Feather is back with another review! As you already know, from my last review, today I will be looking at The Dark Crystal (1982), another film by the pioneer of puppetry, Jim Henson.
17 December 1982
Official Rating (IMDB):
What is the film about?
The Dark Crystal takes place in a fantasy world, where the people called the Skeksis rule a dying land. A thousand years ago the crystal that supposedly feeds the land, cracked when the three suns of the planet aligned. Now, Jen, who believes he is the last of his race, the Gelflings, must find the shard of the Dark Crystal and return it to its rightful place and restore balance to the universe.
The Initial Response
With a title like The Dark Crystal, it isn’t really expected to do too well. However, despite being overshadowed by films like Tootsie and E.T. it did better than expected, raking in $40.6 million. As for its critical response, there were concerns about the dark nature of the film, since it was tied to the family-friendly show, The Muppets. However, there are still many who are rather fond of the film, even if it has disappeared into the abyss of obscurity.
Despite the avid fan following, there was some negativity, pointed towards the film. Some critics claimed that it was a “watered down” version of the famous Lord of the Rings (by J.R.R Tolkein). Nevertheless, there is still some credit to the film as it has been nominated quite a few awards in categories such as Best Visual Effects, Best Fantasy Film and Best Dramatic Presentation.
Ok, so it’s time I got down to business. What did I think of this film? I’m not as fond of it as I am with Labyrinth. I mean, if I had been a child watching this, I would probably be freaked out by the strange faces and the puppets (for some reason as a child, I hated puppet movies, the creeped me out!). However, as an adult, I’d say this film was just plain boring. I know, I know, I’m being unfair but that’s the truth of it. I think, as a child, I’d have been captivated by the idea that Jen, the Gelfling, has to go on a dangerous quest to restore a magical crystal, but the film just didn’t appeal to me.
I sort of agree with one of the critics that claimed the film to be a “watered down J.R.R Tolkien”. After all, there is a “battle”, against the Garthim, at the castle of the Dark Crystal, and there is a sheer drop on either side of the entrance just like the Lord of the Rings; not to mention Jen ends up in the Garthim’s nest, like how Frodo ended up in Shelob’s cave. There’s just too many parallels between them, and I think if Henson wanted to make a “kid’s version” of The Lord of the Rings, he probably would have done a better job of it, if he used real people, instead of puppets.
Another critique I have of the film is of the constant hints that the Skeksis and the Mystics are one and the same. For example, the narration at the beginning of the film was just too repetitive to ignore, not to mention the fact that when the Skeksis scientist got burned, a Mystic burned up along the way to the castle (and the other Mystics were ok with it? I don’t understand!), oh and my favourite parallel, was the fact that when the banished Chamberlain got cut, one of the other Mystics found his hand was cut too (and again, he was ok with it? Didn’t it hurt!).
I guess you could say these parallels are no coincidences, I mean, in the end there is a purpose to them (which I will not be spoiling, so you’ll have to watch it yourselves), and it does point to the philosophical dialogue about good versus evil, so it kind of makes up for it. However, I cannot ignore the poor quality of the script.
Whilst, yes it was fast paced, and it does keep you on the edge of your seat, it also lacks a certain originality to it. I mean, as I was watching the film, I kept making parallels to films I’d already watched that had a similar nature, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia; you could say that the attack on Beaver’s Dam was the same as how the Garthim broke into Aughra’s home, there literally was no difference!
I’d say this film wasn’t too bad, it’s no Labyrinth, but I can see the charm it has. It might not be a wholly kid’s movie (back in the day), but it does teach them a few things about the world. There are those who are willing to help, those who are reluctant to help and those who will hinder you, simply because they can, and if the time ever comes that you have to venture out into the big wide world alone, you won’t ever be alone.
In the end, I think that this film could do with a lot more work, but just remember that it was made in the early 80s, so films back then weren’t as realistic as they are now (although I say that with a pinch of salt). However, I do believe that this film has a long way to go to being a cult classic, or even “one for the ages” and if ever a remake was made, they’d better do a good job of pointing out the parallels without being so obvious.
Well that’s it from me today, I think it’s time I moved on to the next movie. I wonder what I’ll watch…
Oh and one more thing, if you like this review (because I probably will make more) please send me your suggestions in the comments below! I love watching films and TV shows, and if you’d like me to review one for you, just say so and I’ll get on it as soon as I can. Join me next time when I will be reviewing the latest episode of Once Upon A Time (the American TV show)!
So what do you think? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll see you all soon!
This is Feather, signing out!