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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 17.24%
Average: 10.34%
Pretty Bad: 1.15%
Total Crap: 2.3%

4 reviews, 63 user ratings

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Dark Crystal, The
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by brianorndorf

"It's tough to consider a more dynamic piece of filmmaking than this"
5 stars

Had Jim Henson simply rested after giving the world The Muppets, nobody would’ve complained. After all, that Kermit-led revolution changed the face of family programming and restored some needed edge to the PG comedy world. However, Henson was an energetic creator, which led to a follow-up project that ate away years of his life, severely challenged the agility of his performers, and solidified him as an absolutely dazzling filmmaking architect. That film was “The Dark Crystal.”

Henson’s flirtation with darker material and his curiosity with the thorns of invented mythology found a cozy home in “Crystal.” It’s a film intended for those who beg for a sense of adventure to their cinema, who revel in the joy of a filmmaker taking a risk and questing vigilantly to raise the art form a few needed notches. “Crystal” is a miraculous rush of innovation and storytelling patience, and, in the last 25 years, the film has grown from a 1982 misfire, to a cult wonder, to a bona-fide classic that’s timeless in stature and masterful in execution.

When I write about the film now, I do so from a cradle of absolute reverence. However, ask my opinion when I was a wee lad, and “Crystal” was probably the scariest ride in town. While Henson adored his young audience, he was never one to pander to the nose-pickers, preferring to challenge their eyes with visions of evil and the restorative effects of good; the ultimate battle of destiny between the kindly Mystics (or urRu) and the wicked Skeksis.

What’s exhilarating about “Crystal” is that Henson and his collaborators (including co-director Frank Oz) were manufacturing a fairy tale from their own creative well. While influenced by the great fantasy works of the world, Henson paved his own road here; he made certain every corner of the frame was bestowed with a mysterious creature or laborious design effort that created a consuming three-dimensional depth. Honestly, I’ve never seen such extraordinary effort placed into a feature-film before, and the way Henson and Oz take their time to let the details marry the film’s glacial, dreamy pace is endlessly impressive. It’s a directorial job of pure faith, and a design accomplishment (courtesy of wizard Brian Froud) that’s heart-stopping every inch of the way.

Sure, we have glossy cinematic juggernauts today like Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, yet “Crystal” is a film you can nearly reach out and caress; blessed with unmistakable attention placed to the weathered fabrics and wrinkled skin of the characters, not to mention Oswald Morris’s luxurious cinematography, which wields splendid coloring like a lethal weapon – I’ve never viewed a more menacing shade of purple in my life.

Of course, all this is in service of the puppetry, which, at the time (and still is today), was an outrageous advancement in the field; Henson pushed his team to new limits of expression and sheer character size in the roles. With the vulture-like Skeksis, the performers sell the rancid, decaying regality of the species marvelously: a collection of vile beings in full-on panic and deception mode after learning their existence is drawing to a leisurely, painful close. The Mystics are the counter argument: kindly creatures who move with Zen-like grace and march willingly to their fate. Characters like astronomer Aughra and stilt-creations The Landstriders reveal their own lovable novelty, but the blockbuster accomplishments of the film are the Gelflings Jen and Kira, and the exquisiteness of their reactions. They invite a striking level of sympathy for what is essentially a ball of felt with glass eyes and perfectly coiffed hair.

I supposed what “Dark Crystal” boils down to is a mosaic of bravery. It’s brave of the production to seek out their own legends and invent their own cocktail of spirituality for a small assembly of puppets. It’s brave of the film to demand performers search within themselves to lend invaluable reality to their characters, even if it meant unbearably stifling hours stapled to a partner under layers of wool and rubber. And it’s brave of Henson to submit to his loyal audience a demanding piece of storytelling and visual complexity that’s miles away from Miss Piggy, Fozzie, and our pal Kermit. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t appreciate this monumental leap of filmmaking faith.

Yes, “The Dark Crystal” is a perfect film, and as new generations grow to understand its exquisiteness, the more precious an experience the motion picture becomes. I could watch the film a hundred times and still discover new corners that I’ve never noticed before, or sly performance quirks that register differently now than they did when I was a child. The picture is a snowballing creation of pure imagination and remains Henson’s professional crown jewel. 25 years later, the film hasn’t lost a step as a crucial fantasy touchstone, and, in a wonderful twist of fate, continues to amaze people of all ages to this day.

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originally posted: 07/30/07 10:49:15
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User Comments

5/07/11 Blake A. A fantastic movie with the most beautiful, vibrant, I-wish-I-could-go-there worlds ever 5 stars
9/14/10 sunny day For a children's film, it sure has mature symbology that nonretarded adults can appreciate. 5 stars
2/09/10 Squeakie All beautiful handcrafted visualizations, with stunning and original fantasy lore. 5 stars
12/09/09 Dr.Lao Not a classic by any means, but an enjoyable, underrated film 4 stars
8/24/09 muppet hard on An excellent fantasy film - for kids at least 5 stars
7/17/08 C-NOTE a film for kids guaranteed to scare the hell out of kids. Stil,l fascinating stuff no doubt 4 stars
2/09/08 bored mom Way better than all the anime crap out there combined. 5 stars
9/28/07 Noelle A classic. 4 stars
8/03/07 itchmr very few flaws, moving story 4 stars
8/01/07 Dark Enchantress Great movie, so vivid and wonderful! 5 stars
8/01/07 salemswildcat Took my kids to see it, WE loved it!! 5 stars
7/31/07 Chris Cama loved the film recomend it to anyone under 12 4 stars
1/19/07 Laszlo The greatest fantasy movie ever made ! 5 stars
8/31/05 Klondo perhaps the best 4 star movie ever - but a little too boring 4 stars
8/28/05 D Buckley The most interesting universe ever created in a movie. 5 stars
8/16/05 ES Still the only movie I can name with no humans in it on a totally alien world= that's cool 4 stars
6/30/05 Eric Crooks A True Jim Henson Classic, He pushed himself making it. It's defiantly a masterpiece ! 5 stars
10/29/04 xavier cruz Nice, but kind of slow 4 stars
9/11/04 NaturezRevenge Skeksis rock! Creativity like this can only come from the man Jim Henson. Fantastic! 5 stars
7/19/04 Ishtar To say this film is genius is an understatement. 5 stars
5/19/04 Brett Edyvane Absolutly brilliant!!! Fact... 5 stars
4/05/04 Neva this movie rocks my socks straight off it makes me believe 5 stars
2/02/04 Rudra Lorian YAWN! Just as fun as weeding the gardern! 1 stars
12/11/03 Johnlindsey Great movie, ranks with Labyrinth, Princess Bride, Last Unicorn and Harry Potter. 5 stars
9/03/03 gamer Very cool for an all-muppet flick. It's actually something different. 5 stars
8/26/03 Eloise watched it as a kid......scared me shitless..still have a thing about puppets 4 stars
7/24/03 Kit It's not that good...Labyrinth is much better 3 stars
7/15/03 Fonq35 Ah! One of the finest films I ever saw as a kid... or adult... 5 stars
6/14/03 Alice I used to love this movie when I was 15.I saw it again now and it was not all that anymore. 4 stars
6/09/03 Stacy M. Medina This movie is realy, REALY, touching...especially when Jen Finaly finds someone just like 5 stars
4/14/03 Charles Tatum The puppets were stiffer than Jim Henson 2 stars
1/01/03 louman great movie, incredibly life-like creatures, Jim Henson at it's greatest 5 stars
10/12/02 Nicole We watched this in school - it scared the hell out of me...looked way too real! 4 stars
4/06/02 Jessica the Platonist Returning to the film after many years, I was awestruck, fascinated. Brilliant, subtle. 5 stars
1/11/02 max zhang Short film for kids; on the other hand, Kira looks hot. 4 stars
11/26/01 Stark Well done 5 stars
10/12/01 franknspice this is a movie that crosses age lines and will forever be treasured as a film 5 stars
9/24/01 afrovio One of the B-E-S-T movies of all time - NO KIDDING !!! 5 stars
8/05/01 Julian This is the greatest fantasy movie ever made!!!!! 5 stars
6/30/01 wizzman All the digital fx morons should go back and watch(make that STUDY) this film!! 5 stars
4/23/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) I so totally lost myself in the'd swear the "performers" were really ALIVE... 5 stars
4/07/01 Paul Vaughn I wish they made more films like "The Dark Crystal." 4 stars
3/04/01 Corbin Dallas A Must see if you loved Labyrinth, The Last Unicorn and The 5th Element. 5 stars
2/27/01 Samantha This film is a must see 5 stars
2/23/01 Steve in Prague haunting of my 10 best ever 5 stars
1/24/01 Drod Amazing effects, and decent story 5 stars
10/06/00 Jen I've liked it since I was a kid. It still Makes me shit my pants. 5 stars
9/21/00 Paul W. Truly one of the greats! 5 stars
9/20/00 Jeff decent, I guess 3 stars
8/09/00 Brian so good 5 stars
7/21/00 Alex Arcone A fantastic tour-de-force of puppetry. 5 stars
6/22/00 Jennifer Lanci I grew up watching this movie, and I loved it with all my heart. I wanted to be Kira. 5 stars
5/28/00 punkass Whahuh? Distinctly average. Show it to your kids. 3 stars
4/16/00 JDC What the heck's with puppets on kids shows anyway? Don't they scare EVERY kid? 5 stars
12/24/99 Christoph Gregorovich A visual masterpiece in storytelling and art direction. No complaint here. Go see the movie 5 stars
11/12/99 alyssa Wonderful movie. Still holds its edge after all these years. 5 stars
3/11/99 Bats Scary thing is, I know a guy who looks just like the male "lead" elf! 4 stars
11/24/98 {{{OZ}}} Eery muppets. Awesome. 5 stars
11/18/98 MinxxDaShorty This movie gave me me nightmres 7 years ago...come to think of it , it still duz! Very cool 5 stars
11/13/98 Jules Very well done, excellent mix of existing legends and fairytales plus some original touches 5 stars
11/12/98 Lord Of The Dunce Muppets with monsters. Yay!!! 5 stars
9/17/98 cheryl_ann i loved it as a child and i love it now. great movie fun for any age. 4 stars
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  17-Dec-1982 (PG)
  DVD: 25-Nov-2003



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