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Original Theatrical Exhibition Poster

The 1982 fantasy film directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz.

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A Much Overlooked Gem!

  • Jan 16, 2002
Rating:
+5
Pros: Beautiful from beginning to end.

Cons: Too often passed over!

The Bottom Line: A Henson masterpiece suitable for most ages from child to adult. Younger kids may find some characters or situations frightening.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

I was raised on the innovative form of animation given to us by the marvelous Jim Henson. From Kermit the Frog to the goblins in the Labyrinth, this creative genius managed to invent creatures and worlds of such depth, wonder, and jocularity that they will be delighting audiences of all ages for years to come! Sadly, Henson is no longer with us although the Jim Henson Company continues to delight and amaze, and while the creator himself will be sorely missed, his creations remain to comfort us.

Dark Crystal is a brilliant and daring piece of Henson’s work that is often overlooked. Development for this film began in 1977 although shooting did not start until 1981, and it wasn’t released until 1982. Henson was so taken with the illustrations of Brian Froud, that he asked Froud to create an elaborate visual world in which he could bring a unique tale to life. This was to be the first fully animatronic feature film and who better to further the world of Puppetmation than Jim Henson?

The Story:

Long ago the Dark Crystal was damaged through the arrogance and greed of the Urskeks and an age of peace came to an end. Now control is divided between the evil, power-hungry Skekis and the peaceful, wise Mystics. Jen and Kira are the last of the Gelfling race which was destroyed or driven out long ago due to a now nearly forgotten prophecy. Only a Gelfling can heal the crystal and bring an end to this era of chaos. The Skekis, of course, have no desire to loose their positions of power and will stop at nothing to eliminate any possibility of the Prophecy succeeding...

The range of visual treats in this film is limitless. I have been enjoying this film for ~gulp~ 20 years now, and I still find new aspects to delight me! The verdant world that surrounds the characters, the delicate grace of the Gelflings, the gentleness of the large, homely, four-armed Mystics, the down-to-earth appeal of the placid Podlings, the shriveled horror of the Skekis, the gruff kindness of the witch Ogma, and the sterile intimidation presented in the Garthim servants all contrast greatly. Yet somehow they compliment each other perfectly and complete each other in ways one cannot explain. Very much like the real world! Although this was made to entertain children, this classic tale of Good vs. Evil is quite a lush, vivid, spellbinding treat for film buffs of any age!

I was lucky enough to catch the Jim Henson exhibit at our local Children’s Museum one summer and I was even more entranced than the troop of Brownie Girl Scouts that we took there. Of course, I probably paid a lot more attention to the storyboards that they had on display at the exhibit than the girls did, but a great time was had by all. It was quite a thrill to see the actual puppets used in the making of this film. The beetle-like Garthim were nearly as strange and intimidating in person Without anyone animating them, as they had been in Dark Crystal. I was also quite surprised at how Large the Mystics are! They must weigh a ton, and I marveled anew at the skill of the many puppeteers who helped to make this lovely film.

Fraggle Rock, Sesame Street, Mopatop’s Shop, The Muppet Show, the Muppet movies, Labyrinth, Star Wars…the list of creations with which Henson has touched the lives of children and adults around the world is truly impressive when viewed as a whole.

I will never forget the sheer wonder that filled me at having the opportunity to sing a room full of Girl Scouts and Scout Leaders to sleep while I perched on the edge of Big Bird’s nest, yet of all the displays we viewed in that long evening it was the creations of Dark Crystal that I came back to most often. It was a marvel just to be able to stand before them and let their unique beauty fill my eyes. If you have somehow missed this masterful Henson creation, I sincerely invite you to explore this exceptional world of wonder.


Recommended:
Yes

Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: None of the Above
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 9 - 12

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October 08, 2010
This was required viewing back when it was released. It'ssad that so many people won't venture into the stacks of a video store and refuse to watch anything but new releases. Oh well. They're the ones who are losing out.
 
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More The Dark Crystal reviews
review by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I had mixed feelings about The Dark Crystal. The puppet animation holds up surprisingly well even in the age of digital animation. Some of the scenes are beautiful, such as the heroes rowing on the lake with papyrus. The movements are generally smooth and not jerky. It shows Jim Henson's genius with puppets. My problem with the movie is with the human side - the script and voice acting. Sometimes, it seems the scriptwriters got lazy and just copied scenes from Star Wars, including characters suspiciously …
Quick Tip by . October 06, 2009
One of the most spectacular fantasy films ever!!! This Jim Henson-directed film features all puppet characters & philosophical depth. =D
review by . February 27, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
Jim Henson was one of the greatest artists and filmmakers of the 20th century. It took awhile for his genius to be appreciated in the United States, but over a decade since his death people are finally beginning to recognize the mastery of his creative mind. For example, THE DARK CRYSTAL. The film had a fairly decent run when it was originally released in theatres in 1982. However, the film wasn't acknowledged or heralded for the creative and complex masterpiece that it is until recently.THE DARK …
About the reviewer
Quinn Blackburn ()
Ranked #10
Hello, my name is Quinn... yes, that really is my first name. :o) I also answer to Mom, and occasionally Entwife. I enjoy Beauty wherever I find it... Nature, Music, Art in all its forms... I believe … more
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Wiki

Jim Henson's fantasy epic The Dark Crystal doesn't take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but like Star Wars it takes the audience to a place that exists only in the imagination and, for an hour and a half, on the screen. Recalling the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien, Henson tells the story of a race of grotesque birdlike lizards called the Skeksis, gnomish dragons who rule their fantastic planet with an iron claw. A prophecy tells of a Gelfling (a small elfin being) who will topple their empire, so in their reign of terror they have exterminated the race, or so they think. The orphan Jen, raised in solitude by a race of peace-loving wizards called the Mystics, embarks on a quest to find the missing shard of the Dark Crystal (which gives the Skeksis their power) and restore the balance of the universe. Henson and co-director Frank Oz have pushed puppetry into a new direction: traditional puppets, marionettes, giant bodysuits, and mechanical constructions are mixed seamlessly in a fantasy world of towering castles, simple huts, dank caves, a giant clockwork observatory, and a magnificent landscape that seem to have leaped off the pages of a storybook. Muppet fans will recognize many of the voice actors--a few characters sound awfully close to familiar comic creations--but otherwise it's a completely alien world made familiar by a mythic quest that resonates through stories over the ages.--Sean Axmaker
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Details

Director: Frank Oz, Jim Henson
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Release Date: Dec. 1982
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: Jim Henson, David Odell
DVD Release Date: October 5, 1999
Runtime: 93 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
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