The_Dark_Crystal_Film_PosterUniversal Pictures
1982
PG

“Another Great Conjunction coming up! Anything could happen! Whole WORLD might burn up!”

1000 years ago the Dark Crystal was damaged by one of the Urskeks and an age of chaos began. Now the time of the great conjunction of the three suns is near. If the crystal is not healed now the control of the evil Skekses will last forever. Jen the last of the Gelflings nearly exterminated by monsters controlled by the Skekses starts his dangerous journey to find the missing shard of the crystal. Will he be able to heal the crystal and restore order on the planet?

I absolutely adore this movie. I remember the first time I saw this — it was on my Uncle Jerry’s Beta Max. I was 10. And this was the summer of 1984. I remember at first being kind of miffed that this was a Jim Henson movie, and yet Kermit and his plushy minions were nowhere to be found. I got over that whiny indignation soon enough, though, and got drawn into the dark fantasy world of the noble Mystics, the malevolent Skeksis, and the lone Gelfling on a quest to fulfill his destiny in a much larger purpose. Mind you, the story didn’t matter much to me then as did the visuals of the movie — dark and fascinating.

After acquiring the DVD of this movie as part of my Reclaiming My Squandered Childhood collection, and re-watching it a couple of times, it surprises me at how well The Dark Crystal held my attention after all these years. Considering that the summer of ’84 was the only time I watched the movie before now, that should say something.

Granted, compared to the crop of children-based fantasy adventure movies that have been coming out recently, the pacing may be really slow, and the effects somewhat primitive. There are flaws, yes, and personally I would have preferred a live child actor playing the part of the Gelfling, interacting with the creature creations, rather than being a Muppet as well* (seriously, the Muppet looked like Tom Cruise mated with one of the Fraggles from Fraggle Rock there). But, The Dark Crystal has a certain charm to it. The story is your standard quest theme, with the Last Of His Kind character searching for the Object Of Much Desire to Fulfill the Great Prophecy. What I find charming about The Dark Crystal is the use of Muppets as opposed to the CGI on the more modern child fantasy movies. Maybe it was the era I grew up in, but the fantasy world here seems much more tangible to me. And yes, I do prefer the Empire Strikes Back Yoda to the Prequel CGI Yoda.

The Dark Crystal was a failure at the box office when it was released, probably because, since most associate Jim Henson with The Muppet Show and the Muppet Movies, the public at large was expecting more light hearted fare with lovable characters to take their children to. Instead, they were treated to a dark fantasy tale, filled with scary and grotesque characters and very little by way of humor. I’m pretty sure being released the same year as E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial didn’t help much, either. I loved it, but then again I was a weird kid. I would say, if you love movies like Labyrinth and Willow, give The Dark Crystal a place in your collection. Recommended…

[* Technically, the creatures aren’t considered “Muppets” because, according to Wikipedia, they were made by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, and not by The Jim Henson Company…but, for lack of better words, I’m using “Muppets”…sue me… – Uncle NecRo]