Looking Back At THE DARK CRYSTAL - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad


In anticipation of the upcoming prequel, Matt Donabie looks back at the 1982 Jim Henson movie The Dark Crystal.

The Dark Crystal is a film so overflowing with invention that you literally have to watch it about 100 times just to take it all in. Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and everyone involved in the production gave it such loving affection, and produced a film which is the absolute best it could possibly be. It's the perfect balance between a kids movie and a fantasy movie for adult viewers, which adds substantial credibility to the world Henson created for this story. For this alone he should be praised, as Henson showed the way a successful crossover fantasy movie should be made.

It always amazes me how few people seem to have watched The Dark Crystal. On original release it faltered in the cinema, thanks to the continued strength of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial which was initially released 6 months prior in the Summer of 1982 but enjoyed a second box-office run over that year's Christmas period, just as The Dark Crystal was released. It just doesn't seem to be as widely remembered as, say, Labyrinth (for reasons I'll get to), but between the two I always felt this was ripe for continuation.That's now, sort of, happening. Netflix have funded a prequel which looks amazing. But if you're one of those people who haven't seen the original film, then let me tell you, you're in for a treat. I will try to do it justice.

The Dark Crystal is set in another world, in another time, in an age of wonder. A thousand years previous on the planet Thra a life-giving crystal cracked and stopping shining. Since then the land has become barren and the Urskeks (a race of God-like beings) have split into two separate races, the peaceful Uru 'Mystics' and the evil Skeksis - a horrific cross between bird and reptile. The three suns that shine upon the land are about to line up in a great conjunction that only happens once every 1000 years. If the crystal is not repaired before then the cruel Skeksis will rule the land forever.

Jen is an elf-like Gelfling believed to be the last of his race. A prophecy tells of a single Gelfling defeating the Skeksis and restoring peace to the land. Raised by the Uru, Jen begins a journey to repair the crystal when the Skeksis Emperor dies. On his way he meets Aughra, a sort of witch creature and another Gelfling called Kirathat, along with her race of Podling people. Jen and Kira discover that they have a telepathic connection, which Kira calls "dreamfasting". We then follow their quest to the crystals chamber - it's almost Tolkien-est.

The Dark Crystal was filmed in some stunning locations across England and Scotland, often complimented by the use of matte paintings, but from the opening moment the film really does take you to another world. There's not a single human in sight and, with exception to the awful Skeksis, almost every creature is cute and fluffy - such as Kira's pet Fizzgig.

Brian Froud was the man responsible for the sculpting and creation of the puppet Gelflings, Jen and Kirathat, you really can't underestimate his contribution to the movie as they are some of the best creatures to ever appear in a Jim Henson production. Henson, Oz and Froud teamed up again in 1986 for Labyrinth, a movie which seems to be more fondly remembered (and a sequel is apparently being worked on), possibly because it's much lighter, not as sinister as The Dark Crystal and has human actors in it to make it more accessible.

I must also give mention to the work of Trevor Jones, who composed a breathtaking, beautiful score. It's among his best work and really is some of the best in-film music you are ever likely to hear.

I, along with countless fans of the original film, have longed for a return to planet Thra for nearly 40 years now. A feature-length sequel was announced a decade ago. Entitled The Power of the Dark Crystal, it seemed to be stuck in a state of development hell. After director Louis Leterrier came onboard that changed to a prequel film, but still stuck in limbo as, according to Leterrier, all the large studios repeatedly turned down funding the film as they were only interested in Transformers. Also, he stated that many executives he encountered had never even heard of The Dark Crystal, let alone watched it!

The project was eventually sold to Netflix after Leterrier found a studio executive who shared the team's enthusiasm for the original film. Leterrier has said that the reasons he chose a prequel series rather than a film sequel was because of the richness of material available in Jim Henson and Frank Oz's notes on the events leading up to the original film.

The source material, the writing team, the vocal performers, the use of puppetry over CGI, all of this is why I'm so excited for this new series. It seems to have been put together with so much love, care and attention by a large group of people who are also clearly fans of Henson's original work.

If you're like one of those studio executives and have not at least watched The Dark Crystal then I can't urge you enough to rectify that. It's an epic masterpiece, which once watched becomes an instantly unforgettable experience. It's on Netflix so there's no excuse, and with the prequel series, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, just around the corner, now is the perfect time to submerge yourself into this magical, mystical timeless classic.

Post Top Ad