The Dark Crystal (film, 2007)


Puppet spectacular hits the quarter century mark with well-endowed anniversary disc set.

 1982 • 89 mins • PG

Directors: Jim Henson, Frank Oz

Writers: Jim Henson, David Odell

Starring: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Kathryn Mullen

25 years ago Jim Henson and artist Brian Froud unleashed this ambitious fantasy onto an unsuspecting public. A predictable “What the…!?” was the response. Audiences used to Henson’s frogs and bad-joke bears were taken aback by the movie’s muddled world-building. Released at a time when fantasy movies held small currency, a lukewarm reception was The Dark Crystal‘s lot.

You can see why. The world was envisaged first, the story fitted to it afterwards. The result is a flatly presented, laborious narrative that is just a little bit dull, irritatingly poked along by intrusive narration.

Soundwise it was never great. The stridulations of muppety voices grate and merge, and the otherwise gorgeous score is tinnily recorded. A sad mismatch with the glorious visuals that, when all’s said and done, give the film its huge cult appeal.

The Dark Crystal is undeniably magical, and much enjoyment is to be had from its multiple levels of on-screen detail. It’s a work of art saturated in the rich browns, purples, creams and reds of Froud’s fairy-kissed palette. The creatures are brought to life by expert puppetry in environments that squirm with fascinating alien critters. The Skeksis and mystics are awesome to watch, and have a screen presence that you do not find with CGI.

It’s this level of coherent design and craftsmanship that makes the film as special as it is. The Dark Crystal was a one-off, and nothing has been made like it since.

Extras[2007 DVD release]: There’s plenty on the discs, but not much more than on the last iteration of the film. “The World of the Dark Crystal” is a 1983 making of documentary of the kind of thing that used to be shown on Sunday afternoons, though this does it a disservice as it is an exemplar of the type. There are also a commentary from Froud, sketch galleries and test footage.

The new material comprises two short docs, bracketed together as “Reflections on the Dark Crystal”, which discuss the five years of work that went into the film, and its lasting legacy.

Definitely worth getting if you don’t already own it, perhaps not if you do.

Did you know?

The Dark Crystal‘s Skeksis were originally to speak their own, invented language. This was dropped from the film, though some sequences were recorded with it and are preserved on the DVD as an extra. Various bits of details in this language – such as the name of the mystics (ur-Ru) and the Trial By Stone ritual (Hakskeekah) are preserved in the novelisation by A.C.H. Smith. The book also gives us the name of the film’s world: The hidden moon of Thra.

Did you know?

The Dark Crystal screenwriter David Odell penned the script for The Masters of The Universe live action film.

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