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With today's news that director Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange) and writer Maggie Levin (Into the Dark’s “My Valentine”) will be making a Labyrinth sequel for TriStar Pictures, fans of Jim Henson’s original have to be more excited than David Bowie’s Goblin King doing the "Magic Dance." But the road to the greenlight has been long and arduous for the project, so we at SYFY WIRE will attempt to play Hoggle and guide you through the labyrinthine journey to a Labyrinth sequel.
First off, just be thankful there aren’t two versions of this article — one that only lies and one that only tells the truth — because even in the back-and-forth of Hollywood development, the Labyrinth sequel’s path isn’t too hard to follow if you stick to the facts. The original 1986 film was very much secluded to a loyal but small cult upon release, recouping only about half its budget. So it’s no wonder TriStar and The Jim Henson Company didn’t publicly get anything in motion for a sequel until 2014.
That’s when screenwriter Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel) started talking about work on a sequel — NOT a reboot:
The news sadly broke about 10 days after star David Bowie’s death in January of 2016, so the excitement was overshadowed by the mourning of fans everywhere. Bad timing.
More than a year later, in April 2017, and that development/writing process resulted in the attachment of director Fede Alvarez (Don't Breathe). Alvarez’s collaborator, writer Jay Basu (the pair worked together on The Girl in the Spider's Web), also boarded the project.
“Labyrinth is one of the seminal movies from my childhood that made me fall in love with filmmaking," said Alvarez at the time. "I couldn’t be more thrilled to expand on Jim Henson’s mesmerizing universe, and take a new generation of moviegoers back into the Labyrinth.”
His plans were to apparently return to the titular maze, filled with puppets and pubescent metaphor, as a continuation to the first film. In fact, around this time, there were even talks of making a Labyrinth musical, which was just one of the various new media formats the franchise was exploring. Jim's son, Brian Henson said that alongside the sequel, "We are working on a theatrical adaptation of the original movie for the stage. Those are the two areas of excitement for the Labyrinth property that we have."
The planned musical kind of disappeared, but Alvarez's version of the sequel as far as having a completed draft of the screenplay. “It is basically a direct continuation of the first movie many years later, and I can't tell you much more about it,” Alvarez said in October 2018, after ANOTHER year and change had passed, “but we have a script, and we're very excited about it so we'll see where that goes.”
Alas, that long-developing, slow-burn process didn’t result in the in-demand Alvarez staying with the project. He officially stepped down in April of 2020.
“It’s so hard to decide what’s worth your time. And what’s worth the attention of the audience. Labyrinth was something I was going to do at some point, but then I stepped down,” Alvarez told Bloody Disgusting’s Boo Crew Podcast. “I just felt…when people have a preconceived notion of what something should be, it’s very hard to succeed — to surprise them. They’re just expecting the same thing again. So I just decided I didn’t want to do things as a director that people knew already what it was. Or have a preconceived notion of how it should look on the screen. So Labyrinth would be something that people would judge that way, so I decided not to do it.”
Now, just a month later, Henson/TriStar have found their new creative team. Will they bend more pleasingly to this “preconceived notion” that drove Alvarez away? Doctor Strange director Derrickson survived one bout with the MCU (though not a potential second), so his track record has at least one mark in that fan-service direction.
As for the coming sequel in its current form? The only other detail currently known is that Henson's children, Lisa and Brian, are executive producing alongside Derrickson and his frequent cohort C. Robert Cargill. And so the labyrinthine journey moves onward.