Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Movie #283: The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal is a fantasy movie done with puppets, directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz and starring Henson, Oz, and Kathryn Mullen.

The movie starts with a whole heap of voiceover, and informs us that 1000 years ago, some bad shit happened, the Dark Crystal cracked, the Skekis appeared and took over, and killed the shit out of all the gelflings (elf/halfing like things; they had a culture and writing and everything, but it's mostly gone now). Likewise, the Mystics (lizard-like, peaceful, singing creatures) popped up at the same time.

The movie opens with the Skekis Emperor and the "wisest of the Mystics" dying at the same time, and the latter tell Jen, the supposed last of the gelflings, that he needs to grab the shard of the Dark Crystal from Augra. He does, dodging attacks from the giant-bug creatures called Garthim (servants of the Skeksis), and eventually meets up with Kira (Mullen), another gelfling. Together they travel to the castle of the Skeksis, heal the crystal, and merge the Skeksis and the Mystics into one, weird-ass ghost-like race, which promptly sods off and leaves the two gelflings to make the world in the Crystal's light.

The story is actually really simplistic, and it annoys me a little that the Mystic dude couldn't just say, "Get the shard from Augra. Head to the big ol' Skekis castle. Heal the Crystal. Watch out for the bug-monsters." It's not in-genre, of course, and the guy was dying, but still the mission itself is pretty straightforward. There's definitely an undercurrent of tension, because if the Great Conjunction happens the Skeksis rule forever, but there's also a weird element of fatalism that runs through it - the bad ending might actually happen, and that would suck, but something's going to happen.

I'm informed that there's a Ganakagok hack using The Dark Crystal as a basis, and I can totally see it working - everyone knows the end is coming, it's just the particulars that are up in the air. Also, the whole movie has a very mytho-poetic feel to it.

The voice acting is largely meh, Jen especially comes off as whiny and Luke Skywalker-ish, but Kira is a little more engaging (and she actually has shit to do, too). The worldbuilding is pretty fantastic, and you can tell that mostly this was an excuse to build a bunch of monster puppets and put them on screen. Which is fine - that alone is worth a watch - but the pacing is a little slow, and that trips me up some.

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: An Ideal Husband