Review of 'The Dark Crystal'

dark_crystal.jpg The Dark Crystal takes place on the planet Thra. Many creatures and races inhabit the planet the vulture-like, cruel Skeksis are the guardians of the Crystal of Truth which that was cracked 1,000 years ago, gentle hunchbacked beings known as Mystics, the small child-like Podlings, and the all but extinct elf-like Gelfling. Having been brought up by the Mystics Jen (performed by Jim Henson) believes herself to be the last of the Gelflings. When Jen's Mystic guardian dies he learns it is his destiny to heal the crystal with a crystal shard to be found in the observatory of the wise, old, Aughra (performed by Frank Oz, very reminiscent of his performance as Yoda in the Star Wars films). After retrieving the shard Jen is surprised to meet another Gelfling, Kira (performed by Kathryn Mullen). It is up to Jen, and Kira to travel to the Skeksis fortress and repair the Dark Crystal…

This is a rich and textured world that has over the years attracted a great number of fans leading to the recent Netflix series “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance”. The intention of the film makers was to make a serious, adult, work of fantasy using their fantastic puppetry skills – This is certainly not Sesame Street. The Skeksis are not very attractive and extremely nasty creatures who think nothing of killing to further their selfish desires. The action is often violent, bloody and terrible with the costumes and sets incredibly realised. Despite it's short running time of an hour and a half you have a feeling there is much more of a story to tell which, hopefully, Netflix will start to show us. In this original film there is indeed a sense that the story is hurried and there is much more we could learn here. You could be forgiven for watching The Dark Crystal and forgetting these are puppets – We can forgive the occasional lapse into sickly cuteness.

Despite now being almost 40 years old, the effects of the Dark Crystal still very much convince though there is the occasional feeling the facial expressions of the characters, particularly the overly cute Gelflings, can be more emotive and, well, move a bit other than their mouth and, rarely, eyes. It is the Skeksis that give the most dynamic (though terrifying) performance here with performers fully enclosed in the costumes as they move about the set.

An admirable attempt by Jim Henson at making a serious puppet film, the Dark Crystal stands as an amazing piece of imaginative fantasy that is all but fully realised.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2019-09-22

Directed by: Jim Henson and Frank Oz

Studio: Incorporated Television Company (ITC)

Year: 1982

Length: 93 minutes

Genre: Fantasy