Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Does it stand the test of time? The Henson double feature

As mentioned in my last post, I have a plan of revisiting beloved movies of my childhood.  I started out quite strong and am keeping my hopes up that it stays that way.  Maybe I was cheating by starting with the Jim Henson films Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.  They are beloved by many so could there be much question about whether they'd hold up?  I guess my question is, after 20+ years of not seeing them, would I still love both movies as much as I did when I was a kid?  The answer?  Mostly.

It would be impossible to love Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal as much as I did when I was a child.  I've changed and developed mentally and emotionally so I'm not the person I was when I was 10.  Plus the movie industry has changed and developed in relation effects and such. And since I've been viewing this change myself, I can't help but notice the limitations of 80s movie making.  That said, I'm still REALLY impressed with the skill of the puppeteering and what they could do with the effects they had at the time.  For example, there's a scene in Labyrinth where Jennifer Connelly's character, Sarah, is surrounded by dancing Firey (uh, what is the plural of Firey?).  There was no blue screen at the time so the puppeteers were dressed in black and the computer folks did their best to erase them from the scene.  At the time I'm sure my 10-year old self never noticed.  My current self did and noticed how well they did with what they had. 

So here are a few observations about each film:

How did I forget that Bowie sang in the film?  He really is fabulous and impressed me with his acting.  The Goblin King's hair and outfit could have overshadowed most actors but not Bowie.  No, the man truly rocked.  Ok, the music was a bit cheesy but again, it was the 80s and we're talking about, essentially, a muppet movie.  Cheese is to be expected.  I got excited when I saw Terry Jones's name (he of Monty Python fame) attached as the writer but then IMDB stomped that out by saying most of what he wrote didn't make it onto the screen.

Jennifer Connelly (who is impossibly better looking now) started out a bit overly dramatic but then what teenager isn't?  Overall though I was impressed with her performance when surrounded by puppets.  I think most 14 year olds would have gotten a kick out of that kind of experience.

There is tons to like about the movie.  For one, is the presence of the typical Henson/Muppet type humor and silliness but this time with British accents, which elevates it ever so slightly.  I think there were a lot of Neverending Story elements too like similar characters (Ludo and the Rockbiter) and a character on a quest who picks up friends along the way (though you could then just say they were stealing from Wizard of Oz).

Verdict: Totally holds up

I think I like The Dark Crystal more than Labyrinth.  I'm not sure how I would have felt when I was a kid but as an adult, I really appreciate TDC even more.  It's darker and much more serious than Labyrinth.  The bad guys are really bad plus there's tons of destruction and creepy bugs.

The puppeteering totally holds up and at times can be quite impressive.  There are no human characters in the film and there's no loss there.  The story is great and everything about it just works.  I'm at a loss as to what else I can say.  It had been sooooo long since I'd seen it but it didn't matter.   It really is a special movie and I can see why it's so beloved.  I think kids now, jaded as they may be, would enjoy it too.
Kira and Jen

Fizzgig.  I WANT ONE!!!
Verdict: Most definitely holds up

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