With the impending new series, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, coming to Netflix, what better time to remind everyone of the late great Jim Henson’s and the still live and kicking Frank Oz’s epic story, The Dark Crystal was where it all started.
In another time, another place, a cataclysmic event shattered a magical crystal, causing the existence of two new races; the cruel Skeksis who use the power from the now ‘dark’ crystal to replenish their lives and the gentle wizard Mystics. Thousands of years later, an astronomical event is about to take place. Id the crystal is not restored, the Skeksis will be in power forever. The Mystics preach of a prophecy that a Gelfing will restore the crystal and save the planet. That young Gelfling is Jen, supposed last of his kind after the Skeksis slaughtered his race, is tasked with finding the missing shard. Along the way he meets Kira, the other last Gelfling, Fizzgig her loyal pet and Aughra, an astronomer who predicts when ‘the Great Conjunction’ will happen.
The magical world of Thra and it’s fantastical creatures, all created by the puppeteer master Jim Henson, looks and feels like no other film of it’s genre. Meant for children, the terrifying Skeksis and the fate of those that look upon a crystal, their life essence drained away, not to mention the massacre of Gelfling shown briefly in a dream, it seems rather a difficult sell. But with the friendlier creatures and the fan favourite, Fizzgig, there is a balance. The Dark Crystal, at its heart, is a story of two sides. The Skeksis and the Mystics are two sides of one being. Hinted at throughout the story as the oldest and wisest Mystic disappears in stars and shimmer, while at the same time the Emperor Skeksis decays and crumbles away. Even the ‘dark’ crystal itself has a purer brighter side, which is revealed. Exploring the good and bad sides of all things feels like a familiar trope of the fantasy genre, as well as the hero’s destiny to save a world, planet or home. Both Jen and Kira are Gelfling, one without the other would not be able to restore the crystal and crushes the hero’s destiny part of the story. The prophecy says a Gelfling, no gender mentioned, will save the world.
What makes The Dark Crystal a unique exploration in the fantasy genre is the use of puppets. The characters being brought to life by a puppeteer, sometimes more than one, enhances the art and design of the film. Without the distraction of animated scenes integrated within the story or the use of early CGI, there is an authentic feel that is only matched by Henson’s other 80s cult classic, Labyrinth.
To tempt those faithful Fizzgig followers into buying this Anniversary edition, there is an all new behind the scenes documentary exploring the myth, the magic and Henson legacy. As well as new features on the disc, there is a booklet full of rare archival photos and stories about the making of this cult film. For hardcore fans and for those looking to see what all the fuss is about, these added sweeteners make the 4K restoration a worth while purchase.
As a childhood favourite among the 20-30 something film fans, the anniversary edition brings on a wave of nostalgia and a hopeful look to the new TV series which is said to use the same techniques as it’s the original film. As a film that features a character such as Aughra, an inspiration for any girls out there wanting to become an astronomer, The Dark Crystal will always be fantasy masterpiece.
Dir: Jim Henson, Frank Oz
Scr: David Odell
Prd: Jim Henson, Gary Kurtz
Cast: Stephen Garlick, Lisa Maxwell, Billie Whitelaw, Percy Edwards, Barry Dennen
DoP: Oswald Morris
Music: Trevor Jones
Country: USA, UK
Runtime: 93 minutes
The Dark Crystal Anniversary Edition is available on Blu ray on March 5th