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Credit: TriStar Pictures

If we must have a Labyrinth sequel, here's what we want from it

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May 29, 2020

This week, it was announced that TriStar would be moving forward with a sequel to the '80s fantasy favorite Labyrinth. The Jim Henson/Terry Jones/George Lucas movie has long been beloved among genre fans, and a sequel-slash-reboot has been the subject of rumors for many years. According to Deadline, Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson will helm the sequel, while Maggie Levin will assist on screenwriting duties and the Henson family are on board in producer roles. Nothing is currently known about this film in terms of story or character.

As a Labyrinth fan whose pop-culture tastes and love of geek fiction as a whole were shaped indelibly by the film, I — as you can imagine — had a lot of feelings on this news. It would be all too easy to descend into the usual "don't ruin my childhood" tantrums or complain about how Hollywood doesn't make anything original these days, but that approach would be both reductive and boring as all hell. I've no beef with expanding upon a rich lore and the untapped potential of Henson's creation. Indeed, the story is so rich in ideas and prescient themes that it makes a lot of sense to bring Labyrinth into the 2020s.

Still, the apprehension of fans is understandable. There's a lot in Labyrinth that, to put it bluntly, a whole lot of people just don't get. The film is one of the best depictions of female maturation and desire in pop culture of the '80s. Labyrinth's tale of a young woman clinging to the symbols of her childhood who is thrown into a mystical world to retrieve her baby brother from the Goblin King (played by the legendary David Bowie) resonates because it uses the trappings of fantasy to tell a story that feels hugely relatable to many adolescent girls. That liminal space between being a kid and a full-blown adult is a hugely confusing place to inhabit, simultaneously terrifying and alluring. The film endures to this day for that very reason.

So, what can a sequel made 35 years later offer audiences that will build upon those themes while bringing the story into a new millennium? We have some ideas of how we would want to see Labyrinth 2: Masquerade Boogaloo unfold.

ONE: The new protagonist must be a heroine.

Credit: TriStar Pictures

A lot of theories bandied about for the sequel focus on Sarah's all-grown-up baby brother Toby. This is the plot that the manga sequel follows, partly because it seems like the most obvious continuation of the original story. We respectfully disagree. Labyrinth is a deeply feminine tale, in terms of both aesthetics and themes. Could the story be rejigged to focus on a dude? Sure, but we have decades of fantasy canon for that too. Labyrinth retells the classic hero's journey through such a specific gaze that it would be creatively richer to retain that lens.

TWO: Understand 21st-century pop culture.

Credit: TriStar Pictures

Go back and watch the scene in Labyrinth where we get a peek inside Sarah's room. You'll see the plethora of pop culture that defines not only her but the Labyrinth itself: The Wizard of Oz; Where the Wild Things Are; Grimm's Fairy Tales; posters for musicals like Cats (honestly, it explains a lot about Sarah that she's into Cats). Most of her tastes are pretty timeless, the sort of stuff you read as a small child, which is a key part of Sarah's growth. Each item in her room appears in the Labyrinth as a friend or foe.

These stories endure to this day, but, for us, the most fascinating way to build upon this lore in a sequel would be to dive into the pop culture of the 21st century. Would a modern heroine still be obsessed with those old stories, or would she find solace in online fandom? Maybe her tastes skew more into the post-Hunger Games YA dystopia or, yes, the sparkly vampires of Twilight. Does she love superheroes like the Avengers, or maybe she's immersed in the '80s nostalgia of stories like Stranger Things and the Stephen King revival kicked off by It? Maybe she'd be a FANGRRL (yay) who understands the power of SFF to explore the darker side of her own mind or as an antidote to such things? Teens today are way savvier about pop culture and progressive ideas than they were in the '80s. That should be reflected in a Labyrinth sequel.

THREE: Understand adolescence of the 21st century.

Credit: TriStar Pictures

Female maturity has always scared the world. Society has gone out of its way for centuries to smother young women who dare to grow up and start questioning everything around them. There's no period in time where being a teenage girl isn't fraught with strangeness, but imagine trying to go through it now. The 2020s is the age of always-online, #MeToo, p*ssy-grabbing President, "lady Ghostbusters ruined my childhood," Facetime-away-your-flaws, like-and-subscribe chaos. If the Labyrinth is a means for Sarah to confront her fears, then imagine how much effing scarier it would be for someone growing up now.

Think about the horrors around every corner for an adolescent who has to navigate everything going on in 2020. What would the Goblin Kingdom look like to a young woman who deals with social media bullsh** every day and lives in the Trump age? Moreover, what new tools would her adversary have at their disposal to try to crush her? When Sarah dances at the Masquerade ball, she fears the other guests laughing at her, mocking her eagerness to be all grown up beyond her maturity level. Think of how horrifying such a moment would be if you'd grown up used to the barrage of online misogyny and rape culture of geek fandom and social media.

FOUR: Keep Labyrinth horny.

Credit: TriStar Pictures

Did you know that Labyrinth is mega-horny? And we're not just talking about David Bowie's package (ooh, now I believe in Modern Love). Part of Sarah's journey through the labyrinth of her own psyche is confronting the reality of her growing sexuality, something that is both scary and hypnotic in its appeal. She focuses in on Jareth, who looks uncannily like the actor her mother abandoned her family for, but soon realizes that such fantasies are just that. It's a surprisingly adult exploration of something that pop culture typically shies away from. Hell, it's 2020 and you're still way more likely to see male adolescence tackled in fiction, and even then it's usually in a comedic fashion. It wouldn't make sense to dilute the inherent sensuality of Labyrinth. That's its secret, Hoggle: It's always horny.

FIVE: But what about the Goblin King?

Credit: TriStar Pictures

The internet has exploded with potential casting choices for our new Goblin King. Nobody could ever replace Bowie, of course, but some of the names being thrown about are solid. Tilda Swinton is a popular pick, as are Tom Hiddleston and Janelle Monae. We have a different idea.

Okay, hear us out: Bring back Jennifer Connelly and have Sarah be the new Goblin King. Think of the possibilities! Imagine: Sarah returns to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take over the throne in the hopes of bringing a more merciful rule to the kingdom. She wants to be an empathetic presence to lost souls who find themselves in the Labyrinth, a leader who can help young people through their troubles and find joy and friendship along the way.

Unfortunately, the Labyrinth has always been a reflection of some kind of the real world, and we know how our planet feels about women in power. Sarah's rule is plagued by subterfuge and patriarchal nonsense, and the poison of the outside world seeps into the Labyrinth, turning something comforting into a toxic cesspool that actively pushes away and punishes the women whose dreams, fears, and desires helped to build the city in the first place. The only way to overcome this, to defeat the evil that pollutes both worlds, is for our heroines to take the journey.

Admit it: That would be super cool!

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