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. Just for this alone he should be
He showed the way a fantasy movie should be made, but nobody in Hollywood
seems to have learned anything from it.
It always amazes me how few people seem to have watched The Dark Crystal. I understand the movie suffered on original release 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. If you're one of those people who haven't seen it 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 today), 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.
The Dark Crystal is an epic masterpiece. An unforgettable experience. It's
a magical, mystical timeless classic. I really can't recommend it enough. Do yourself a favor and track down a copy.
Matt has a passion for just about anything from the 1980s, and prides himself on never having seen the movie Grease.