Film Review: The Dark Crystal
In 1982, Jim Henson and Frank Oz released The Dark Crystal, which starred Stephen Garlick, Lisa Maxwell, Billie Whitelaw, Percy Edwards, Barry Dennen, Michael Kilgarriff, Jerry Nelson, Thick Wilson, John Baddeley, David Buck, Charles Collingwood, Steve Whitmire, Brian Muehl, Sean Barrett, Miki Iveria, Patrick Monckton, Sue Weatherby, and Josephy O’Conor. The film grossed $40.6 million at the box office and was nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Special Effects, the BAFTA Award for Best Visual Effects and the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. It won the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film and the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival Grand Prize.
Nearly one thousand years ago, the Dark Crystal cracked on the day of the Great Conjunction of the planet Thra’s three suns. This caused two new races to emerge. One, the aggressive and evil Skeksis and the good and passive Mystics. Centuries later, the Skeksis discover a prophecy stating that Gelflings would heal the crystal and undo their reign so they killed all of them. However, two have survived and set out to fulfill the prophecy.
An enjoyably dark fantasy, The Dark Crystal is a great film as well as one that does a great job of throwing the audience into a dying world. In the very beginning, the film states that the Skeksis have ruled for a thousand years but the land is now dying with only 10 left and one Gelfling alive to fulfill the prophecy. Though many films have thrown viewers into the middle or end of their worlds like this before, this one is particularly notable as what comes after the introduction. It delivers on showing a world that was once vibrant and full of life but has become desolate and barren thanks to the Skeksis. Further, since it’s apparent that at least one Gelfling has survived to carry out his end of the prophecy, seeing this world in such desolation after an explanation that it’s about to be healed sucks the audience to make them want to see just what happens.
All of that sets up for this great adventure by Jen, the Gelfling tasked by the Mystics to restore the world of Thra, who travels through the world that the filmmakers have set up. Along the way, Jen comes across some pretty fascinating characters and creatures, both friend and foe alike. For one, there’s Aughra, an astronomer who can remove her one eye at will and use it anywhere she wants. She only believes that Jen is a Gelfling because he looks and smells like one. There’s also Kira, the only other Gelfling that was left alive after the Skeksis destroyed all of them because she was taken in by Podlings after they were killed. The Garthim the Skeksis send after the two Gelflings are pretty great as well, with all of these beings and the destinations Jen and Kira come across on their journey showing how Henson was not only a masterful creator of characters, but a great world-builder as well.
What’s really great about the Skeksis and the Mystics is how they’re two different halves of the same immortal creatures that ruled Thra before the Crystal cracked. As such, their fates are distinctly tied making it so that a Mystic will die when the corresponding Skeksis dies as well. T vhis is seen twice: the first being when Jen’s master and the ruling Skeksis both die and again when a Skeksis falls down a chasm, causing the Mystic half to disappear in a very sparkly manner.
The Skeksis may not have started out as blatantly evil creatures, instead slowly becoming that way after generations of passionate hedonism made it so they rotted from the inside out. These characters have the appearance of ghastly birds and value strength and cunning more than anything. They’re also not very smart, seeing as one of them stabbed Kira after she throws the Shard to Jen, causing them to lose any sort of advantage they had over him.
On the other hand, the Mystics are pacifistic and virtuous side of the immortal race. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re perfect characters. Rather, they’re so nonviolent that they have to send a more assertive creature, Jen, to fix the world. Further, where the Skeksis are living extravagantly in a castle, the Mystics live as humble hermits.
It all combines to bring the audience a great film that drops them into a dying world and takes them on an adventure to revitalize it as well as make the immortal race whole once more.