The Dark Crystal (1982)
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Jim Henson and crew spent much to much time creating this movie, and the depth of their effort shows. However, some adults might find the story simplistic, and it is in the same manner that Labyrinth is. However, like Labyrinth, Dark Crystal succeeds in taking you to another place and immersing you in another world.
If you are a viewer interested in fantasy worlds, Dark Crystal will please you well. If you haven't seen it in years, get the DVD. It has a wonderful "making of" section, deleted funeral scenes, and isolated musical score.
It was also good for it's symbolism as well. The Dark Crystal like many classic children's shows and movies of its time did not talk down to kids nor underestimate their intelligence for that matter. In fact, the morals and symbolism appeals to non-discriminating adults as well.
P.S. I think the Skeksis are awesome! Especially the General, Chamberlain and the Mad Scientist Skeksis!
The film is set in another world, in another time in an age of wonder. It has been 999 years and 1 year since the powerful, life-giving crystal cracked and stopping shining. Since then the land has become barren and the Urskeks (a race of God-like beings) have split into two separate races, the peaceful Uru 'Mystics' and the evil Skeksis-a horrific cross between bird and reptile. The three suns that shine upon the land are about to line up in a great conjunction that only happens once every 1000 years. If the crystal is not repaired before then the cruel Skeksis will rule the land forever.
Jen is a Gelfling (a sort of fairy creature), believed to be the last of his race. A prophecy tells of a single Gelfling defeating the Skeksis and restoring peace to the land. Raised by the Uru, Jen begins a journey to repair the crystal when the Skeksis Emperor dies (in a truly disturbing scene). On his way he meets Aughra, a sort of witch creature and Kira, another Gelfling and her race of Podling people (sort of like Fraggles). Though there is no specific love scene between them, there is a very nice romance developing through-out the story.
Filmed in gorgeous locations across England and Scotland (with the use of a lot of matte paintings of course) the film really, really does take you to another world. There's not a single human in sight (a perfect world or what) and, with exception to the awful Skeksis, almost every creature is cute and fluffy (such as Kira's Fizzgig). The production design, in particular the genius contributions by Brian Froud, is so immense and impressive that you wish you could jump through the screen and actually be there in order to appreciate it more.
Trevor Jones' breathtaking, beautiful score is among his best work (tying with Merlin in 1998) and is surely some of the best film music you are ever likely to hear. Ever! There was a limited edition of the score put on CD a few years ago but only 5000 were ever printed. It's sure to be quite expensive now but it's so goddamn worth it! Henson, Oz and Froud teamed up again a few years later to make Labyrinth which seems to be more fondly remembered as it's not as sinister as The Dark Crystal and has human actors in it to make it more accessible to those with narrower minds. I prefer this one though (no fruity songs, no David Bowie!) as it has a certain edge to it that Labyrinth lacks.
An epic. A masterpiece. An unforgettable classic. The Dark Crystal is magical, mystical timeless classic. I can't recommend it enough. If only we still had movies like this. I'll take risk-taking The Dark Crystal over PC drek like The Shaggy Dog any day.
WHY, is this movie so hard to find ?!! I´m fortunate enough to have a copy of it, but it isn´t a very good copy at all, because it was taped about 10 years ago, from a movie channel, and it´s got tons and tons of satelite interferences and "rain" in the image. At least i get to own the movie. I guess...
The first time i´ve seen anything about DARK CRYSTAL, was back in 1982 when i was 12 years old. I wento to see Spielberg´s - ET, and before it, the presentation movie trailer for DARK CRYSTAL came on the screen. I remember that i was much more impressed by it, than by ET. By the end, all i wanted to know was when DARK CRYSTAL would be on the theater. I was so impressed by it, that those 2 minutes from the presentation stayed in my mind ever since, and all that i remember from the day i went to see ET, was that i watched 2 minutes of something that i never thought it existed or would be possible. Remember it was 1982, and in those days, children´s programs on tv didn´t included the amount of fantasy stuff that it is showned today, so watching that was somehow a revelation for me.
Anyway 6 year later i got to finaly see it, on a forgotten childrens matinee, and i loved every minute of it, altough i felt even then that it had some dull parts in it. Somehow there is something diferent with the pace this story is told. Even now i feel this, each time i watch DARK CRYSTAL.
But this is just a minor thing. Maybe i´m being just picky. Because DARK CRYSTAL is a masterpiece, it might have its flaws, but that doesn´t prevent it from being one of the greatest fantasy movies ever. Even though is so forgotten by everyone. Even i forget i have it. In a way, this is an Historical movie, because to my knowledge this was the first time that the atmosphere from the now common fantasy novels was portraited in a movie. And what a begining !!! Jim Henson got it right, right at the first try !
Every time i watch this i only wished he had lived enough time to adapt TOLKIEN´s - LORD OF THE RINGS to the movies. He would make a fantastic job for sure.
With DARK CRYSTAL ,Jim Henson achieved a perfect balance between a kids movie and a fantasy movie for adult viewers. This only added credibility to the world he created for this story. Just for this alone he should be praised. He showed the way, a fantasy movie should be made, but nobody in Hollywood seem to have learned anything from it.
I have read that DARK CRYSTAL, was a comercial flop, because it was released during the ET days, and not many people went to see it. Wich is a sad thing, because a masterpiece like this deserved to have filled the theaters. Maybe adults thought it was just for kids and the kids wanted to see ET, so it flopped. I read that even american reviews attacked DARK CRYSTAL. Maybe it was the usual in america, when a movie can´t be put in a category, nobody makes many efforts to publicize it. And i bet this was a nightmare to some people who had to publicize it. How would they present it ?
So if, you can find it, you have to see this movie ! I f you like fantasy, you´ll go nuts with it. Only the landscapes are enough to make anyone drool. The story is very,very good and much more adult oriented than it might seem at first, the pecial effects are pefect for it, the soundtrack is excelent, and the characters are very lifelike and believable. I only don´t like very much of the hero, it feels to much like a pupet. Compared to the others is a bit strange.
It´s time DARK CRYSTAL gets the atention it desrerves, this is a brilliant movie.
But I *love* it.
This is a dark, ponderous, elegant, film. The emotional tones are murky, sometimes quiet, sometimes startlingly loud, always alien and dreamlike and only ever vaguely comprehensible. The design is just drop-dead gorgeous, and entire alien WORLD brought to life. It's mesmerising, and more details can be found buried deep within it on every viewing. Thick layers of meaning were woven into this movie, revealed only when reading the accompanying coffee-table book, which records in a painstaking watchmaker's manner every tiny bit of "iceberg" under the surface of this story.
There ought to be a word for the feelings aroused by this film, a word that means "alien yet hauntingly familiar". I still get the same dreamy mood as I did when I first saw this film many years ago when this movie begins, the first crash of the cymbal and the first recital of the theme of the Skekses sounding as if from terribly far away, a high, yearning phrase on a single horn, lonely and beautiful, calling from another time. The Age of Wonder.
It's what this film's all about, Wonder. There's no explaining it to people who don't like that sort of right-brain thing, they just won't like it.
Why does it make sense that staring into the reflection of a cracked crystal from deep within the bowels of a tortured castle will, with the aid of some ugly machinery, suck out your very soul? That the Trial Stone glows when it's cleaved completely in two by the General? That the shard responds to the notes of Jen's pipe? It doesn't, of course, but it DOES.
I also love the pace and the mechanical plot. This is the one film whose mechanical plot I must forgive, and even love, as it's supposed to be mechanical. The sand painting diagram at the beginning of the movie is a representation of the history of the entire world, including the events to come. The whole world is one huge piece of metaphysical clockwork, and so the film is as well, the tension building clearly and slowly towards the extraordinary climax, which still gives me the shivers... Prophecies are stupid things to have in films, except this film, in which the prophecy is the entire point of the movie instead of an unnecessary condiment. The slow machinery of this movie lends a great weight to it, the feeling that vast, invisible forces are at work intensifies pace by implacable Mystic pace...
I also approve of the ending's inherent mysticism, taken straight from Jung, the key to transcendence being the joining of the Ego with the Shadow, the Skekses and Mystics representing these structures respectively. It's true, and this film says so, pretty much in so many words.
It's not at all surprising that it's not very popular with people who don't particularly buy into the things I've outlined above. It's geologically slow. It's inhuman. It's VERY weird. But it does all these things *deliberately* with an artistry rarely seen these days.
And I just love the music...
I must comment on Brian Froud for his conceptual art for each race in the film. And also Trevor Jones' excellent music score too. Very good job, guys, you are AWESOME! My favorite scenes are when Jen visits Aughra to retrieve the crystal shard, and also when he meets Kira his main squeeze (*giggles*). I also love the scene when Jen & Kira are at the old Gelfling ruins.