arthouse

[Movie Review] The Dark Crystal (1982) ★★★★★

The Dark Crystal brings epic storytelling that enchants with stunning design and imaginative creativity.


The Dark Crystal is a fantasy adventure movie that is brought to life with puppets only.  Although it’s meant for children and suitable for children from the age of 6, it’s a wonderful epic film for every age. Jim Henson and his puppeteers bring the puppets to life in a magical and enchanting new world with epic storytelling and an enticing tale of good versus evil. It’s a thrilling adventure that looks absolutely amazing and the detailed world is beautiful to watch. This dark fairytale will bewitch both young and old while the story will ever be relevant.


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Plot

In another world in another time, a thousand years ago during the Great Configuration of the Three Suns, a piece of the Dark Crystal broke off and the shard got lost. This caused the origin of two new races, the evil Skeksis and the good Mystics. A prophecy foretold that only a Gelfling could bring back the shard to make the Crystal whole again. So that  the land of Thra would be healed again. 

But now Jen is the last Gelfling left after the Skeksis have killed all the other Gelflings. He is sent on a mission by the Mystics to find the shard and fulfill the prophecy. However, on his journey he finds out that he isn’t the only Gelfling left after all. Kira who was raised by Podlings and her dog Fizzigig aid Jen on his mission to heal the land of Thra and together they fight the epic battle between good and evil.


Why you should watch it

The Dark Crystal is a masterpiece of puppeteering. The wonderful new created world of Thra with beautiful and strange creatures and plants, animals and beings will never stop to amaze. It’s so rich and detailed that every shot is too quick to take it all in. The creativity and imagination and craftsmanship to physically create this world is an outstanding feat. It’s an artisanship and craftsmanship all in one and it results in a magical world that truly comes to life. Soon you don’t even notice anymore that you are watching puppets that are controlled by people. 

The Skeksis are truly evil looking. They are ugly and although they wear the finest clothes and jewelry, they still look very dingy. Like vultures. They are selfish and cruel and it’s all about appearances and power. Their beetle army the Garthim are very impressive and scary, and cause a lot of scary scenes. The Mystics are very slow and thoughtful and take a long time to think but are very wise, and they are selfless and empathic and are peaceful and in harmony with nature. They are the exact opposites of the Skeksis. 

The Podlings in contrast look bit simple-minded and naive but also cute. Fizzgig is the cutest of them all, he is a little fluff ball with a sharp bite and extremely fierce and brave. Then there are Landstriders, creatures with very long legs who can look scary but are very kind and brave. Aughra is a curious lady who’s chaotic and like a mix of a mad professor and a wise witch. Gelflings Jen and Kira are the most human-like looking characters. They look a bit like elves and are not only the main characters and heroes but also the most relatable characters. 

But this is all just the exterior and the foundation of the story. Because the story itself is of epic proportions. It’s the ultimate battle of good against evil like a great fairytale and fantasy story. That means that there are some heroic scenes but also some very heartbreaking and sad scenes. Although it’s also a movie for kids, some pretty dark stuff is going on especially concerning the Podlings. Not everyone makes it out alive or is saved and although the Skeksis are funny at times because they are so stupid and selfish, they are also cruel and are cause for some horrific moments. 

The structure is a real epic adventure. It starts with Jen who is sent on a quest and with him we explore the new world and experience with him new things he hasn’t even seen before in his life. It’s a quest but also a journey of discovery. Not only of the world of Thra but Jen also finds out more about his own race and about the evil forces that have destroyed almost everything. The adventures are all very imaginative and full of wonderful surprises. Kira isn’t merely his sidekick but a full character and an evenly great hero who helps him voluntarily and plays an utmost important part in saving Thra. 

The quest brings Jen and Kira to different places from the beautifully created Planetarium of Aughra who’s funny and a bit impressive, to the living swamps and the scary imposing castle of the Skeksis with its deadly dungeons and of course the magical Crystal. There’s a lot to explore and to experience with great dangers but also with a lot of humor and funny moments. The balance between scary and thrilling scenes and fun and lighthearted moments and even sad and tragic dramatic moments is very well kept so that it’s a journey that comprises the full spectrum of emotions. A story that is rich in character development, storytelling and in the settings and adventures. 


My favorite part

I love everything about this film. It’s so amazingly made and a wonderful epic story that will never be outdated. It’s a thrilling adventure that is dark, funny, exciting and magical and takes the viewer on this epic quest. I loved this film as a kid and thought it was quite scary and exciting but I loved that it took children seriously when it comes to darkness and horror elements in a story. The eighties were a true gift for children who loved scary movies and stories and this was definitely one of the best stories for kids out there and maybe still is. 


Ratings

Rating: ★★★★★

Epic factor: ★★★★★

Thrill factor: ★★★★☆

Scare factor: ★★★☆☆

Gruesome factor: ★★★☆☆

Entertainment factor: ★★★★★


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Cast and crew

The Dark Crystal is directed and written by Jim Henson and cowritten by David Odell. Puppeteers: Jim Henson, Kathryn Mullen, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz. Narrated by: Joseph OConor.

Duration: 93 minutes. Music by: Trevor Jones. Cinematography: Oswald Morris. Edited by: Ralph Kemplen. Produced by: Jim Henson, Gary Kurtz. Production company: Henson Associates, ITC Entertainment. Distributed by: Universal Pictures.


Check the trailer below


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