, while she's got some teen angst at the start of the film, she has her Heel Realization as soon as Toby is taken away - and the plot is about her navigating the more colourful world.
  • Vindicated by History: A box office failure when it came out, and largely panned by critics over the Camp, convoluted plot and being all style no substance. Even by the 90s, critics began re-evaluating it. Appreciation for David Bowie's performance, the technical brilliance of the puppetry, the synth pop soundtrack, and a deeper story than it was given credit for has led to Labyrinth enjoying a better reputation. And of course, there's the nostalgic value for those who watched it when it came out or when it was shown on Nickelodeon frequently in the 2000s.
  • WTH, Costuming Department?: What is with all of Jareth's costumes? Pragmatism. He's played by David Bowie. Bear in mind that before The Lord of the Rings shattered the Fantasy Movie Ghetto Age, directors and writers of fantasy movies were desperate for any Periphery Demographic they could find. Squeeing Fangirls were willing to pay to see David Bowie in tights. Also, it sort of went with David Bowie's style. If you're going to cast David Bowie, may as well use him in a way you know works. Funnily enough, Jareth's outfits were tamer than Bowie's Glam Rock-era stage attire.