The Dark Crystal

"Another world, another time, in the age of wonder. A thousand years ago, this land was green and good – until the Crystal cracked. "

With Netflix's prequel series, Age of Resistance, just around he corner, I figured now was as good a time as any to take a look back at this Jim Henson classic.

While not exactly a golden age, the 1980s were something of a boom period for fantasy cinema. More than any time before or since Hollywood studios were more than happy to invest money (but not too much money) into films about wizards, dragons, goblins, fairies and other such things. Often this cash found its way into the hands of talented filmmakers who used it to make imaginative and memorable films that wowed and traumatised children with equal measure. Some were great, some were not quite as great as they could've been, and some were Hawk the Slayer.

The Dark Crystal falls somewhere in that second category.

Like a lot of fantasy films, The Dark Crystal tells a very familiar tale and in a very familiar way. There's this chosen one, you see. They're an orphan, the last of their kind and, because this was made in the 80s, male. Their wise old mentor sends them off on an epic quest and then conveniently dies so they don't have to actually do anything. Anyway, the chosen one has to find a thingamajig and take it to a certain place or else the bad guys, who naturally live in a decaying castle in a vast wasteland, will rule forever or some such nonsense. Along the way he meets a girl, they fall madly in love after knowing each other for like a day, and together they get the thingamajig to the certain place and save the world.


But The Dark Crystal isn't really a film you watch for the plot. No, this is a film you watch so that you can admire the sheer craftsmanship on display. This was notable for being the first live action film not to feature a single human character. With the exception of a few long shots of the Gelflings, all the characters in the film are performed by puppets.

And what puppets!

Using concept designs by fantasy illustrator Brian Froud, who spent five years designing everything from the landscapes to the font of the main titles, Henson and his team came up with some absolutely jaw-dropping creations. Of course, the thing everyone really remembers about this film are the Skeksis. Part bird, part lizard, part fashion disaster, they are wonderfully grotesque creations and no doubt the cause of many children's nightmares. Which was the intention as Henson believed it was unhealthy for children to be unafraid and wanted to get back to the darkness of classic fairy tales by creating something a lot darker than any of his previous films.

Jim Henson, puppet master and lord of nightmares. 

Notes and Quotes

--Although never mentioned in the film itself, the planet it takes place on is called Thra.

--After a bad test screening, Henson was worried the producers were going to bury the film so he bought it and funded the release out of his own pocket.

--While the Skeksis are the film's most impressive creatures, my favourite character has always been Aughra. Really looking forward to seeing more of her in the prequel.

--There were plans for a sequel entitled The Power of the Dark Crystal, but they were eventually scrapped and it was turned into a comic book instead.

Aughra: "Where is he?"
Jen: "He's dead."
Aughra: "Could be anywhere, then."

Aughra: "End, begin, all the same. Big change. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad."

Chamberlain: "Hmmmmm...
General: "I hate your whimper!"
Chamberlain: "HMMMM!"

Three out of four thingamajigs.

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hoe you will review Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance! It's fabulous.