Neil McNally – As I write this review, it is September 24th, Jim Henson’s birthday. It is always a day worthy of celebrating, good thoughts for the world, and warm memories of the past. No better example of this can be found than in the new 30th anniversary re-release of “Labyrinth on DVD/Blu-Ray, and 4K Ultra HD.
Over the years, “Labyrinth,” and its sister movie “The Dark Crystal,” have only increased in popularity and become classics in their own right. This is no small achievement as both films did not do well financially upon their initial releases, and “Labyrinth” also holds the distinction of being the final movie that Jim Henson ever directed. However, rather than becoming a disappointing footnote to his career, over the past thirty years its popularity has only grown and grown. In a way, every new generation seems to eventually find their way lost in the world of David Bowie’s Goblin King.
The level of care and attention that has been taken for this particular release is impressive and top notch. You only have to look no further than the packaging to see that Sony and the Henson Company took this release seriously. The DVD edition uses the film’s original one-sheet poster by artist Ted Coconis rather than the Photo-Shopped imagery of past releases. Presented as if it were a book, the inside has a welcome letter from Brian Henson, entries from Jim’s diary, concept art and photos, interviews, and just about anything else the average “Labyrinth” fan could think of. However, buyer beware- other than Brian Henson’s note, all of this is only available in the DVD version and not the Ultra HD/Blu-Ray edition.
As I mentioned before, the film itself is being released in three digital formats. The picture has been remastered and color corrected from the original 35mm negative and using Jim Henson’s personal print of the movie as reference. After having watched the Blu-Ray version, I thought the film itself has never looked better. The colors, detail, and crispness leap out at you in a way never seen before in a non-Muppet Henson home release. Unfortunately, I was not able to watch the 4k Ultra HD version as I don’t own a player for that. But, if the Blu-Ray is any indication, it’s safe to assume it’s going to be even better. Let’s hope “The Dark Crystal” is given the same preservation treatment in the future.
Now onto the special features! The production team has included four new mini-documentaries in addition to content already released in previous editions (“Inside the Labyrinth,” Brian Froud commentary). While one could wish they were longer, their content gives us fresh interviews and new perspectives on the making of the film by Brian Henson, Cheryl Henson, Lisa Henson, and the film’s star Jennifer Connelly. The standouts are “The Henson Legacy” and “Remembering the Goblin King” which focus on the lives of Jim Henson and David Bowie. Both are extremely well done and, as you would expect, emotional. Jennifer Connelly, who rarely speaks about “Labyrinth,” is the highlight of the Bowie documentary and touches on what he meant to her life and, in turn, her daughter’s life.
As you could tell, there really isn’t much to nitpick about this release. The only complaint I can think of is I wish most Henson and Muppet releases would get this kind of presentation and care. In the end “Labyrinth,” like Jim Henson and David Bowie, is timeless. It represents a period in creativity between two men who on the surface couldn’t have been more unalike, but created something wondrous, unique, and a real moment in time for film fantasy. For that reason alone, maybe audiences really don’t want to find their way out.