The Dark Crystal (1982)

I Hate Your Whimper!

I may have the day off for Thanksgiving, but I don’t have the day off my reviews.  Thems is non-stop, all day every day!  Turkey Day’s movie is a movie picked at random from Netflix Streaming, as I have been doing recently, and is also one that I’ve heard about for a really long time, yet never gotten around to watching.  It’s generally regarded as a classic, but it has eluded me until this Day of Eat Turkey.  This movie is The Dark Crystal, written and directed by Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and David Odell, and starring the voices of Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Lisa Maxwell, Billie Whitelaw, Percy Edwards, Barry Dennen, and Michael Kilgarriff.

Jen (Stephen Garlick) is the last of an Elfen race of puppets called Gelflings who lives with a manattee group called the Mystics until his master dies after telling him he has to find a shard of the Dark Crystal and ram it into the back door of the greater part of the Dark Crystal.  Jen sets off to look for Aughra (Billie Whitelaw), a crazy old lady who lives in an observatory.  Jen retrieves the shard from her and is immediately attacked by some black crab creatures called Garthim, sent by the big bad creatures, some evil, Vulture-lookin’ things called the Skeksis.  They’re trying to stop Jen because a prophecy has foretold that a Gelfling will stop them from achieving immortality at a planetary alignment that happens in a few days.  Jen escapes and soon comes across Kira (Lisa Maxwell), a female Gelfling and cock-blocker for Jen’s former title of “Last of the Gelflings”.  Jen forgives her, and together they go to fulfill their destiny.

Unfortunately, I fell like this movie also suffers from the same curse of being talked up too high as other movies I have reviewed.  This is a good movie, but the talk I had heard about this movie was that it was amazing.  I would probably give it my assumption that this movie was pretty amazing at it’s time, but I didn’t see it then.  Since this movie preceded Labyrinth, this is the first big, puppet movie that I know of.  Unfortunately, I feel like my current age causes a certain degree of disinterest in puppets.  That being said, it’s still an accomplishment and enjoyable to watch, but it feels a bit dated.  The settings and props in this movie were all pretty spectacular and well built.  I especially like the the observatory contraption in Aughra’s place.  You could tell a lot of time went in to these sets.  The puppets themselves, however, were occasionally hit and miss.  The puppets for the Mystics and the Skeksis allowed for them to put a lot of personality into the performances, but the Mystics were barely in the movie and they just went overboard in making the Skeksis seem overly disgusting, especially in the dinner scene that served no purpose other than to show their awful table manners.  The Gelfling and the Podling puppets, however, did not allow for a lot of emoting from their mask-like faces.  It didn’t matter for the part ewok, part Jar Jar, part Fraggle Rockian Podlings because they were scarce in the movie, but the stars of the movie were those Gelflings.  I feel like they should’ve put a little more articulation into their faces to keep them from looking so creepy.  Those crab-like Garthim things, though, were pretty badass and scary.

The story of the movie is pretty classic, but still good.  You’ve got the whole rags to riches type thing, though the riches is more just fulfilling his destiny.  You have a love interest, a big bad guy, a potential cataclysm, and a happy ending.  The thing that struck me as strange about this movie is that it was a Jim Henson movie and seemed like the kind of movie that would attract kids, but there was a lot of hardcore fucking in it.  No, I’m kidding.  What actually surprised me was how much death was in this movie.  In the opening narration, every other word is “death”.  A lot of things died during the course of the movie as well.  It wasn’t gory or anything, but it seemed to include more mature topics than I would expect out of a movie I assume is for kids.  There was also one part that made me laugh.  Jen and Kira came up on a place that made Kira say “Bad things happened here once.  Now we don’t go in there.”  That must really limit the amount of places you can go, right?  Bad things have happened a lot of places.  “Oh, I don’t go in my bathroom.  I stubbed my toe in there once.  But I REALLY haveta go.”

I kind of talked about the performances already when talking about the puppets, and since there wasn’t really any live action in this movie, I’ll have to skip the performances.  The sound did occur to me at one point.  For the most part, the sound was very good.  It seemed to be an orchestra and usually fit the scene, but there were a couple of points where something exciting was happening and the music wasn’t really swelling as it should in such a scene.  It seemed like the music was there and trying to support the action, but someone forgot to turn up the volume.

I wish I had seen this movie when I was younger, so that the memory of loving it then would help me love it now.  I saw Labyrinth when I was younger, and I still really like that movie.  I still appreciated this movie for it’s achievement, but also wish the main character’s puppets had more articulating faces.  The story was fine, the sound could’ve been mixed better, but it was a fine movie.  I feel comfortable saying you should watch this movie, but you probably won’t like it as much as you would if you saw it when you were young.  The Dark Crystal gets “Sometimes good.  Sometimes bad” out of “Heal the Crystal!”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!

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