Labyrinth appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For the third DVD iteration of Labyrinth, we found an image that seemed virtually identical to that of the prior two releases. Despite a few small problems, the picture consistently looked excellent.
Sharpness appeared terrific. Virtually the entire movie came across as nicely distinct and accurate. I noticed no issues related to softness or fuzziness during this tight, well-defined presentation. 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, and I also noticed the occasional speckle, but the movie generally looked quite clean and fresh.
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 tremendously bold and 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 absolutely brilliant. Black levels seemed nicely deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but didn’t appear overly dense. Ultimately, Labyrinth exhibited a very strong visual presentation.
For this third DVD release of Labyrinth, we got a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. (The original 1999 disc included only Dolby Surround 2.0 audio, while the 2003 Superbit take provided DD 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes.) 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.
The 5.1 Labyrinth outdid the original 2.0 track in the activity of the soundfield, especially in regard to the surround channels. These seemed noticeably more involving and distinct. They always came across as somewhat weak and indistinct during the old 2.0 track, but here they became more equal partners. These added to the experience and created a nice feeling of ambience.
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 looked badly looped. 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.
When I compared this DVD and the old release, the former’s 5.1 audio clearly seemed superior. The old 2.0 track from the original DVD appeared somewhat thin and flat, whereas the 5.1 mix presented noticeably greater depth and vivacity. The difference didn’t seem like night and day, but I thought the 5.1 version gave Labyrinth more life and seemed more involving.
The supplements found on this Collector’s Edition expand somewhat on those of the original 1999 Labyrinth DVD. (As usual, the Superbit release included no extras.) I’ll note components unique to this set with an asterisk.
The most substantial piece comes from a 56-minute and 22-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 director Jim Henson, actors David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, and Shari Weiser, puppeteer coordinator Brian Henson, production designer Elliot Scott, special effects supervisor George Gibbs, conceptual designer Brian Froud, writer Terry Jones, goblin armor designer Mike McCormick, slkdada Ross Hill, and director of choreography and puppet movement Cheryl 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's not. 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.
Within the *Photo Gallery, we find five subdomains. We get “Behind the Scenes” (31 shots), “Cast” (39), “Characters” (31), “Concept Art” (10), and “Vintage Posters” (2). These offer some nice looks at the elements. I particularly like the pictures in “Behind the Scenes” that show close-ups of the pieces from Sarah’s bedroom that featured in the movie.
*Storyboards seems like an odd presentation. We get 13 screens of these, but they don’t much resemble traditional storyboards. Usually those look like comic book shot compositions, but these come across more like production art, as the majority show sketches of sets and locations. Some traditional storyboards appear, but they’re displayed at such a small scale that it’s very tough to make out what they depict.
In the trailers domain, we get ads for Labyrinth as well as the Dark Crystal Collector’s Edition. Filmographies offers listings for Jim Henson, David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly and George Lucas.
Finally, a few non-disc-based extras appear. We find six *character sketch cards that show some minor characters from the film. The *scene composite places a photo of Connelly and the “Chilly Down” critters atop a piece of background art. The *collector’s edition booklet presents concept art, production notes, and a few photos from the flick.
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 DVD presents a very solid picture along with fairly good audio and a roster of extras highlighted by a terrific documentary.
As the third DVD of Labyrinth, I need to address for whom – if anyone – the Collector’s Edition makes sense. Frankly, I find it really tough to recommend it to anyone other than those who a) simply, absolutely adore Labyrinth and b) have bucks to spare. Of the three packages, the CE is my favorite. The Superbit offers slightly superior picture quality, but audio seems the same, and it includes no extras. The original DVD and the CE demonstrate similar picture, but the CE’s audio is stronger, and it includes a few additional supplements.
The problem simply comes down to the money. For a list price of almost $50, you don’t get a whole lot from the CE. The extras it presents that don’t appear on the old disc seem pretty negligible and don’t merit the additional expense. Honestly, you’d probably be better off with dual ownership of both the Superbit and the original DVD than this one; the price would be about the same, but you’d have the best of all worlds that way. Barring that choice, I’d recommend the old disc for folks who like extras, and the Superbit for those who value movie presentation above all else. Leave the CE for Labyrinth obsessives.
To rate this film, visit the original review of LABYRINTH