Dark Crystal, The (1982)

Dark Crystal, The (1982)

“Now I’ve got the shard — but what do I do with it?”

A thousand years ago on the planet Thra, a young Gelfling named Jen (Jim Henson) who’s been raised by the gentle Mystics joins forces with fellow Gelfling Kira (Kathryn Mullen) in helping to retrieve a crystal shard from ornery Aughra (Frank Oz) and bringing it to the Crystal Chamber, all while fighting off the Garthim warriors sent by the vulture-like Skeksis.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Animated Films
  • Coming-of-Age
  • Fantasy
  • Search

Famed puppeteer Jim Henson based the philosophy of this feature-length fantasy film on the Seth Material, a series of lectures dictated by psychic medium Jane Roberts to her husband between 1963-1984. If this sounds like a woo-woo basis for a flick, it most certainly is — and is likely part of why I struggled to engage with the storyline. According to Wikipedia: “The core teachings of the Seth Material are based on the principle that consciousness creates matter, that each person creates his or her own reality through thoughts, beliefs and expectations, and that the ‘point of power’ through which the individual can affect change is in the present moment.” This would explain lines like the following:

“End, begin, all the same. Big change. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad.”
“Hold her to you, for she is part of you, as we all are part of each other.”
“He taught me the Shapes of Kindness, except there are no more like me.”

There is a crystal shard that needs placing into the existing crystal in order for a prophecy to be fulfilled:

… so that at least gives a bit of material heft to the narrative (along with Jen and Kira trying to rescue captured Podlings from having the life essence drained out of them).

Meanwhile, the animation was groundbreaking for the time, and is certainly impressively done — but as much as Henson, co-director Frank Oz, and conceptual designer Brian Froud strove to craft a brand new world (and the level of detail here is truly impressive), I simply couldn’t get the Muppets out of my head.

I’m clearly a grump about the flick, so I should acknowledge that it has many diehard fans (i.e., a cult following), and is considered formative in many ways. It’s just not a movie I’ll choose to revisit.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Impressive sets and overall design

Must See?
No, unless you’re curious.


One thought on “Dark Crystal, The (1982)

  1. First viewing (8/9/19). Not must-see, but grown-up FFs who are looking for an offbeat cult item to share with their budding-FF kids may want to have a look.

    (I will add here that I think I was completely oblivious of the inspiration the script takes from the Seth Material – and most likely I viewed the film strictly in fantasy terms, which is to say not all that deeply.)

    As posted in ‘Film Junkie’ (fb):

    “But there is a prophecy. A thousand years have passed and now once more the world must undergo a time of testing.”

    ‘The Dark Crystal’: I’m not sure why I didn’t see this film on its release in 1982. Or, for that matter, anytime since. It popped up on Netflix and I realized I hadn’t seen it.

    ‘Sesame Street’ folk Jim Henson and Frank Oz wanted to create something darker (and, no doubt, more challenging) as a feature film. This from Wikipedia: “According to co-director Frank Oz, Henson’s intention was to ‘get back to the darkness of the original Grimms’ Fairy Tales’, as he believed that it was unhealthy for children to never be afraid.”

    They concocted a fantasy tale involving two tribes that are dying out (one wise, one destructive); their ultimate fates are to be decided in accordance with the result of a prophecy soon to be fulfilled. Even though the film was all done with puppets and was marketed as family fare, many parents felt it was too dark for their kids. It did turn a profit of sorts but, rather than being a hit, the film developed cult status over time.

    Personally, I rather enjoyed it. An abundance of creativity went into its making – and I appreciated the film’s concluding message. From this project, concept artist Brian Froud would continue his collaboration with Henson and Oz for their next film, ‘Labyrinth’.

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