That was pretty weird.
Not awful mind you, but ‘weird’ is the overall impression I had of “The Dark Crystal,” Jim Henson and Frank Oz’s dark fantasy movie.
Unfortunately, while I think the film is unique and imaginative, I also don’t think it’s that good. Damn shame too; there was a lot of potential here.
The story opens with some drawn-out voiceover exposition about the state of affairs on this distant planet. One thousand years ago, the eponymous dark crystal broke. A shard broke off from the crystal, and the break also created two new races, the Skeksis and the Mystics; the Skeksis have ruled since that time, and they prove to be pretty damn evil.
But never fear; a prophecy states that a Gelfling can heal the crystal and restore order to this damaged world. The Skeksis killed most of them, but one boy survived; Jen (voiced by Jim Henson) is the chosen one and he sets on his journey to save the world.
Right away, I kind of had some issues with the film. For starters, the opening voiceover gives us a lot of information, but since Jen doesn’t know any of it, we have to watch while he learns about his journey and his purpose, and it’s pretty dull.
Second, Jen himself is also pretty dull. He basically stumbles from one scene to the next, clueless by design, and completely devoid of personality. Eventually, he meets up with Kira (voiced by Kathryn Mullen), and she provides the movie with some spark and some much needed bad-assery (this complaint is minor, but Jen has the superpowers and the personality and the bravery and the brains our hero lacks…why isn’t SHE the chosen one?).
It feels mean to be critical of this movie, because it is clearly a labour of love from all involved. This can’t have been an easy film to make, from the production side of things to even getting the initial financing (Seriously, try to imagine what the pitch meeting was like. Awkward is the best I can come up with). And I can also appreciate that this darker fantasy adventure was pretty groundbreaking, even if it flopped.
However, “The Dark Crystal” is probably the first movie I can recall that I wished was a book instead. The story is pretty cool, with lots of background and detail in this fictional world right there for the taking, and maybe film was just the wrong medium for it.
“The Dark Crystal” (1982)
Written by David Odell
Directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz
Starring: Jim Henson (voice of Jen)
Kathryn Mullen (voice of Kira)