Where everything seems possible and nothing is what it seems.
Obviously, Columbia thought the general public was suffering from a serious deficiency in Labyrinth enjoyment, so here we are with yet another version served up to the populous (and similarly, a near-identical released version of The Dark Crystal—surprise, surprise). Though slightly superior to its bare-boned and Superbit brethren, Labyrinth: Collector's Edition Box Set throws all customer respect to the wind and explodes in your wallet with an insanely high, loss-of-bladder-control price tag. Ugh!
Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is an average teenager with a rather overactive imagination. Her room is overflowing with tiaras, troll dolls, magical cards, toy castles, posters, crowns, swords, and all manner of fantasy knick-knacks. She despises her parents, hates her life, and especially, especially dislikes her young baby brother.
One night, forced to baby-sit the screaming infant, Sarah utters a curse, wishing the baby would disappear forever. And tonight, her wish comes true; for the Goblin King (David Bowie) has overheard. He takes the baby away to his castle in the center of a giant labyrinth, and goads Sarah into pursuing the child in a desperate attempt to rescue the baby before midnight—when the child will become the property of the Goblin King forever.
Sarah enters the labyrinth, discovering all manner of fantastic creature imaginable, but soon becomes hopelessly lost in the depths of the maze. But she has made some friends along the way—the cowardly, shifty dwarf Hoggle, the ferocious yet gentle monster Luto, and Sir Didymus, a loyal and stalwart fox (and his less-than-stalwart sheepdog mount). Together, they plunge headfirst into the labyrinth to challenge the Goblin King once and for all, and to save Sarah's baby brother!
Labyrinth is as fine a nostalgic film as you can ever find, and this will be the third review of the film on DVD Verdict. (For a comprehensive review of the barebones release, enjoy Judge Ney's review. The technically overzealous reader can check out the Superbit review by Judge Naugle.) As such, this review will focus mainly on the outstanding/terrible points of this particular DVD, in comparison to those previous releases.
Though I will say this about Labyrinth: it seems that personal opinions have always varied wildly regarding the film, usually divided over the issue of childhood exposure. Those who watched the film as children usually idolize it today, and those who never watched it while young have a hard time seeing what all the fuss is about.
Personally, I watched it as a child, and loved it as a child (and as an adult). I also love David Bowie; which is the third category of people not previously mentioned in the above division, as most David Bowie fans also have a soft spot for Labyrinth. It goes without saying that the high-definition transfer on this DVD is perfect for freeze-framing countless close-ups of David Bowie's…ahem…area. (For the uninitiated to this bizarre and disturbing phenomenon, follow the link in the Accomplices section to "David Bowie's Area"—trust me, you won't be disappointed.)
Labyrinth: Collector's Edition Box Set comes clad in a faux-leathery, glossy black custom case, which looks very nice but is nothing more than reinforced cardboard—very prone to scratching and denting, so be careful with it. Inside the DVD waits a Collector's Edition Booklet, which barely numbers eight pages in length. It offers a few interesting liner notes about the production and the history of the film, as well as some concept sketches and photographs.
There is also a "Collector's Edition Scene Composite," which is a piece of transparent plastic that features an image of the Fireys and Sarah superimposed overtop a backdrop of trees. The idea is that this animation-cel-like supplementary card illustrates the matting techniques utilized by the filmmakers in order to pull off the notoriously sketchy sequence. Though pretty and matted and kind of kitschy, this could be the lamest supplementary feature to be included in a DVD, serving almost no useful purpose whatsoever other than being a stylish greeting card.
Finally, the DVD includes a series of character sketch concept cards by Brian Froud, shrink-wrapped for your convenience. These are matted, elegantly illustrated, and quite visually impressive, if only to hold in your hands; but again, they are pretty useless in the grand scheme of things. Once you look at them once, they go back in the box, never to come out again.
The DVD includes the 56-minute featurette "Inside the Labyrinth" (which can also be found on the original DVD version of Labyrinth), a charming and whimsical journey into the creation of the film, the techniques utilized, and David Bowie recording his original music for the film. Labyrinth: Collector's Edition Box Set expands on the original DVD release's features, including the previously-seen trailers and talent files, but adding behind-the-scene photos, cast and character information pages, half a dozen concept art pictures, and a few vintage poster galleries. With the exception of the featurette, the additional features are flimsy and thin, and can be navigated through in a few minutes of idle time.
Visually and audibly, this disc is virtually identical to the Superbit version released previously (minus the DTS track), which, in theory, is a reasonably good thing. Problem is the Superbit version never looked stunningly good in the first place. The transfer still has the same irritating problems the previous transfer had—thousands of tiny scratches and dirt marks littering the image, a fundamental graininess to the transfer, and so on. Though black levels are quite good, and the overall transfer is still incredibly solid and sharp, this is hardly a major upgrade from the original DVD version, which looked reasonably good to begin with. This is like a new set of hubcaps on the exact same old car.
This version has dropped the DTS track present on the Superbit version in favor of utilizing the extra space for extra features, which is fine, unless you are particularly married to DTS tracks. The atmospheric Dolby 5.1 mix sounds quite impressive, all swirling and immerse-like, and features a fair amount of environmental and atmospheric noises in the rear channels. Bass levels are good, and sound effects and dialogue are all quite clear and well mixed. When compared to the Dolby 2.0 mix present on the original DVD version, the 5.1 mix is heads and shoulders above; it swirls and opens up the virtual space of the film majestically and is unquestionably superior, totally radical, and just very darn good.
So—should fans venture out and purchase Labyrinth: Collector's Edition Box Set? Absolutely not.
Now, please make no mistake—this is a nice DVD. In fact, without a doubt, it is the best version of Labyrinth on the market today, combining the quality of the Superbit version with the expanded extras of the original DVD version, plus more features to boot. However, there is a serious, debilitating problem with Labyrinth: Collector's Edition Box Set: the outrageous, outrageous price.
With an MSRP of just under 50 dollars, this disc reaches new levels in double-dipping insanity. Putting even the most bloated Criterion and import DVDs to shame, this single-disc feature could be one of the most overpriced DVDs ever made. Admittedly, some of the extras are fairly cool, but the price tag is almost double what it should reasonably be, and none of the extra features even come close to warranting an almost 100% jump in retail price from the technically identical Superbit version.
If you like supplementary material and are eyeing this disc hungrily, consider this fact: by far, the best feature is the hour-long featurette, also available on the original DVD release. If awesome audio and sensual surround sound are your modus operandi, save your hard-earned greenbacks and opt for the Superbit version of Labyrinth, which features the same quality transfer, a Dolby 5.1 track, and a DTS track to boot.
Considering that both the regular and Superbit versions can be easily found for virtually half the price of the Labyrinth: Collector's Edition Box Set, this should be a no-brainer for almost anyone. Though, if perchance, you happen to stumble upon a copy of Labyrinth: Collector's Edition Box Set priced on a discount table one day in the future…ah well, that would be a different story, now wouldn't it?
Much shame on Columbia for releasing such a ridiculously overpriced, blatantly re-packaged, triple-dipped DVD. David Bowie and George Lucas can afford a copy of Labyrinth: Collector's Edition Box Set, but for everyone else, it remains unlikely and stupid. Leave the double dipping to the bowl of salsa this time—stick with the Superbit version.
Labyrinth: Collector's Edition Box Set is hereby ordered the heck out of the courtroom, because the judge cannot afford to pay for it.
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