The Dark Crystal 1982 Movie Scene Skeksis performing a ritual with the crystal

The Dark Crystal [1982]

With the onslaught of all these modern CGI animated movies, it’s a good idea to remember how things were back in the eighties. The Dark Crystal is a charmingly scary live-action fantasy movie featuring stunning puppet design and an excellent atmosphere. Jim Henson’s (Muppets) idea was to reimagine the Brothers Grimm fairy tales including their macabre parts. And he fucking pulled it off. Sadly, I did not watch this movie as a kid but as a fully grown adult. And I still enjoyed it immensely.

Back in 1981, this was the only live-action movie (featuring real sets, etc…) without any human actors. The puppets were designed by none other than Brian Froud, a true artist with an exceptional vision. The vision that was brought to life by a talented team who worked on the movie. Each scene feels like a beautiful painting full of big and small details. And it showcases the quality of this approach to filmmaking that remains largely forgotten today. At the same time, we should not forget that The Dark Crystal is a fantasy movie.

Henson believes that kids should be scared and see things that might feel a bit darker than in other, similar productions. And I agree with this sentiment as it offers a story specifically tailored to evoke these emotions in children without scaring them to tears. As someone who grew up during the eighties and nineties, I’ve seen a lot of movies I shouldn’t have seen. Movies that were intended to scare not children but adults. And you know how kids are, watching scary movies on a dare or as proof of bravery and other shit.

So, they’re going to be watching scary movies no matter what you do. It makes sense to start them off on something light and understandable so they can build up their immune system. At least that’s what I think. Watching The Dark Crystal as an adult is a feast both for the eyes and the brain. The themes explored are timeless and the visual quality is impeccable. On top of all of that, you feel like you’re honoring someone’s hard work. And there was some hard work here, I can tell you that. Brian Froud spent five years working on The Dark Crystal and it fucking shows!

A thousand years ago, the planet Thra was green and full of life. Then, the lifeblood of this prosperity, the magical crystal shattered. Two new races appear, the evil Skeksis and the gentle Mystics. Skeksis soon took control of the planet and ruled with an iron fist for a thousand years. This brings us to this moment in time when one of the inhabitants of the valley where Mystics live will soon start causing trouble. And the thousand-year reign of the evil Skeksis will soon start to shake.

I have to admit that, on a deeper level, I do not like this evil/gentle dynamic as it reminds me too much of our colonial past. However, I do understand why they needed to simplify things and I have to admit that this is how things usually play out in the real world. In any country in the world, you have smart people who are usually not brutal or evil, and exactly because of this, they struggle to get to the positions of power. On the other hand, authoritarians who are willing to do anything soon band together all the assholes and seize power.

And they usually won’t give it up without a bloody insurrection. Such is the faith of our human race. As you can notice, The Dark Crystal is also a highly thought-provoking movie and feels like 1984-light. You can use it to draw parallels between this mystical and faraway land of Thra and our own Earth. It explores ideology and power dynamics quite subversively. Although the sheer visual splendor sometimes overshadows these themes. Finally, if you’re looking for similar movies, do check out Labyrinth starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly.

Directors: Jim Henson, Frank Oz

Writers: David Odell, Jim Henson

Cast: Jim Henson, Kathryn Mullen, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire

Fun Facts: Jim Henson cut more than 20 minutes from the original version of the movie. He made the story easier to follow and basically trimmed the fat. Now, featuring a running time of just ninety minutes, The Dark Crystal was a true masterpiece.


IMDb Link:

YouTube player