Movie Review: The Dark Crystal
One of my favorite childhood movies was “The Dark Crystal” by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. The movie was released in 1982, but I don’t think I saw it until a few years later. I remember watching it on home on a VHS tape, which probably makes it one of the first movies my parents bought on VHS for my sister and I. I was probably seven or so the first time I saw it and I remember loving the sheer physical beauty of the sets and costumes and puppetry as well as thrilling to the adventure of the story. I also remember loving the music and I can still hear the bars of the haunting, lovely, eerie theme in my head as I write today. The art was created by Brian Froud, of Faeries fame, and shows his characteristic touch of wild beauty.
In the story a young boy, Jen, who believes he is the last of a race called gelflings, is sent by his dying master (of a race called Mystics) to find a crystal shard. He sets out alone, following his master’s instructions, and soon encounters another gelfling, a girl called Kira. She joins him on his quest and they learn that the shard is a piece of a great crystal that was fractured long ago. Its fracturing caused it to become dark, and brought division and decay in their land as the evil Skeksis came to power. The gelflings must return the shard to the crystal before the three suns of their world align in order to heal the crystal and prevent the Skeksis from ruling forever. As they are learning all of this the Mystics are also journeying to the castle. Jen and Kira infiltrate the palace of the Skeksis, where the great crystal resides, and after many adventures Jen is able to return the shard to the crystal. The Skeksis and Mystics merge into shining beings, made one again through the healing of the crystal. They charge Jen and Kira to care for their world and depart in a whirl of light.
I wouldn’t recommend this movie for young children or even for sensitive older children unless you plan to watch it with them (which I do recommend, for many reasons, not least of which is the delight of sharing the experience!). I can remember being quite frightened by parts of the movie when I first watched it, although my younger sister didn’t seem to be. The Skeksis capture other creatures and wring life essence out of them by torture to prolong their own lives, which is shown in the film and provides some very vivid and scary scenes. The Skeksis themselves and their creatures, the Garthim, were intended to be monsters and the film creators did a thorough job at making them dreadful. However I remember watching the movie over and over again, as young children will do, despite being frightened. Perhaps being frightened wasn’t so terrible for me, or perhaps what I got from the movie was worth it regardless. I am sure I didn’t fully understand the story, but it has stayed with me over decades of life as something beautiful and well loved. At its heart it is a story of courage, love and perseverance bringing healing into a broken world. In times such as these, we all need stories like that.