Internal Inconsistencies & Suspension of Disbelief, pt. 4

The movie Labyrinth was one of my all-time favorites from childhood. Produced by Jim Henson studios, written for the screen by Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame), and starring David Bowie & Jennifer Connelly (alongside scads of Henson creations), the movie is just plain great. This is part of the reason I introduced Sullivan to it — and he loves it.

In spite of the songs, the whimsy, and the entertainment, my internal nitpicky critic still finds things that challenge the experience.

First of all, if you pay attention, Sarah could have solved the Labyrinth within the first 5 minutes of being in it.

Remember the worm? The little blue worm that lives in the labyrinth walls? Has kind of a cockney accent? He shows Sarah how to see through the illusory walls and start actually going into the labyrinth. They have an exchange that goes something like this:

  • Sarah: “Do you know the way to the center of the labyrinth?”
  • Worm: “Me? Nah, I’m just a worm.”
  • … (more chatter, Sarah finds a new passageway with a path to the left and to the right, she starts heading left)…
  • Worm (shouting): “Don’t go that way!”
  • Sarah: “What?”
  • Worm: “Don’t go that way; NEVER go THAT way.”
  • Sarah: “Oh. … Thanks! (heads to the right)”
  • Worm (speaking to himself): “If she had gone that way, she’d have gone straight to the castle!”

Excuse me, what?

Ok — now I suppose there is some room for quibbling here since Sarah had asked the way to the “center of the labyrinth” rather than “the castle”. But come on. There’s also the possibility that the worm was simply lying when he said he didn’t know — but that doesn’t seem consistent with his character (i.e. he doesn’t lie about anything else). The issue of “not asking the right question” was brought up 10 minutes earlier, during her exchange with Hoggle — so that is a feasible explanation for this issue; although again, the worm character’s brief exchange doesn’t suggest he is nearly as deceptive or prone to quibbling as Hoggle is.

Speaking of “quibbling” — there’s the scene with the two-doors puzzle (“one door leads to the castle at the center of the labyrinth and the other leads to certain death”). She *did* pick the correctly, she just didn’t ask a complete enough question. 

It’s like that puzzle “Bob and John have one coin each, totaling 15 cents between them; one of the coins is not a nickel. What are the coins?” The coins are, of course, a dime and a nickel.

So in the case of the two doors — they simply omitted the fact that the door that led to the center of the castle happened to *ALSO* have a trap door in it. (Or perhaps Jareth magically made one appear there, like he did later on when she kissed Hoggle on the cheek.)

 

This movie deals handily with many potential inconsistencies by simply deferring to the “it’s magic!” cause. I don’t mind that so much. They establish early on that the labyrinth will arbitrarily change on its own (much to the chagrin of Sarah’s “It’s not fair!” chorus) — so later Deus Ex Machina-esque interventions for the sake of plot development seem less surprising. 

One thing that doesn’t exactly make sense to me is that if Jareth is able to make the labyrinth change at his whim, and can observe them constantly, then the deck should be completely stacked against the protagonists — they shouldn’t be able to complete the labyrinth at all. For example — why wait for Sarah to kiss Hoggle to cast them into the Bog of Eternal Stench™ ? (Incidentally, if you become stinky in the labyrinth, do you become stinky in real life?)

A few other ponderables:

Why doesn’t Sarah find a way to climb up on top of the labyrinth walls (the first part, when they’re made out of stone) and maneuver her way towards the castle. Surely she could find stuff to stack up high enough to make it up there.  At least then she wouldn’t be at the mercy of the shifting walls.

When they are at the castle gates, and that humungous golem door is swinging his axe around, what exactly is the point of the spikes that raise up behind them? The golem doesn’t advance at all, or move in any way aside from swinging the axe. The spikes are far enough apart that it’s really not a deterrent to retreat.

Jareth initially makes the proposition that she has to make it to “the castle in the center of the labyrinth” but doesn’t specify she has to DO anything there. Shouldn’t that task be automatically satisfied the moment she steps foot inside of the castle? (Rather than  having to chase Toby in the Escher room) — then again, considering how pretty much nothing is “fair” in labyrinth land, I guess it’s not that surprising. I’m sort of wondering why he simply didn’t keep changing the rules so that she lost.

One last one: If Jareth can advance the time on the clock — why not put it so she has only ONE hour left rather than SIX? (or one MINUTE left even)

I really don’t have a lot of complaints about this movie. The songs are a bit kooky, and that one scene with the closeup of David Bowie’s crotch is a bit creepy, but it’s altogether “ooky”.  (Gomez approves)