Dark Crystal, The (1982)

The Dark Crystal (1982), directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz.

An ambitious fantasy epic done with muppet technology. It's hard to know who this is intended for: it's a bit serious for younger children and often grotesque, with the evil vulture-like Skeksis eating live food. Adults will find some humor, but how often do adult viewers want to sit through a feature-length puppet show?

I saw it in the theater and all I remembered was the (to me) twist ending. I've just seen it again and am still fuzzy on the plot. A thousand years after the Dark Crystal is damaged two powerful races are dying. The two remaining Gelflings, our boy and girl heroes, must find the missing shard and repair the Crystal before three suns align, else something really bad will happen.

It's worth seeing at least once for the amazing evocation of an alien planet, with life forms both strange and familiar, enchanting and grotesque. It's rich with ruins and layers of ancient history. I love the gigantic orrery of a complicated solar system and the crab-like warrior creatures. Both were said to be dangerous to be near when filming.

A problem: our young Gelflings have carved immobile faces, making them seem more wooden than some of the other creatures. Jim Henson wanted them to look more like classic puppets for some reason.

Nice Trevor Jones score, big like a real movie!

Available on Blu-ray. As with the Labyrinth (1986) disc, graphic designer Brian Froud's commentary track gives background on the production. It was vast labor, five years of his life. He points out that it's not all pure puppetry; they used every trick they could. In both films the graphics came first, adapted for available technology, and the story followed from that.


Aughra: Where is he?

Jen: He's dead.

Aughra: Could be anywhere, then.


Jen: Wings? You have wings! I don't have wings

Kira: Of course not - you're a boy