One of the key characters in this film is Toby (played by Toby Froud). Froud is a midget who has been given a Muppet head to wear. And although the head is a good special-effects construction, I kept wanting to see real eyes and real expressions. The effects didn’t add anything. —Roger Ebert —Labyrinth (rogerebert.com)
Er, no. I just saw this last night, for the first time in almost 20 years. Toby is the name of the baby taken off to the goblin world by David Bowie. Ebert was thinking of Hoggle, who is played by a midget wearing a costume that features an articulated muppet mask.
I was more struck by Ebert’s comments about nightmare movies, however.
I have a problem with almost all nightmare movies: They aren’t as suspenseful as they should be because they don’t have to follow any logic. Anything can happen, nothing needs to happen, nothing is as it seems and the rules keep changing. Consider, for example, the scene in “Labyrinth” where Sarah thinks she is waking up from her horrible dream and opens the door of her bedroom. Anything could be outside that door.
Therefore, we’re wasting out psychic energy by caring. In a completely arbitrary world, what difference does anything make?
I thought The Lord of the Rings (the books, that is) does a good job of setting up the rules of the world and running with them. The reasons why Frodo kept showing mercy to Gollum escaped me when I was younger, but now I realize that Frodo saw in Gollum what he himself would become. As a youngster reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for the first time, I was annoyed with the sudden appearance of the “old magic” that brings Aslan back to life. Looking back, I can see that I was reacting to what I felt was an unsatisfactory “deus ex machina” plot device. While Lewis went on to paint a grand and sweeping depiction of a mythological world, I thought this detail was clumsy and awkward, since (unless I am mistaken) this “old magic” isn’t mentioned before this point.
But it’s because Lewis’s mythological world was otherwise so consistent and coherent that this detail troubled me. When Jareth the Goblin King changes the rules, and speeds up time, or walks on walls in Labyrinth, you just have to accept that all in all he’s interested in the affect he has on Sarah, and that’s enough to sit back and enjoy the spectacle.
The pre-expressionistic, dream-influenced drama of Strindbergh used a world of non-sequiturs and infinite possibilities to deny and frustrate the typical expected dramatic resolutions, putting in their place thoughtful and striking juxtapositions.
I was never a David Bowie fan, and can’t hum any of the songs from the movie though I just watched it last night, but the idea for a music-video fantasy muppet movie is still a good one. It was interesting seeing Kevin Clash as one of a long list of anonymous muppeteers. Clash is better known for his red, furry, squeaky-voiced alter ego, Elmo.