Labyrinth appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not stellar, the movie offered a good transfer.
Sharpness appeared fairly good. A few minor instances of softness crept into the presentation, but these remained infrequent. The majority of the flick looked concise and accurate. Jagged edges and moiré effects also created no concerns, and I detected no signs of edge enhancement either. As for print flaws, some light grain cropped up at times, but otherwise this was a clean flick.
The settings in Labyrinth tended to use fairly flat and plain hues – earth tones abounded - so the film didn’t exhibit an abundance of vivid colors. When those did appear, they most came via costumes donned by the various characters. The garb worn by participants such as Sir Didymus and the Worm showed bright colors. This strong reproduction continued into more subdued hues such as the tinted armor of the Goblin warriors toward the end of the film and the leathery clothes of Hoggle; these colors looked solid. Black levels seemed deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but didn’t appear overly dense. Ultimately, Labyrinth exhibited a nice presentation.
Labyrinth included a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. The soundfield presented a fairly active affair. The forward spectrum dominated the mix and offered a good sense of presence. Music showed nice stereo imaging, while effects meshed together well and made the environment come to life pretty solidly. Elements meshed together well, though they seemed a little speaker-specific at times.
Audio quality was somewhat erratic but usually remained solid. Speech mostly came across as reasonably natural and distinct, but some poor dubbing caused a few distractions. That seemed particularly noticeable early in the film, as the shots between Sarah and her family were looped in an awkward manner. A little edginess crept into some of the lines as well, particularly those spoken by Hoggle.
Effects showed a little distortion on a few occasions, but usually those elements came across as nicely detailed and accurate. The effects boasted fairly good clarity as well as decent depth; Ludo’s voice and other loud pieces demonstrated nice bass response. Music varied a bit, and some of the Bowie songs were a little dense. However, they usually sounded pretty good, and the score appeared fairly rich and vibrant. Overall, the audio of Labyrinth didn’t dazzle me but it seemed good for a film from 1986.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-Ray compare with those of the 2007 Anniversary Edition? Audio was similar; the TrueHD track might’ve been a little stronger, but not by much.
Visuals showed decent improvements, though you might not recognize this from my comments. When I reviewed the Anniversary Edition, I indicated that it offered an excellent transfer – and it did, for SD-DVD. With its higher resolution, Blu-ray makes flaws more apparent, so the movie’s minor soft spots became more obvious here. The Blu-ray still demonstrated stronger definition, though, and was the more satisfying presentation.
The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras. We find an audio commentary from conceptual designer Brian Froud. He provides a running, screen-specific chat. Froud discusses the project’s origins and development, his character and visual design work, puppet-related issues, working with Jim Henson and David Bowie, costumes, influences and inspirations, his son Toby’s work as Sarah’s brother, sets and locations, and a few other film elements.
Froud offers a very engaging look at the film. He covers all the different technical topics in a warm, inviting manner. He gives us detail but never becomes pedantic or boring. The commentary examines the flick in a satisfying manner and remains a pleasure to hear.
Next comes a 56-minute and 24-second documentary called Inside the Labyrinth. Created at the time of the film’s theatrical release, this show features movie clips and interviews with all the main participants. We hear from Froud, director Jim Henson, actors David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, and Shari Weiser, puppeteer coordinator Brian Henson, production designer Elliot Scott, special effects supervisor George Gibbs, writer Terry Jones, goblin armor designer Mike McCormick, puppeteer Ross Hill, and director of choreography and puppet movement Cheryl Gates McFadden. It also shows lots of great "behind the scenes" footage. Many documentaries show this kind of material, but not to the extent we see here; most of the running time is devoted to these kinds of candid shots.
Considering the technical nature of the movie - most of the characters are puppets, after all - the program easily could have become dry and lifeless, but it doesn’t. It goes through a great mix of subjects, from various design issues to casting to the script to executing all the technical bits. Each topic is covered thoroughly enough to satisfy but not to the level where it loses interest. One fun section shows how they achieved the effect where Bowie twirls a glass ball on his hand; I loved this, because I'd always been very curious how it was done. “Inside the Labyrinth” provides a terrific documentary.
Two featurettes appear under the banner of Journey Through the Labyrinth. We find “Kingdom of Characters” (27:57) and “The Quest for Goblin City” (30:02). These present notes from Froud, Brian Henson, McFadden, executive producer George Lucas, puppeteers/performers Karen Prell and David Goelz, puppet designer/builder Jane Gootnick, Jim Henson’s assistant Mira Velimorivic, and actor Toby Froud. The show looks at character design and puppet creation, performing the puppets, some thematic and character issues, sets and visual concerns, working with Jim Henson, Terry Jones’ screenwriting and some character/story topics, the integration of songs into the film and Bowie’s involvement, cast and performances, costumes, influences, and other general thoughts.
Though it repeats some information from the commentary and vintage documentary, “Journey” offers plenty of fresh information as well. I like the insights about puppet performance, and a lot of behind the scenes footage spells out the challenges well. We find more movie clips than I’d like, but I think we discover more than enough useful facts to make this a good pair of featurettes.
One new component shows up here: a Picture-in-Picture feature called “Storytellers”. Across these, we hear from makeup artist Nick Dudman, creature workshop artists Rollin Krewson and Cheryl Henson, assistant puppeteer coordinator Kevin Clash, creature workshop supervisor Connie Peterson, and actor Warwick Davis. They discuss the film’s inspirations/influences, working with Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie, various puppets, performances and related subjects.
On the negative side, we don’t get a lot of these PiP clips, as only 12 appear through the film’s 101 minutes. On the positive side, the disc’s chapter encoding allows us to skip to each snippet with ease, so you don’t have to sit through the whole movie to see them. The information provided is generally pretty good. I’m not sure why the material couldn’t have appeared in a more user-friendly featurette, but the segments are still worth a look.
In the Previews domain, we get ads for The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, Open Season, Open Season 2, Monster House, Surf’s Up, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. No trailer for Labyrinth appears here.
Labyrinth will never be one of my favorite films, and if it didn’t star my all-time favorite performer, I’d probably never have bothered with it. Still, it has enough going for it that kids should enjoy it. The Blu-ray presents very good picture along with pretty positive audio and a strong set of supplements. The Blu-ray doesn’t blow away the prior DVD editions, but it does stand as the best representation of the movie to date.
To rate this film, visit the original review of LABYRINTH