First, let’s put “The Dark Crystal” into it’s original context. It’s 1982. On the heels of “Star Wars”, fantasy is getting hot, hot, hot at the movies. Every studio is suddenly making a fantasy of their own, in hopes to create The Next “Star Wars”.
To the kids growing up right now in the post-“Lord of the Rings” Universe, doesn’t this sound familiar?
So Jim Henson and his friends decide that they want to make a fantasy film too, only they’d like to basically create an entire fantasy world from the ground up to do it. Fantasy geeks AND mainstream moviegoers would probably flip out with happy anticipation if that had happened *today*…
But remember, it’s 1982. Jim Henson is known for “the Muppet Show”, Muppet movies, and “Sesame Street”. Puppets are for kids.
Therefore, upon it’s release, “The Dark Crystal” is met with a general reaction of “WTF?!?!?” Many people were baffled. Many people were appalled. I remember reading Roger Ebert’s review (which isn’t archived on his website and that’s terrible), and in it he voices genuine concern! In 1982, Ebert fears that Jim Henson has given up entirely on the Muppet characters and that “Dark Crystal” is the kind of thing he’ll be doing forever!
So in other words, we found out that the only thing that can frighten and confuse a mainstream moviegoer more than an animated film directed at a more mature audience is a puppet film directed at a more mature audience. Ha.
It’s the funny thing about time and genera films. You look in a book about the history of fantastic films or animated films or horror movies and you see a lot of movies that decided to do things differently and that are now hailed as classics. And most of these classics were not initially received well (see also both “Fantasia” films). Heck, maybe movies that normal people like are like that too, I wouldn’t know.
So, anyway, “The Dark Crystal”. It is incredible, in every meaning of the word. It’s one of the most visually creative movies ever made in any genera, the special effects are amazing, it’s wonderful how Brian Froud’s artwork is brought to life, and you’re left sitting there in awe because this must have taken a crapload of time to do back in the day.
It is also pretentious as hell, hard to get into, and -honestly- it’s kind of boring. I mean the FIRST time you watch it; I’m glad I gave it another chance. I liked it a lot better this time. It’s got a lot in common with “TRON” come to think of it. “The Dark Crystal”, like “TRON”, is a spectacular-looking movie that is hard to love the first time around. It’s a major turning point in the fantastic film genera, and well worth watching. Twice.
The Best Parts:
1 minute in – WOW…
3 minutes in – Yeah, but is it better than Morning’s First Cup of Coffee?
5 minutes in – Giant Ground Sloths have great reverence for Mother Mars.
8 minutes in – “Now, watch as it transforms into a clone of Dr. Crusher’s hand!”
11 minutes in – Can you hear the 1982 people saying, “WTF is this?!?”
15 minutes in – TRIAL BY STONE!!!
19 minutes in – You know, I kind of feel bad for SkekSil. Look at his Therizinosaurus pot-belly. Aww.
20 minutes in – This is about where Roger Ebert gave up.
23 minutes in – GAH!!!
25 minutes in – “SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!”
29 minutes in – Robert A. Heinlein unavailable for comment.
31 minutes in – “Sure are a lot of trippy people livin’ on this planet. OOH, lookit THAT one!”
34 minutes in – “AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
35 minutes in – Aww, it’s like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”!
40 minutes in – Puffskein Cruelty!!!
41 minutes in – “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU LOOKIN’ AT???!!!”
45 minutes in – So, Kira was raised by Hobbits who loved potatoes so much, they actually became one with the potatoes.
47 minutes in – I like that one Hobbitato who wails on the Garthim with a little stick.
53 minutes in – Well, isn’t it convenient that they just happened to run into these ruins?
58 minutes in – Hobbitato Cruelty!!!
1 hour, 2 minutes in – Well that came out of nowhere.
1 hour, 5 minutes in – Woah!
1 hour, 7 minutes in – “Then we hang ‘er, and then we kill ‘er!!!”
1 hour, 8 minutes in – GAH!!!
1 hour, 11 minutes in – Woah!!!
1 hour, 15 minutes in – You’d think they would just ride over on their Buggalo instead of walking all this way.
1 hour, 19 minutes in – THE GREAT CONJUNCTION!!!
1 hour, 25 minutes in – (Long pause…) What the hell just happened?
1 hour, 28 minutes in – Things were bad, but now they’re good forever!
Or at least until Genndy Tartakovsky’s sequel gets out of Development Limbo. :p
Classic Lines of Dialogue:
“Another world, another time, in the Age of Wonder…” – Narrator
“Remember me, Jen. We may meet again in another life.” – UrSu
“I’m not ready to go alone! (He pauses for exactly one second.) All right, alone then!” – Jen (this is why, as a hero, he kind of sucks)
“The Great Conjunction is the End of the World!!! Or, the Beginning.” – Aughra
KIRA: “You seem very strange to him.”
JEN: “Well, he seems very strange to me!”
“Please! Please! Please! Come, please! Yes! Make peace!” – SkekSil
KIRA: “What’s writing?”
JEN: “Words that stay.”
“Kamaleia!!!” – Kira
“Hold her to you. She is a part of you, as we all are a part of each-other.” – Mysterious Glowing Ent Guy
Things I Learned from this Movie/Book/Whatever:
* – Do not wait until the last moment if you have to tell a kid that he is The Chosen One.
* – Therizinosaurs and Giant Ground Sloths disintegrate when they die.
* – Always go for the middle one.
* – Wherever you go, make sure the ground isn’t alive.
* – Your soul / spirit / living essence / whatever you want to call the thing inside that gets you to wake up in the morning is a drinkable liquid.
* – The Great Northern Divers are *everywhere*.
* – Forks are an issue if you already have large talons.
* – Having incredibly long legs is an issue if you fall over.
* – Having incredibly short legs is an issue if you have a lot of ground to cover.
* – Having a mystical bond with another creature is a HUGE issue. Especially if, when they get hurt, you feel it too.
* – It sucks all over if you’re one of the people who are caught up in a prophesy. Prophesies, you see, tend to be more concerned with the happiness the events will bring to your *grandchildren*.
Things That Can Save Any Movie:
Cool Creatures? And how! That’s the whole selling point, isn’t it?
Good Soundtrack? I hope you like Pan Pipes.
Hot Guys? Uh…
Pretty Scenery? Yes.
Nifty Animation/Special Effects/Illustrations? Yes. And make sure you check out the features on the DVD as they are a trip. Take a look at what teaser trailers looked like in the early 80’s.
Drinking Game Potential? Drink when something “gives no comfort”. Pick a favorite creature and drink whenever they appear onscreen.
Head Movie Potential? Oh yeah.
A pointy-eared Jordan with a distracting dog-nose.
A Universal Pictures Film released in 1982. Written by Jim Henson and David Odell and directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. Characters designed by Brian Froud and performed by every Muppeteer ever, chiefly Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Kathryn Mullen, David Goelz, and Steve Whitmier.
“The Dark Crystal” vs. Entertainment – “It’s got Brad Pitt jumping up and down on a bed with his shirt off!”
X-Entertainment Review – “Before this mind-sharing thing, Kira had no idea that Jon Voight was Angelina Jolie’s dad.”
The Greatest Movie EVER Review – Worth listening to if only for the hosts’ mom’s confusion. Awww.