The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal

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The Dark Crystal
Directed by Jim Henson
Frank Oz
Produced by Jim Henson
David Lazer
Written by Jim Henson
David Odell
Starring Stephen Garlick
Lisa Maxwell
Billie Whitelaw
Music by Trevor Jones
Cinematography Oswald Morris
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) December 17, 1982 (U.S.)
Running time 93 min.
Country Flag of the United States United States
Language English
Budget $15,000,000 (USD) (estimated)
Followed by Power of the Dark Crystal (2009)
IMDb profile

The Dark Crystal is a 1982 fantasy film directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. Like most of Henson’s other work, its characters are Muppets. The Muppet Show characters for which he is famous do not appear, but some of the same performers are used. Character and creature designs in the movie are by Brian Froud. The screenplay was written by David Odell, who had worked with Henson as a staff writer on The Muppet Show. Trevor Jones provided the film’s atmospheric music. The movie makes an attempt to study the nature of good and evil in terms of conscience, vital drive, and the triune nature of harmony. The film was produced by ITC Entertainment – the British production company responsible for producing The Muppet Show.

The book titled The World of The Dark Crystal, written by Brian Froud, was released at the same time as the film. The book gives much of the story background presented in this article.

Contents

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Plot

The film takes place on Thra, a planet with three suns; the Great Sun, the Rose Sun and the Dying Sun. Many creatures and races inhabit the planet, but the dominant race is the urSkeks, who are the guardians of the Crystal of Truth. The Crystal harnesses the forces of nature, especially the light of the three suns, for the benefit of all on Thra.

One thousand years before the beginning of the movie, during the Great Conjunction of the three suns, the urSkeks cracked the Crystal of Truth, and split into two races – the hunchbacked, gentle beings known as Mystics (or urRu in the original drafts and novelization), and the vulture-like, cruel bipedal beings known as Skeksis. In that moment the Crystal became the Dark Crystal. The Skeksis drove the Mystics from the castle where the shattered crystal resided and then instituted a reign of terror over their world. Their wrath was particularly directed toward the elf-like Gelflings due to a prophecy that promised the restoration of the crystal and the end of the Skeksis’ power. The prophecy, rediscovered in an ancient Gelfling city, read:

When single shines the triple sun,
What was sundered and undone
Shall be whole, the two made one,
By Gelfling hand, or else by none.

Jen believes he is the last of the Gelflings. After his parents were killed by the crustacean-like Garthim conjured by the Skeksis, he was raised in a lush valley in which the Mystics reside. The Mystic who has raised him is dying, and he calls Jen to his side and reveals that his destiny is to “heal” the crystal by replacing the shard found at Aughra‘s observatory. The emperor of the Skeksis dies at the same time that the Mystic does. In a duel over the succession called Haakskeekah (trial by stone), the Chamberlain SkekSil is defeated by SkekUng, the Garthim Master, and is banished and driven from the palace in rags.

Jen reaches Aughra, a wise woman character of unknown species, and discovers the actual crystal shard by playing music on his flute, to which it resonates. He must unify the shard with the crystal from which it sprang in time for the Great Conjunction, when his world’s three suns will be aligned with one another. If the conjunction occurs before the Crystal is healed, the state of their world will become permanent with the Skeksis ruling forever as immortals. Garthim arrive and destroy Aughra’s observatory, capturing Aughra while Jen has a narrow escape.

Meanwhile, the Mystics hear the call of the Crystal, and begin their trek back to the castle.

By a river, Jen is frightened by a ball-shaped, dog-like pet known as Fizzgig and meets another Gelfling, Kira, whose existence he never suspected. They stay for a night amongst the bulbous Podlings who raised Kira and are then attacked by Garthim there. Kira, Jen, and Fizzgig escape the attack, but many Podlings are captured by the Garthim. In frustration and despair, feeling responsible for the Garthim raid, Jen discards the crystal shard. Kira reassures him that he had nothing to do with the attack,’ It wasn’t your fault… the Garthim have always come.

In the morning, as they awaken, they discover one of the houses of the old Gelfling City, where Jen cites the prophecy of the Crystal and recovers the shard, although Kira faces apprehension about entering the ruins (“Bad things happened in here once” is her sentiment). Jen and Kira are confronted by the disgraced SkekSil, who offers to help them, but they refuse. Riding on furry, long-legged Landstriders, the Gelflings quickly arrive at the castle of the crystal, just in time to see the Garthim that attacked Kira’s village. Kira, followed by Jen, ride to attack the Garthim and try to free the captured Podlings while the Landstriders fight the Garthim to distract them from the rescue effort.

The Gelflings fail to rescue the Podlings and find the Garthim, after subduing the Landstriders, closing in on them at the edge of the deep, rocky moat that encircles the castle. Sweeping Jen and Fizzgig into her arms, Kira jumps off the cliff… revealing that female Gelflings have wings. At the bottom of the gully, Jen and Kira end up at the Teeth of the Skreesh, an undefended sewer entrance to the lower parts of the castle. SkekSil meets them again and attempts to convince them to offer peace to the Skeksis. As Jen and Kira attempt to escape, SkekSil grabs Kira’s arm in protest. Worried for Kira’s safety, Jen strikes SkekSil, using the crystal shard as a dagger, wounding SkekSil’s arm. Concurrently, a Mystic suffers a spontaneous wound on his arm in the same location. During this time Fizzgig also attacked SkekSil by biting him and renting chunks of cloth from his ragged robes. Enraged, SkekSil forces Jen into a wall, inciting a cave-in. SkekSil then takes Kira prisoner, believing Jen to be dead.

For capturing Kira, SkekSil is restored to his position as Chamberlain. The Skeksis require Gelflings to make their “everlasting essence”, a potion that restores youth and strength. The emperor decides to regain his youth by draining Kira’s life essence. It is revealed that the potency of the “everlasting essence” and the Crystal prophecy feared by the Skeksis fueled their genocide of the Gelflings. Only a few drops of the “everlasting essence” are drawn from Kira before she calls out to the animals imprisoned in the laboratory, who break free and attack the Skeksis overseer, SkekTek. SkekTek falls back into a volcanic pit, killing him. Concurrently, one of the mystics travelling to the castle disintegrates into flames at the same time. Kira escapes, and the link between her and Jen gives him the strength to escape the cave-in.

In the central interior chamber where the crystal is housed, Jen alights upon the Crystal but the shard falls from his hands. Kira throws the shard back to him, returning it to Jen. In so doing she leaves herself open to attack, and she is killed by the Skexi Ritual Master. At the conjunction of the three suns, Jen seals the shard, unifying the crystal. The Garthim shatter (who were originally created by the Skeksis, and so are not truly living beings), the dark shell covering the castle crumbles, and the Mystics and Skeksis reunite into their original urSkek incarnations. The urSkek communicate directly to the consciousness via mystical sign language. One of them, UngIm, restores Kira to life, and they leave this plane of existence as the crystal has been healed and made whole. The crystal is dark no longer and has been returned to the Crystal of Truth and the world too has been similarly healed.

Characters

Main & Supporting

  • Jen – A male Gelfling
  • Kira – A female Gelfling
  • Aughra – An astrologer of an unknown species
  • Fizzgig – Kira’s pet

The urRu/Mystics

    • urZah the Ritual-Guardian
    • urIm the Healer
    • urSol the Chanter
    • urTih the Alchemist
    • urAmaj the Cook
    • urNol the Herbalist
    • urAc the Scribe
    • urYod the Numerologist
    • urUtt the Weaver
    • urSu, Jen’s Master

The Skeksis

    • SkekSo, the Emperor
    • SkekSil, the Chamberlain
    • SkekUng, the General (aka Garthim-Master) and later the new Emperor
    • SkekTek, the Scientist
    • SkekZok, the High Priest (aka Ritual-Master)
    • SkekNa, the Slave Master
    • skekAyuk the Gourmand
    • skekShod the Treasurer
    • skekOk the Scroll-Keeper
    • skekEkt the Ornamentalist

Minor characters and races

  • Ydra, Kira’s adoptive mother, a Podling
  • Podlings – a race of gentle ‘earth-people ‘
  • Garthim – Large, crab-like soldiers/thugs of the Skeksis
  • Crystal Bats – Winged creatures used by the Skeksis to find the shard of the Crystal and which act as spies for the Skeksis
  • Landstriders – Long-legged forest animals and friends of Kira
  • Nebrie – Grub-like forest animal that Kira is able to talk to. One is seen roasted on the dining table of the Skeksis

Voice Cast

English Language Version

Reception

The Dark Crystal made slightly over $40 million in theaters, with an estimated budget of $15 million.[1] Its limited appeal at the time was partly due to parental concerns about its dark nature, and partly because it was overshadowed by E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which was released the same year.[2] It was more of a critical success, winning a Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film and earning the grand prize at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival. (The film was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and a BAFTA Award for Best Special Visual Effects.)[1] Other critics, however, panned the film as “watered down J.R.R. Tolkien. . . without charm as well as interest”[3] In both France and Japan, The Dark Crystal was the highest-grossing box office release for the year (1983).[1]

Other media

The novelization of the film was written by A.C.H. Smith.

A video game based on the movie was released shortly after the film itself.

A comic book prequel, Legends of the Dark Crystal, was published by TokyoPop on November 13, 2007. The comic is written by Barbara Kesel, with art by Heidi Arnhold. The story is set hundreds of years before the story in The Dark Crystal, and before the Great Extermination.

Technical notes

All characters in the movie are Muppets, and none are based on humans or any other specific Earth creature. At the time of the movie’s release, it was billed as the first live-action film without any human beings on screen.[1]

Originally, Jim Henson wanted members of one of the factions, the Skeksis, to speak in their own constructed language. The Skeksis dialogue was subtitled in English. This was dropped after screen test audiences found the subtitling too distracting, but the original effect can be observed for selected scenes on the various DVD releases.[1]

Subsequent cultural references

  • In Episode 109 of the G4 TV series Code Monkeys entitled “Todd Loses His Mind,” the gelflings are mentioned as Todd says, “No, but I did see two swarthy gelflings scurry through the underbrush nary a second ago.”
  • The Crystal Method covers the opening narration of the movie in their song “Trip Like I Do”, the opening track of their debut album Vegas.
  • The Skeksis make an appearance in the lyrics of the Scissor Sisters track “Return to Oz“.
  • Alien, an album by Canadian industrial-metal band Strapping Young Lad features a song called “Skeksis.” Though the lyrics do not reference the film, some of the vocal melodies are the same as those found in the main (opening) theme of the film.
  • The German Industrial band Weena Morloch features samples from the movie in their song “Girl” from the EP “Trauma 7”.
  • Stephen Lynch‘s song “D&D” includes the lyrics “Now The Lord of The Rings, The Dark Crystal and things, we use these as a reference tool.”
  • A Skeksis makes an appearance as a nanny in Episode 1007 of South Park titled “Tsst“; it also appears among many imaginary villains in the episodes “Imaginationland Episode II” and “III“.
  • John Hodgman‘s 700 hobo names, found in his book “The Areas of My Expertise“, contains a section of names from the film, including the Ornamentalist, the Scroll Keeper, the Garthim-Master, and several others.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e The Dark Crystal at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ A review by Richard Scheib
  3. ^ New York Times review

External links

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