The Dark Crystal
Another world, another time... in the age of wonder.
Year of Release: 1982
Running Time: 93 minutes (1:33)
Director: Jim Henson, Frank Oz
Jim Henson ... Jen / High Priest (Ritual Master) / Podling
Kathryn Mullen ... Kira, A Gelfling (performer) / Jen, A Gelfling (assistant)
Frank Oz ... Aughra - A Keeper Of Secrets / Chamberlain / Podling
Dave Goelz ... Fizzgig, A Friendly Monster (performer) / General (Garthin Master) (performer) / Dying Emperor (performer) / Podling (performer)
Steve Whitmire ... Scientist (performer and voice) / Kira, A Gelfling (assistant) (voice)
Louise Gold ... Gourmand (performer)
Kiran Shah ... Jen (body) / Kira (body) / Aughra (body)
Stephen Garlick ... Jen (voice)
Lisa Maxwell ... Kira (voice)
Billie Whitelaw ... Aughra (voice)
Percy Edwards ... Fizzgig (voice)
Barry Dennen ... Chamberlain / Podling (voice)
Thick Wilson ... Gourmand (voice)
THE DARK CRYSTAL is a masterful live-action fantasy starring some of Jim Henson's most imaginative creatures ever! Directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz and produced by Gary Kurtz (Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back) THE DARK CRYSTAL brilliantly weaves a timeless myth of Good and Evil! In another time THE DARK CRYSTAL, a source of Balance and Truth in the Universe, was shattered dividing the world into two factions: the wicked Skeksis and the peaceful Mystics. Now as the convergence of the three suns approaches the Crystal must be healed or darkness will reign forevermore! It's up to Jen -the last of his race- to fulfill the prophecy that a Gelfling will return the missing shard to the Crystal and destroy the Skeksis' evil empire. But will young Jen's courage be any match for the unknown dangers that await him?
The Dark Crystal, the movie that reminds us that all you whiny, demanding, arrogant primadonna actors out there can be REPLACED. You'll all be beggin' for scale when I finally run this country. The horror/sci fi genre regulars are safe of course. They know who they are. Cripes, this movie's lousy with puppets. Haven't seen this many in one room since that time the batteries in the TV remote died as I was trying to flip past C-SPAN. Alrighty, well, no curve ball this time. I'm sure you know who hates this movie, and you're absolutely right. CGI "artists". I'm also sure you'll have no trouble understanding why. I mean, it takes years of education before you can even attempt to make any serious special effects with computers. And a great deal of practice before you can move beyond making them for the Syfy channel. An just when they start thinkin' they might be worth a damn, they come across this movie. And they realize that, guys with fishing line and coat hangers were making effects better than anything they could ever hope to achieve, 30 years before they even got into the business. There there. If it's any consolation, the average person can't see through your lousy work, or if they can, marvel at it because they'll never see anything like it in real life. What with it's total inaccuracy an all. Dry those tears, for the age of decent special effects is over, and you guys? You're set for life. Normally, this is where I'd bring up key points in the movie's plot to do my part to improve the overall IQ of society as a whole, but this one just raises a great deal of questions that I feel need answering. First of all, why, if Jen can't get the little sparkle shard back into the purple rock, will evil rule the world forever? I mean, there's only 10 of these Skeksis assholes left. And we see first hand that one of 'em gets so old that his fossilized face turns into dust. So how is it that they're going to control the world forever exactly? That's even beyond the fact that they're all greedy fucks that don't strike me as being above knifing each other at any given moment.
Second, if the Mystics and Skeksis are linked, and the Mystics are worried about the Skeksis ruling the world forever, like a boss, why don't they just kill themselves? Wouldn't that rid the world of the Skeksis? An don't act like they don't know they're linked. Cause when one of 'em vanishes mid journey to the castle the rest just kinda shrug an keep goin' like a New Yorker that just had a giant turtle in a trench coat hop over the front of his cab. They're like, yeah, we could save the world from their twisted clutches, but I'm not ready to die yet cause I never got to see Paris. An third, how come all the animals on this planet speak Rooskie? And if this movie was made in Russia by Jim Henson's non union Commie equivalent, would they speak English? I guess some things man is just not meant to know. But there's something The Dark Crystal engages in that I find to be completely irresponsible, and potentially dangerous to impressionable or imbecilic people. Now, the Skeksis have this laser beam that shines outta this crack in the wall of their lair, right in the faces of unsuspecting little muppets that think they're bein' put into a barber's chair to have a little taken off the top. As if that's not misleading enough, nobody seems to care that the laser beam hitting their retinas causes photocoagulation, which is what happens when a beam of high intensity light destroys living tissue by striking it directly. It's kinda like dating Chris Brown, but a lot more scientific. This is bad news, cause most people use their eyes for seein' things. But do they take the time to display the devastating effects? Nah. The girl gnome thing just hops down outta the chair, tips the stylist, an goes on her merry way. In reality, she should be groping around blindly on the floor, screaming in agony as her eyeballs melt. But I suppose that's why they call it "fantasy". Still seems dishonest.
The movie begins with a cameo narration from God about how this super powerful, phallic purple crystal cracked when Wonder Woman drug her nipple across it, which resulted in Mordor-esque weather over the chamber in which it is housed. It also caused the Urskeks, not to be confused with Buttskeks, to split from one race into two. It's kinda like in Army of Darkness when Ash swallows one of his smaller replicas an it starts growin' inside 'em til it separates into Bad Ash. Alas, this is sword and sorcery type stuff so neither of the two Ashes is the guy with the gun. So you've got the Mystics who're Good Ash, an the Skeksis, who represent Bad Ash. The Mystics are giant shaggy pack rats, while the Skeksis are big angry bird beasts. But anyway, the Skeksis use the crystal to harness the power of the suns to give 'em the awesome power they need to subjugate the lesser races on the planet so they'll have somebody to change the newspaper on the floor of their chamber, an cheat death. And legend has it that someday a Gelfling will rise up and stick the little crystal chunk that went missin' back into its slot so the weather'll perk up enough that the tourism industry will come back. A Gelfling, in case you were wondering, looks like an Elf, sounds like an Elf, an dresses like an Elf, but by God is not an Elf. I don't wanna have to mention this again. Trouble is, almost all the Gelflings got stuck in the barber chair of doom over at Club Skeksis an had all their life essence sucked out so the Skeksis never have to show their age. I'm pretty sure that's how Joan Rivers does it too, but anyway, the only Gelfling left is Jen. Who must be terminally confused sexually on account of havin' a girl's name. That just doesn't seem right, lets give him better name. How about... Link. I think that fits. So one day, the head Mystic tells Link that he's the chosen one, an he's gotta go find this shiny rock so the Skeksis won't rule the world forever. You have any idea what a bird dropping of that magnitude can do to a car's windshield? Seriously, nobody wants these guys ruling the world forever. Unfortunately, the head Mystic is about 217 years old an he dies while he's tellin' Link about this before he can get all the details out. He meant to tell 'em sooner but bein' head Mystic is a serious commitment an there just isn't much time for a personal life. He does at least tell Link where to get it before he goes to the big rat's nest in the sky, so Link sets off to find Aughra so he can get the crystal shard an hang it from the rear view mirror of his 1978 Gremlin. Meanwhile, the Emperor of the Skeksis' withered away to mostly bone at this point cause he's also about ready to expire an he has to keep beatin' off the other Skeksis guys with his scepter so they'll quit tryin' to usurp him before he's ready to... okay he's dead.
So then the two Skeksis clowns that just can't wait to be king pull out swords so they can try to chop a stone pillar in half an whoever wins gets to be boss an the loser gets banished an has to circle high above dying cattle in Texas. In the end, the General versus the Chamberlain is a definite mismatch, considering this is a contest of strength, an The Chamberlain is soundly defeated an thrown out on his tailfeathers. Afterwards, the Crystal starts talkin' to 'em an when they look into it they can see Link stumbling aimlessly, which scares the tar out of 'em cause they thought they drained the life force outta all the Gelflings so there'd be nobody left to ruin their party. This grave revelation leaves them no choice but to deploy the sentient dung beetles to capture Link so they can turn 'em into Oil of Olay. Meanwhile, Link has just climbed the Cliffs of Insanity, only when he gets to the top, these ratty vines that look like Eartha Kitt's hair come down an grab ahold of him an Aughra has to come interrogate him to find out if he's the escort she ordered 13 years ago. Once he explains that he's after the crystal shard she takes him inside her cave an shows him her working model of the universe an pours a box full of crystal chunks out all over the floor an makes 'im sift through the pile while she drops lines like "there isn't enough time". Well, by all means, if we're on limited time, whatever you do, don't show me which crystal is the real one you fuggin' harpy. Eventually he thinks he's figured out which one it is, but about that time the Dung Beetle Brigade busts in an tears up her model of the universe like they're part of the Flat Earth Society an Link is just able to get outta there an tear most of his hide off slidin' down the hill as he makes his escape. Then the Mystics decide they'd probably better head for Club Skeksis cause they can't go much faster than about a half a mile an hour an if they leave now they might be able to make the castle before Halley's Comet passes by. Elsewhere, Link is tryin' to figure out what to do with the shiny, only he happens upon the world's most pissed off hedgehog an while he's frantically tryin' to find a really big stick before it tears his spleen out, another Gelfling comes outta the woods to talk Rooskie to Sonic before he can chew Link's face off. Then they do the Vulcan Mind Meld an learn each other's backstory in record time, but they can't mind fuck for too long cause the Skeksis watch this area like hawks an when they realize the second Gelfling (we'll call her Zelda) is female they're gonna go ape shit an send out the Dung Beetle Brute Squad an have them squished into raspberry preserves.
So while Link an Zelda head down river to say hello to her lil' friends, the Dung Beetle Battalion returns to Club Skeksis where they unceremoniously drop Aughra on the floor. By this point Aughra's about as outraged as Joe Biden at a gun show an she starts tellin' 'em all how fucked they are cause Link's got the crystal shard an he's headed over this way to shove it right up their birdy buttholes. Eventually, Link an Zelda make it to the Podling village. The Podlings look a lot like Babette from Nightbreed when she gets left out in the sun for too long, an they like to party hard all the time. Unfortunately, the dung beetles crash the party an before the Podling bouncers can get ahold of the emergency RAID canisters, they all get captured an slung into this big bamboo bingo cage an hauled off. Link an Zelda are able to escape, but elsewhere, the Mystics sense a disturbance in the force. As if dozens of little party animals cried out in terror, and then were caged. But while they pick up the pace to three quarters of a mile an hour, the banished Chamberlain starts pokin' his head around the corner like he just might be up to something. Hey, it's cold out here in the real world with no other birds to cozy up next to while you sleep. The next morning, Link wakes up in Zelda's lap an gets this look on his face like he drank too much an woke up next to his ex-girlfriend. He busies himself with some nearby ruins to get his mind off it an when he reads the hieroglyphs etched in the walls he finally figures out he needs to stick the pointy thing in a hole. Didn't have much trouble figuring that out last night, but anyway, about that time Chamberlain pops out an tells 'em not to be afraid an that they should come hang out at the castle cause they're havin' a party later. He does his best to assure them that the whole genocide thing was all just a big understanding, but Link an Zelda aren't buyin' it an they take off on their mounts that resemble walruses on stilts before Chamberlain can even finish his pitch. Back at Club Skeksis, the feathered menace is stickin' captured Podlings in the most dangerous barber's chair in existence not owned by Sweeney Todd. They do this so the light from neighboring Mount Doom can shine in through a crack in the wall an suck all the life juice outta the victims. Then the Emperor Penguin can put it in his foam dome. Only the Podlings just aren't the same as the Gelflings, as the Emperor gathers rather quickly when his hand crinkles up like it just got vacuum packed an he's real pissed off now, as the assistant gathers when he tries to peck his eyes out.
Elsewhere, Link an Zelda have caught up to the Dung Beetle Entourage an use their mounts to curb stomp 'em while they release the Podlings from the bamboo bingo cage. Unfortunately, the beetles prove superior to the walruses on stilts an Link an Zelda have to hop off the cliff so the beetles don't go to town on their choice cuts. Ugh. Henson, you must have missed that day in evolutionary biology class where... oh whatever. Seems Zelda has wings cause... she's a girl, which comes in real handy if you're not looking forward to the moment of impact on the jagged rocks below. So then they head into this ugly demon face carved into the face of the cliff wall. Down below the castle... I've got a pretty good idea what this thing gets used for if the castle's directly above. Zelda wants to go back cause this place reeks of ass an molted feathers, but Link insists they go on until they run into that Johnny on the Spot, Chamberlain. He tries to drag 'em upstairs but Link jabs 'em with his shiny shard an Chamberlain has to jerk the support beam outta the ceiling an give 'em a good crushin' to teach 'em a lesson. So Chamberlain heads upstairs with Zelda an the other Skeksis start squakin' like a bunch of hens on account of how ugly she is. She tries to tell 'em her boyfriend's downstairs an he thinks she's hot, but they're not buyin' a word of it, plus they really should kill her on account of that prophecy about the Gelfling destroying their roost an all. The new Emperor is cool with that, but he wants her essence first, an... I guess since Chamberlain did such a good job capturing her he can be back in the club again. But he's still a poopie face. So they take Zelda to the chair, an by now she's got real sad face on account of Link gettin' squashed into tomato paste. The Skeksis try to cheer her up with some Laser Floyd but she's beyond help. Then, just when all appears lost, Link busts outta the heap of rubble an tells her to fight the power. She's glad he's alive, but not real sure what exactly that means until Aughra, who's been hangin' out in a cage nearby, tells her to call the animals to assist her, an before long all the furry critters in the castle go ape shit an start gnawin' on the Skeksis guys an Zelda's able to escape the chair as her soul sucking executioner gets mauled by a rabid lemur an tumbles into Mount Doom. Will cut it off here to preserve the knock down, drag out, battle to the death ending between Link, Zelda, an the Skeksis, in Jim Henson's classic children's tale.
Alright, well, this is one of those "family" movies designed mostly for kids, that generally scares the bejezus out of 'em an causes them to require extensive therapy before they're right in the head again. Right up there with E.T., MAC and Me, Labyrinth, and Gremlins. This just in, even benign things that look like monsters, are still monsters. This can go one of two ways. The path I took, wherein, you become enamored with monsters once you overcome the aversion an watch deplorable movies that generally entail people being eaten or chopped into haggis. Or, they never get over it an curl up into a quivering ball anytime Child's Play comes on TV. Well, back when Child's Play could air on TV. Not enough time in the day for all the reality TV now, but you get the idea. Still, this is one that at least the majority of the family can enjoy when the youngest runs screaming to his bedroom an Mom is finally able to calm 'im down with a juice box an lengthy reassurance. The puppetry is really very impressive. Many people would say "for its time", although I feel that doing so diminishes the significance of it. The puppeteering is good for *any* time, and while I feel like Labyrinth is the superior movie, The Dark Crystal unquestionably has the better puppeteering. I wouldn't normally review a movie intended for kids, but considering that it's played completely straight, has a significant amount of dark, brooding atmosphere and has a cast comprised entirely of monsters? I figured it was probably time to expand my horizons a little. If nothing else, it's still got at least one of Joe Bob Briggs' 3 Bs: Blood, Breasts an Beasts. The movie's got quite a cult following, and probably would have done a lot better in theaters (which is not to say that it did badly, it didn't) except that it was going up against another of those kids movies that kids should never actually watch if they ever wanna sleep again. I refer of course, to E.T. And no matter how much people enjoy The Dark Crystal, there aren't too many people who'd rank it above E.T. Even I wouldn't be willing to do that, and I'm generally not a fan of mainstream Hollywood nonsense. But E.T. is as heavy a hitter as you'll find on that front, and I think The Dark Crystal was just released at an unfortunate time, or it would probably have been even more successful than it is.
Okay, lets cut this sucker into little pieces an see what color its organs are so I can get back to reviewing things with no socially redeeming value. Anybody that says this movie has a fantastic plot is allowing their overall love for it seep into their judgement, because this movie has a plot thinner than Kate Moss after she went on the all Ipecac diet. Not ragging on it when I say that, that's just how it is. Besides, I don't need much plot. So a pass on the plot, it's nothing spectacular, but nor is it inadequate or loaded with holes. Acting is almost non-existent. So I suppose during this segment it'd be only logical to grade the puppeteering, and with the exception of a few moments where the mouth movements don't match the speech, you'd have to call it superb. While I admit that I spend a fair amount of time taking notes, at no point did I see any strings or rods. Whereas in say, Labyrinth, there are several instances where you can see them. So, well done on that front. The special effects are great. The monsters all have a very distinct, if sometimes, biologically illogical look about them. The better creatures do tend to be the ones which bear some resemblance to animal life that we're familiar with on Earth. For me, if you can stay grounded to some sort of reality, your monsters will always be much more believable, which is something you need in a creature feature. The soundtrack, while more childish than the special effects, still manages to fit into their respective scenes and at no point cause any kind of harm to the overall effectiveness of the movie. That said, it didn't really stand out to me much. I think it'd be fair to say that, it has many scenes which are better without scoring, and I think they did a good job of realizing which scenes those were, and refraining. The shooting locations, such as they were, were good. Although the vast, vast majority of the movie it shot within sets. Which are fantastic. And they have to be for the movie to work. Realistically, I suppose this movie's shooting locations should probably be rated under the special effects portion because such a high percentage of the movie takes place in them, but I didn't do that and I'm not about to change it now. Very nicely done. All that said, it's really not the kind of movie I was ever going to love and give an extremely high score. Although I would encourage you normal people out there to add 10% to the score I give it, because while it's not a movie for me, you can see that even I have nothing to offer in the way of complaints. I'm just not into kids' movies for the most part.