For many people, the phrase “Labyrinth remake” is enough to send a shiver down the spine. So when the news came that a new Labyrinth movie is actually in the works—just days after the death of David Bowie, no less—the public reaction was uniformly negative.
In response to backlash from Labyrinth fans, Perlman tweeted that the new film wouldn’t be a “reboot,” adding that while the timing was bad, she had been discussing the film with the Henson Co. since 2014.
Not "rebooting" anything, guys.— Nicole Perlman (@Uncannygirl) January 23, 2016
Henson Co & I started talking in late 2014, so the timing of these rumors is so upsetting. I would never seek to profit from Bowie's death.— Nicole Perlman (@Uncannygirl) January 23, 2016
Labyrinth is my favorite film from childhood, so I share your concerns that any continuation of the world be handled with love and respect.— Nicole Perlman (@Uncannygirl) January 23, 2016
Even after these assurances, it’s hard to get on board with the idea of a Labyrinth spinoff. The original’s appeal resides in its unique weirdness: a kid-friendly muppet movie that doubles as a psychosexual drama, starring a bratty teenage girl and David Bowie in a mullet wig and a codpiece. Any attempt at a sequel (or spinoff, or whatever) seems doomed to disappointment, the ultimate product of Hollywood’s relentless attempts to recapture old successes instead of thinking up something new.
Kneejerk reactions aside, the most charitable interpretation of this news is that the Henson Co. is working on a film inspired by the spirit of Labyrinth, not the characters and setting we know and love. The best-case scenario would be weird subversion of contemporary Hollywood trends, in the same way that Labyrinth was a product of the 1980s fantasy genre alongside The Princess Bride, Ladyhawke, The NeverEnding Story, and The Dark Crystal.
But among all this speculation, it’s worth remembering that at the time, Labyrinth was a box office flop. The modern equivalent isn’t going to come from the same source; it’s more likely to be found elsewhere, in the self-indulgent fantasy world of Jupiter Ascending, or perhaps in the Polish mermaid musical The Lure, which just screened at Sundance. And if you’re really jonesing for something that directly follows on from Labyrinth‘s fairytale setting, we already have Mirrormask and Pan’s Labyrinth. Nicole Perlman and the Henson Co. have an uphill struggle ahead of them.
Screengrab via Edward Fitzgerald/YouTube