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Labyrinth 2: Everything we know so far

Through dangers untold, and hardships unnumbered, Labyrinth audiences have remained steadfast and loyal to this 1986 cult classic featuring David Bowie and a whole host of puppets. This enchanting story about a young girl, Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), who wishes her baby brother away into a magical maze was Jim Henson's last feature film he ever directed before his death in 1990. While it was neither a critical nor financial success upon its release, it enchanted a legion of fans in the three decades since.

Labyrinth ended up having far more going for it than just dance magic. Thanks to its beautiful use of practical effects and detailed puppetry, the film and its iconic soundtrack eventually snowballed into a modern classic beloved to this day. The film has been re-released in cinemas multiple times over the years, and cities around America have singalong screenings and costume parties inspired by the movie. Between 2006 and 2010 a four-part manga sequel Return to Labyrinth was released by American graphic novel publisher Tokyopop. The kids who grew up watching this film from the '80s and onward are now introducing Henson's magical world to their own children. 

Rumors of a sequel to the iconic film have been kicked around for years, to the chagrin of some fans who don't want to tamper with the film's legacy and the delight of others who would love to return to Labyrinth's darkly gorgeous world. With news of a finished script for Labyrinth 2, it looks as if the film is finally happening. Here's what we know so far.

Say your right words: Who's writing and directing Labyrinth 2?

Labyrinth 2's path to the screen has been as circuitous and fraught with hazard as its namesake, and the production hit another major snag in May 2020: Writer-director Fede Alvarezwho had apparently been working on the project since 2018, officially dropped out. According to CinemaBlend, he was feeling a little gun shy about tackling an existing franchise with dedicated fans who might have expectations. Fans will undoubtedly question why Alvarez didn't reach this conclusion earlier in the process, instead of setting the project back a solid two years. Without Alvarez attached, that leaves a major vacuum at the top of the production. It's hard to proceed out of development without a script... or a director. 

Known for his successful reboot of Evil Dead, the home invasion horror flick Don't Breathe, and his disastrous attempt at The Girl in the Spider's Web, Alvarez had teamed up with Spider's Web writer Jay Basu to pen a first draft of Labyrinth 2. Talking to MovieWeb in October 2018, Alvarez said, "I never believe the script is actually complete. We do have a first version of it, we have a first version that I think is amazing... We're gonna try to get there because that's one that has such a beloved fanbase, me included in it, that I would never do anything that's far from perfect. Or at least I'm gonna try to aim there. It will take some time because that's not something you rush. It's been enough years that I think no one should rush that one. We're gonna try and get it right." 

Fortunately, producers responded to Alvarez's resignation with surprising haste, tapping new talent to step in, thus re-starting the whole development process from scratch. According to DeadlineDr. Strange director Scott Derrickson is next in line to tackle Labyrinth 2. At the time Alvarez was hired, Derrickson was deep in pre-production on Dr. Strange sequel, The Multiverse of Madness. He and Marvel ultimately parted ways on that project over creative differences, freeing up Derrickson to enlist with Tristar for Labyrinth 2. Derrickson brings with him screenwriter Maggie Levin, who wrote and directed Into the Dark and My Valentine — both Hulu projects. With both of them attached, it seems like Labyrinth 2 is actually back on track.

Shows what you know, don't it: Is Jennifer Connelly back for Labyrinth 2?

While Alvarez said that his working script was a sequel and not a reboot, it's concerning to hear that the original actress who played Sarah, Jennifer Connelly, had no idea that a sequel was in the works at all. In an interview about her film Alita: Battle Angel in February 2019 (via MovieWeb), Connelly appeared totally blindsided by the news of a Labyrinth 2 script. 

Needless to say, that should give Labyrinth fans everywhere a great deal of pause. How will this be a sequel without Sarah? Will the creative team simply be rehashing the original Labyrinth plot with a new young woman? With Alvarez out, there's a chance that this all could change, of course.

Based on how unsuccessfully Alvarez handled the second installment of the Lisbeth Salander Millenium Trilogy — both as a director and writer — it's probably for the best that he's moved on from Labyrinth 2. The fact that he apparently hadn't even reached out to Connelly is extra troubling. Fingers crossed that Derrickson has to good sense to bring Connelly inside the tent because if he doesn't, we'll have to sic the Fireys on them in retaliation.

Babes with the power: Henson and Bowie's families unite for Labyrinth 2

A project like Labyrinth 2 is an enormous creative undertaking, and the Derrickson-Levin team will no doubt benefit from the continued involvement of Jim Henson's own children and David Bowie's son Duncan Jones, all of whom have signed on to produce the film. Moon director Jones credits being on set during the filming of the original Labyrinth for his desire to get into filmmaking, so serving as a co-producer on Labyrinth 2 is essential bringing his career full circle.

Before becoming a filmmaker in his own right, Jim Henson's son Brian worked extensively on the original Labyrinth, primarily as the performer behind Sarah's reluctant ally Hoggle. He joined the sequel project early on, confirming his involvement to Forbes back in April 2018. At that time, Brian Henson also revealed that their production team was working on adapting the original film as a stage production, hopefully to premiere in London's West End. That, combined with work on Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance for Netflix, has likely kept the company pretty busy.

Should you need us: What's the plot of Labyrinth 2?

Alvarez had made it clear that his vision for Labyrinth 2 wasn't a reboot, but rather a sequel set several years after the original. He referred to himself as a big fan of the material, and he didn't want to disturb anything about the original film. The filmmaker told MovieWeb, "I'm a fan of the original and again, in this case, [a sequel is] something that I haven't done," he said. "But it's a sequel to a classic and a continuation of that story... We had what I thought was this great idea to continue that story and jump so many years later and pick up that story now. We got really excited about that and we started collaborating with the Hensons."

There's a good chance that Derrickson and Levin will continue with the sequel strategy. Those decisions are usually made at a producer or distributor level, and it would be rare for a director or screenwriter to come into a project late and turn it from a reboot into a sequel or vice versa. That said, it's not impossible that Derrickson may be able to sell the check-writers on an entirely new vision. We'll just have to wait for more updates as development resumes with the new creative team at the helm.

We're helping hands: Who's releasing Labyrinth 2?

The same production team that brought us the original Labyrinth will be teaming up once again for its sequel, adding even more hope that the new film will honor the legacy of the first. Sony's Tristar, along with Lisa Henson of the Jim Henson Company, will be backing Labyrinth 2 — an excellent show of faith in the project. When Labyrinth was first released in 1986, it bombed at the box office, making less than $13 million on its $25 million budget. But the film has exponentially increased dividends in the decades since through TV broadcasts, various home video releases, and the ever-popular merchandising of characters in the film on everything from t-shirts to pins to posters. A release of a sequel to the popular original would end up boosting all these sales, all while hopefully adding newly iconic characters into the mix. 

Not always what they seem: Swapping writers is becoming a habit for Labyrinth 2

Alvarez isn't even the first screenwriter to drop off Labyrinth 2. When news first broke in 2016 that a sequel to Henson's Labyrinth was in fact going forward, Alvarez wasn't originally attached to write the screenplay. In fact, it was Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel screenwriter Nicole Perlman who took the first passes at the Labyrinth 2 screenplay before being replaced by Alvarez. This seems like a strange move — both Guardians and Captain Marvel were not only box office smashes, but they were also both critically acclaimed for their clever writing, comedic timing, and tight storytelling.

On the flip side, Alvarez and his former Labyrinth 2 partner Jay Basu can't say the same about their collaboration on The Girl in the Spider's Web, which was panned by audiences and critics alike. It's hard not to feel like Perlman would have been a far better choice for the Labyrinth 2 script, especially based on her massive success these past few years. 

Now that Alvarez is no longer involved in Labyrinth 2, one can't help but wonder what Perlman would have done with the project, and whether replacing her with Alvarez only to have him exit the production was the right decision. It's perhaps only a trivial coincidence that Tristar has now come full circle and replaced Alvarez with another filmmaker plucked from the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Concentrating all the creative responsibilities in one man was always a risk. By once again separating out the directing and screenwriting duties, the company shields itself to some extent from another devastating setback.

It's so stimulating being your hat: Will Labyrinth 2 use puppets?

With Lisa Henson and the Jim Henson Company overseeing Labyrinth 2, it should come as no surprise that the sequel will also rely on puppets and practical special effects rather than CGI. "You know my approach with those things, it's all about making it as real as I can," Fede Alvarez reassured fans (via Yahoo!). "So something like Labyrinth, making it a CG-fest would be the most disgusting thing ever." Now we're talking. We can only cross our fingers and pray to the Goblin King that Derrickson takes the same approach.

Many of the original puppets and animatronics from Labyrinth still exist, and over the years have mostly been displayed in puppetry exhibits around the world. Will the Wiseman and his talking hat return to give more useless advice? What about Hoggle and his collection of jewels? Is Sir Didymus still guarding the bridge along with his faithful steed Ambrosius? What's been the fate of our rock-loving friend Ludo? Are the door knockers still bickering? 

Decades may have passed in human years, but in fairy landscapes, time moves differently. Might we see some familiar faces in and around the Castle Beyond the Goblin City? Using puppets for the sequel means that we can hope, and possibly even see our old friends looking just as they did all those years ago. Hoggle and Didymus once promised they'd be around, should we need them. We might, indeed.

Goblin King, wherever you may be: Labyrinth 2 without David Bowie

It's almost impossible to conceive of a Labyrinth sequel without David Bowie (and his enigmatic bulge) as the Goblin King Jareth. His voice, dancing, and beautiful cruelty are the foundation of the story and the main driving force behind protagonist Sarah's journey to rescue her brother. Who else would be able to pull off slap-happy pop numbers like "Magic Dance" and "Underground," only to later deliver the haunting and plaintive love songs "Within You" and "As the World Falls Down" with such style and grace? Not many artists have Bowie's creative range. He's a difficult man to replace.

After his death in January of 2016, as well as Fede Alvarez's news that Labyrinth 2 will take place many years later, it's clear that Bowie's incarnation of the Goblin King will not make an appearance. Alvarez has also expressed his disgust with the industry trend toward an over-reliance on CGI, meaning we likely won't see a Rogue One-style digitized Jareth either. With the recent announcement of Derrickson's attachment, a vocal contingent of Labyrinth fans started advocating for Tilda Swinton to serve as Bowie's replacement. Swinton certainly captures the late Ziggy Stardust's androgynous charisma, but it's an open question whether or not she can actually sing. Screen Rant proposed a few other potential inheritors of the Goblin Throne, including proven belters Janelle Monae (Homecoming), Lady Gaga (A Star is Born) and eternal Tony-host Neil Patrick Harris (Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog). It's a big decision, but Derrickson clearly has a lot of top-notch options to pick from. 

It's a lot further than you think: What's Labyrinth 2's release date?

While the news that Labyrinth 2 has landed yet another new director and production team certainly suggests movement toward this sequel becoming a reality, the project is still a long way away from theaters. "I can say we are still excited about it but the process moves very slowly and very carefully," Brian Henson explained to Forbes. "We're still excited about the idea of a sequel, we are working on something but nothing that's close enough to say it's about to be in pre-production or anything like that." 

It might be frustrating how slowly this sequel is coming along, but in the long-term it's going to be better that they don't rush the project and get it wrong. Labyrinth fans are divided on the necessity of this sequel, so moving too fast risks a final product that might not do the film's legacy justice. We'll keep you updated as more news on Labyrinth 2 breaks. In the meantime, come inside for a nice cuppa tea and reminisce about the original Labyrinth with the missus.