Labyrinth is still one of my all-time favorite movies. It came out before I was born, but that still hasn’t stopped me from loving it even more than a lot of the more recent movies that have come out since then in the exact same genre. Labyrinth was made during a time period in which you could have a fantasy movie that wasn’t some big, epic showdown involving the forces of good versus evil in the manner of Lord of the Rings.
Don’t get me wrong: I like Lord of the Rings as much as anyone else. Having said that, this formula has been repeated time and time again with a lot of other movies and stories that aren’t anywhere near as good as the Lord of the Rings, which is why I wish it wasn’t the default way in which fantasy stories were told. Plus, it just gets really formulaic and boring after a while. We almost always know who the bad guy is going to be, and there’s no moral ambiguity at all. A lot of the time, I barely feel any connection to the characters who are onscreen, which makes it really hard to care about anything that’s going on up there at all. A lot of the time, it just feels like the whole movie was just an excuse for an action scene that never seems to end. Anyone who is sick of movies like that should definitely try 1986’s Labyrinth, which is like the anti-modern fantasy movie.
Labyrinth benefited from its era in some ways. Sure, some people are going to make fun of some of the style choices involved with the movie. David Bowie has the kind of hair that didn’t look out of place in a 1980s movie, but would look more out of place in a movie today. I think it fits well with the setting, but opinions are going to vary. Still though, fantasy movies were really niche back then. Studios didn’t expect them to be huge moneymakers one way or another, so they didn’t feel any great need to try to make sure that they would appeal to absolutely everyone. In practice, this almost always means trying to appeal to young guys as much as possible, since Hollywood only sporadically remembers that women exist.
Lord of the Rings barely has any female characters at all, and they all tend to be developed in relation to the male characters onscreen. Most of the other epic fantasy stories that you will see onscreen will have the exact same flaw, which is going to alienate a good portion of the audience. Don’t get me wrong: I still like a good portion of these stories. I just wish that more of them tried to appeal to women. Telling pretty much the exact same story but making the protagonist a woman would go a long way, which is what the Hunger Games franchise has helped demonstrate. A lot of Hollywood executives still seem to think that series like the Hunger Games are the exception, rather than the norm. I only hope this situation changes, or movies like the Hunger Games series and Labyrinth will continue to be made sporadically.