Holy Shit! How awesome is The Dark Crystal. Seriously, this is not some critical insight on the movie or a new view of it that hasn’t been stated already. This is just a conscious stream of praise from 19 year old that just saw this movie for the first time.I’ve always had fondness for Muppets but that fondness didn’t kick in until I was well into my teens. As a child, I was high strung and easily frightened and the Muppets were horrifying to me at that time in my life. I loved Sesame Street just as much as any other kid but there was something so fundamentally off-putting about the Muppets from their own show. I believe it was Jim Henson’s intent to make his Muppets ugly and bizarre so he could delve into more adult matter without people being suspicious of the use of puppets involved.
Anyway, that was me then, this is me now. Now I love Muppets and how they toy with how adult their situations can be almost mocking the cheery goodwill of their siblings at Sesame Street or their inbred bastard children at Fraggle Rock. Which brings me to The Dark Crystal, a brave attempt to make a live action puppet orchestrated fantasy/adventure film with some dark undercurrents but an overall family friendly approach. This movie was snubbed back in 1982, the Renaissance “Geek” year in movies. This was a due to the mentioned ambiance and competition with the even more family-approved E.T.
But now we’ve come to see that this is a film that can stand the test of time. The special effects are mostly that good. This is pure
fantasy 101 for film except that it works in every regard. What impresses me most about this film is the commitment. They really strive to create a new world, inventive creatures and evocative locations. There’s a hint of homage to all of the elements in the film but one could argue that every fantasy film requires some inspiration. Even films as memorable as Star Wars are filled with tributes to older science fiction works of arts. It’s the execution that really matters and The Dark Crystal pulls it off in spades.
One aspect I think is extremely important to fantasy films is the music. Some would see the music as a miniscule thing but I find it easier to transport myself to a different time and place if the music is grand and majestic enough. Trever Jones’ score is such a score that completely sucks me into this new universe. It has a slightly haunting quality while never losing the beauty of the landscape.
Now I would not be a proper movie critic if I didn’t have some small complaints. The first isn’t even a negative comment. At a spare 93 minutes, I could have stood for the movie to be a little bit longer. The relationship between Kira and Jem is established but not really concentrated on. I would have loved to have a few more intimate moments between these two to really drive the conclusion home. My other small complaint is that at times, Jem looks a little too much like a puppet. Sometime he would jerk in an awkward way or his face would not be expressive enough and it would momentarily take me out of the moment. But these
moments are few and only serve as momentary distractions.
Small complaints aside, this is a great movie. Not just good for a puppet movie or even just for a fantasy movie. This is just simply
a great movie through and through. It makes a nice companion piece to The Labyrinth, though I feel some Bowie-esque elements make the latter subjective to be seen as dated. The Dark Crystal, however, is the type of cult film that can be passed down to generations and still be enjoyed.