Friday, September 30, 2016

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: 30th Anniversary Edition 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment celebrates the 30th anniversary of the generation-defining fantasy: Labyrinth, newly restored in 4K. Directed by renowned filmmaker Jim Henson, executive produced by George Lucas (Star Wars) and with a screenplay by Monty Python’s Terry Jones, Labyrinth stars David Bowie (The Prestige) and Academy Award winner Jennifer Connelly (Best Supporting Actress, A Beautiful Mind, 2001) in the story of a girl (Connelly) who must save her little brother from the Goblin King (Bowie). The film is celebrating its 30th anniversary with the release of the 4K set as well as a Limited Edition Gift Set and Collectible Digibook Packaging. A theatrical release happened in the weeks prior, and some adorable funko pop figures and board game are coming soon for the Labyrinth enthusiast.
Film (4 out of 5 stars)
Sixteen year old Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) lives in her own world. She likes to daydream about princesses and goblins. Her real life is much less exciting. Sarah rushes home to her little brother Toby. Her step mother is waiting on the porch to remind her that she’s late and they don’t ask for much from Sarah. Sarah is in a bad mood and Toby is rather cranky. Sarah says that she wishes her brother would go away. Nearby, the goblins hear her plea. They wait for her to say the exact words “I wish the goblins would come and take you away right now” before they pierce the veil into the human world. Toby vanishes and soon the Goblin King Jareth (David Bowie) appears. Sarah immediately regrets her statement and begs for her brother back. Jareth gives her 13 hours to locate her brother or he will belong to the Goblin King forever.

As her journey begins, Sarah meets a creature named Hoggle (voiced by Brian Henson). Hoggle agrees to help Sarah navigate the labyrinth, for a price. He is often her closest, only friend and other times her worst enemy as she makes her way through the obstacles. On the trek to the Goblin city, she comes across a hairy creature named Ludo who has been hung upside down. Once she frees Ludo she has a new friend that will be invaluable in the search for Toby. She can’t always trust the people she meets and even the environment acts against her. Sarah will stop at nothing and won’t rest until Toby is safe and sound, sleeping in his crib back home.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Having recently seen the film in the theater allowed me to truly appreciate the truly ultra-high definition quality this product provides. The image is incredibly sharp and clothing textures and puppet features are now incredibly detailed. You’ve never seen Jareth’s opening costume sparkle like it does now and Ultra HD is the only way to truly appreciate his hair and makeup. Environmental features have new depth. This is not the case, as I had feared, where an older movie should stay blurry to preserve the magic. There is a distinct advantage to the 4k over Blu-ray, specifically with objects in the distance. There is a bit of grain that you’d expect and it shows up in lighter moments. Black levels are excellent and the restoration process was very successful. Background matte paintings do seem a bit more obvious, but I see that as a part of the 80s charm of the film.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
Labyrinth features a Dolby Atmos track which is an upgrade from the previous Dolby True HD 5.1 presentation. In the opening sequence the rain saturation is noticeable. Later when the rocks roll and Ludo growls you’ll feel the base rumble. Music is of great importance in the Labyrinth experience and listeners will be pleased with the full bodied soundtrack. Instrumental and vocal clarity is excellent. Spoken dialogue is always intelligible and consistent throughout the film.
Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Blu-ray in the set contains the following new supplemental features:
  • Reordering Time: Looking Back at Labyrinth (9:31): A comprehensive making of featurette including cast and crew interviews. There are vintage Henson clips as well as an introduction to the Center for Puppetry Arts.
  • The Henson Legacy (10:36): A look at the life, work and legacy of Jim Henson with interviews and additional Henson clips. More information about the collection and the Center for Puppetry Arts is found here.
  • Remembering The Goblin King (4:48): Thoughts on the late David Bowie and Jareth, one of his most memorable roles.
  • Anniversary Q & A – (41:32) Mythbusters host Adam Savage moderates the 25th anniversary question and answer session with Brian Henson and puppeteers. Includes vintage footage of the process and a surprise cast member in the audience.
  • Theatrical Trailers
The following extras are inherited from the 2009 release:
  • Audio Commentary – Conceptual Designer Brian Froud provides audio commentary. At first he sounds a bit like a dad narrating home movies, but it gets better with time and Froud has many interesting details to share. As the father of the baby Toby in the film, he watched many scenes as a parent and filmmaker with very different concerns.
  • Journey Through the Labyrinth: Kingdom of Characters (27:58): A look at the puppet personalities with test footage. 
  • Journey Through the Labyrinth: The Quest for the Goblin City (30:03) – This supplement focuses on the journey from the first ideas all the way to the end. 
  • Inside the Labyrinth Making of Documentary (56:28) -A production tour with details about casting, puppets, set design, music and more.
  • The Storytellers - Picture in Picture – Whatever this feature was supposed to be didn’t work on my player. It simply played the movie.
Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
I’ve now seen Labyrinth three times. With each viewing, I notice more details and it grows on me a bit more. This is a very odd film, in all the best ways. It took me one viewing to stop looking at David Bowie’s hair, makeup and stretch pants. For a 30 year old movie, it holds up very well. I can see why so many people love it so much. The 30th Anniversary Edition 4K Ultra Disc offers amazing audio and video quality. The special features, new and old, are well thought out and add great behind the scenes information. The only thing missing is a CD soundtrack. After so much discussion in the extras about The Dark Crystal, I’m ready to give that film a try as well. If Labyrinth isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll admit that it certainly is creative.

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