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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 DrChumley

"A beautiful world, a blah story"
3 stars

Of the multitude of talents possessed by the late, great Jim Henson, perhaps the greatest of all was his ability to create new worlds. From the worlds of Sesame Street and the Muppet Show to the worlds of Fraggle Rock, The Storyteller’s Hour, Labyrinth, etc., Henson’s ability to envision and create new worlds is one that has remained unrivaled, even years after his death.

Henson’s 1982 film, The Dark Crystal, is a film based entirely on the creation of a new world. Henson was inspired by the work of the fantasy illustrator Brian Froud. With Froud as the conceptual designer, Henson and company went to work crafting a story around Froud’s drawings.

The world of The Dark Crystal is a world long in turmoil. The world is powered by a crystal that long ago was fractured, thus fracturing the makeup of the planet. The crystal is now being guarded by the Skeksis, a group of evil creatures (based roughly on the seven deadly sins). Far apart live the dying remnants of a group of gentle mystics.

Jen (voiced by Stephen Garlick and manipulated by Jim Henson) is a Geltling, the last of a race destroyed by the Skeksis, and was taken in by the Mystics and raised by their master. At the deathbed of the ruler of the Mystics, Jen learns that he is part of a prophecy which states that before the conjunction of the three suns, he must heal the crystal and bring the world back into harmony, or else the Skeksis will rule forever.

Along the way toward fulfilling his prophecy, Jen has the usual encounters with menacing creatures, is guided by a wise-but-barmy prophetess, and discovers that he is not the last of the Geltlings when he meets his female counterpart, Kira (voiced by Lisa Maxwell and manipulated by Kathryn Mullen).

Below the unique surface of the world of The Dark Crystal this film is little more than a traditional fantasy underdog story—much in the same vein as Frodo in Lord of the Rings. A young man discovers he has a destiny much larger than he realized, he faces insurmountable odd to overcome it, and in the end, discovers his true strength. While there is nothing wrong with this story (it has been in use for centuries), The Dark Crystal is so intent upon creating its world that it forgets about the things that truly drive the story forward: character development and a logical through-line.

Henson and his team do an incredible job with the creation of the world. The time, energy, and effort to create such a wide array of unique and diverse creatures was staggering. Froud’s original artwork translates to the screen incredibly well. And the tactile presence of the characters and worlds reminds us of how much personality and reality has been dissected from modern-day films by the over-use of digital effects (George Lucas, I’m talking to you…)

But as brilliant as these technical innovations were (and are), The Dark Crystal falls flat. The greatest weakness of this film is the script. With a story by Henson, and screenplay by David Odell, The Dark Crystal spends so much time establishing the world that it forgets to tell its story. Character arcs are roughly hewn, there is very little in the way of thorough cause and effect, and the story suffers from a lack of a comprehensible through-line.

Directed by Henson and long-time collaborator (and genius in his own right) Frank Oz, The Dark Crystal is unevenly paced. Too much time is spent on cacophonous crowd scenes in which little happens, on too-long establishing shots, and on showing every detail of “the world.” This results in choppy action, interspersed with long, boring shots in which no movement is made toward the final dénouement.

It is tremendously difficult to create a good story when your starting point is a set of drawings. Even the greatest animation (which is all drawing) starts with a good story. Henson and company made a good choice by using a traditional underdog tale, but never fleshed out the details enough to make it interesting. The result is a mediocre movie set in a stellar world.

Is It Worth Seeing? The Dark Crystal has become a cult classic in the years since Henson’s death. It is a good film for fans of Henson’s work and fans of the fantasy genre. However, if neither apply to you, you’re probably better off with other cinematic fare. (6 out of 10)

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originally posted: 02/01/04 01:55:48
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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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