Jim Henson and Frank Oz directed 1982’s The Dark Crystal, a thematically as well as aesthetically dark film that was a distinct departure from Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, but reminiscent of Henson’s earlier experimental films and Saturday Night Live “Land of Gorch” skits and his future work on Labyrinth and The Storyteller. One thousand years ago on the planet of Thra during the last Great Conjunction, the crystal cracked, separating the spirits of the UrSkek into two species; the Mystics and the Skeksis. After that, a prophecy was written that foretold that during the next Great Conjunction, a Gelfling would heal the crystal, reuniting the UrSkek and renewing the world. The Great Conjunction occurs once every thousand years and is when the three suns line up in the sky, forming a majestic beam of light that shines directly on the crystal. According to the seer Aughra (Billie Whitelaw and Frank Oz) The Great Conjunction is “the end of the world…or the beginning.” The evil Skeksis killed all of the Gelflings except Jen (Stephen Garlick and Jim Henson) and Kira (Lisa Maxwell and Kathryn Mullen). Jen was secretly rescued and raised by the Mystics and Kira was raised by the Podlings, a simple race of villagers who were sucked dry of their essences and enslaved by the Skeksis. Jen is sent by his dying master on a quest to locate the missing shard and heal the crystal. Luckily, he meets Kira along the way and she helps him to battle the Skeksis and save Thra. The darker nature of the film compared against Henson’s popularity with the bright and colorful family friendly Muppets as well as competing with E.T.The Extra-Terrestrial ticket sales led to the film being a modest financial success at the time of its release. It has, however, aged very well. The intricate story behind it has allowed The Dark Crystal to be considered a must-see classic and has allowed its universe to become expanded in graphic novelizations. In the Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge episode “Return of the Skeksis,” the competing creature designers had to build a Skeksis. It has even inspired a line of perfumes! This film is visually exciting and beautiful. Brian Froud was chosen to create the world of The Dark Crystal and created creatures and land that look as though they were ripped from dreams and nightmares. The Gelflings look like a combination of fairies and animals while the Skeksis look like birds and dragons. Meanwhile, the Mystics are a mixture of a manatee and a stegosaurus. He created a world that really did look as though it had a past and a history instead of just filling up a soundstage. His plants and creatures added a depth to the Thra that helps suspend belief and transports the viewer to that world. The use of puppets as background plants and animals adds a living element to the setting. Instead of a flat representation of a forest filling the little area that is in camera shot there is a feeling of depth and expansiveness of an ecosystem with all these living organisms in it. The amount of detail and imagination that was spent to create the world of Thra is remarkable. The story itself contains several religious allusions. The fact that the Skeksis killed all of the Gelflings to thwart the fulfillment of the prophecy is much like the Biblical story of the Massacre of the Innocents when King Herod ordered the execution of all young male children near Bethlehem in order to avoid the loss of his throne to a newborn King of the Jews whose birth had been announced to him. The Skeksis themselves were originally based on the seven deadly sins. Although a few of the Skeksis characters like The Chamberlain, The High Priest, and The General are more developed than the others, all of the Skeksis seem to contain the seven deadly sins. They all are guilty of wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust (for power, not sexual lust), envy, and gluttony in the movie. They are the evil and aggressive portion of the divided UrSkek. What better way to illustrate this than to have them embody the seven deadly sins? At the end of film, when Thra has been healed by the crystal and vegetation has begun to grow again, the image of Jen and Kira as the only two Gelflings left brings to mind the image of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The idea of Skeksis sucking the essence of Podlings is a sinister image that calls to mind Satan consuming souls and enslaving them for enternity. The evil Skeksis are the complete antithesis of the Mystics. The Skeksis are aggressive, loud, and dark. The Mystics visually are earth toned and linked to nature. They remind me of monks. Even their edges are rounder and softer than the jagged shapes that make up the Skeksis. The Mystics are also more passive. They eventually travel to the Dark Crystal Castle, but their trek is in tune with The Great Conjunction instead of with any raid against the Skeksis in order to help Jen. There is also some interesting foreshadowing that hints at the link between the Skeksis and the Mystics. They both appeared on the planet at the same time and whenever a Skeksis is wounded or dies so does a Mystic. The film seems to warn against total evil as well as against total passivity. It is by being both the Yin and the Yang that beings exist. If there is total aggression or total darkness, we will destroy each other and ourselves. If there is totally light and passivity, we will aimlessly meander without actually changing and growing. Among and within everything, there is a need for balance between the two. Though it is a distinct departure from the Muppets franchise, The Dark Crystal is a film that is important to Henson-centric history as well as the history of puppetry and film. Henson and Oz were, without a doubt, a creative team that matches the likes of Lennon and McCartney. They really hit the nail on the head with their combined efforts as performers and directors. The three suns of Thra aligned perfectly to make this an all-around masterpiece and perhaps one of Henson’s best works. I give it 5 out of 5 rubber chickens! See larger image The Dark Crystal [Blu-ray] New From: $7.70 USD In Stock Muppets 101: The Dark Crystal (1982)5.0Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.