Thursday, May 16, 2013

Review: "The Dark Crystal" Retains its Beautiful Magic (Remembering Jim Henson)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 119 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Dark Crystal (1982)
Running time: 84 minutes (1 hour, 24 minutes)
DIRECTORS: Jim Henson and Frank Oz
WRITERS: David Odell, from a story by Jim Henson
PRODUCERS: Gary Kurtz and Jim Henson
EDITOR: Ralph Kemplen
COMPOSER: Trevor Jones
BAFTA Awards nominee


Starring: Jim Henson, Kathryn Mullen, and Frank Oz

The subject of this movie review is The Dark Crystal, a 1982 American and British fantasy film directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. It remains one of the most unique and imaginative fantasy films ever made.

Although “The Muppet Show” may be the thing for which Jim Henson is best known, many movie fans, especially fans of fantasy movies, fondly remember Henson’s ambitious film, The Dark Crystal. Costing roughly $20 million to produce and in production for nearly five years, The Dark Crystal was a live-action fantasy film that featured some of Henson’s most imaginative creatures ever, many of which were the concept designs of Brian Froud, who would collaborate with Henson on his next fantasy epic, the mid-80’s flick, Labyrinth.

The story revolved around The Dark Crystal, a source for Balance and Truth in the Universe. One thousand years before this film begins it was shattered, dividing the world of the film into two factions: the wicked, avian-like, Skeksis, and the peaceful Mystics. Now, the convergence of the world’s three suns again approaches, and the Crystal must be healed by then or the Skeksis will rule for eternity. Enter Jen (Jim Henson), a Gelfling (like an elf), who believes that he is the last of his race. A Mystic took Jen into his home when Jen was an infant; on his deathbed, the Mystic tells Jen that he must find the shard that broke off the Crystal, and he later learns that he must restore that piece and make the Crystal whole. Another Gelfling, Kira (Kathryn Mullen), joins Jen on his quest, and together they brave the unknown dangers that await them on their quest to restore the Crystal and end the reign of evil on their world.

The Dark Crystal is arguably Jim Henson’s finest achievement as a maker of fantasy film. The plot is simple and the script barely builds on the protagonist/obstacle dynamic, but the filmmakers probably considered that to be the least important thing. They intended us to be wowed by the puppets. That is important – the incredible puppets, costumes, creature effects, and other special effects. Human don’t make an appearance in this film other than being under puppets or costumes because the emphasis is on the puppets. And what an achievement in puppetry The Dark Crystal is.

Watching it, I couldn’t help but marvel that these puppets made such engaging characters and that the operators did such a great job making the puppets seem like real beings. Jen and Kira are characters that we can’t take our eyes off of as they scramble to save their world; you could totally buy into them the way you would flesh and blood actors. They give better performances than many real actors. Over two decades later, The Dark Crystal retains its marvelous charm, and its production is still a wonder of filmmaking.

8 of 10

1984 BAFTA Awards: “Best Special Visual Effects” (Roy Field, Brian Smithies, and Ian Wingrove)


You can buy THE DARK CRYSTAL on Blu-ray at AMAZON.

Amazon wants me to inform you that the affiliate link below is a PAID AD, but I technically only get paid (eventually) if you click on the affiliate link below AND buy something(s).

No comments:

Post a Comment