Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal; fantasy, USA/ UK, 1982; D: Jim Hanson, Frank Oz, S: Stephen Garlick, Lisa Maxwell, Billie Whitelaw

In some alien world, Jen thinks he might be the last specimen of his race, the Gelfling, since they were exterminated because of a prophecy that one of them will end the rule of the reptilian race Skeksis, who gained power a 1000 years ago, after the dark crystal broke into splinters. Jen was taken care off by the good race with long necks, the Mystics, who send him on a quest to find the missing piece of the crystal before the three suns align, or the Skeksis will continue to rule. On his way, Jen finds Kira, a female specimen of Gelfings. They find the missing piece, Jen returns it back to the crystal, thereby merging the Skeksis and Mystics into one species, and restoring balance and prosperity into the world.

One of the most unusual films from the 80s, "The Dark Crystal" stayed remembered as an opulent extravaganza that created its own foreign world, some sort of an American version of Bunraku, since all the characters are puppets and there is no single human (or animal) actor in it. One could complain at a several omissions, because the level of the narrative does not catch up with the level that was achieved on the field of fantastic costumes and set-designs (i.e. the story could have been richer; the characters could have used more character development, charm and wit...), yet numerous creatures are highly imaginative (especially the unusual, giant Gathim species, that looks like a blend of crabs and black cockroaches) whereas its philosophy stands out the most: unlike numerous others stories about good vs. evil, where the bad guy can in the finale only be defeated by killing him, here the story takes a completely different approach, outside the box, since it looks at it almost like yin and yang (when the leader of the good species, the Mystics, dies, the leader of the evil species, the Skeksis, dies instantly as well, and "crumbles" inside), almost with holistic understanding, where the balance can only be restored by symbolically encompassing both extremes. Even though the main hero, Jen, has almost no emotional weight, Jim Henson managed to engage the viewers and secure the film's cult status, and coped well with directing (a few neat shot compositions of the castle and the landscapes), whereas it is amusing to listen to Kira using a couple of words in Serbo-Croatian when commanding the Landstrider creatures.


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