(I hope those guys have a good sense of humor and don’t take us to court)
While in an intense meeting with the Overlords and fellow minions Casey and David, the subject of “The Dark Crystal” came up, and I admitted that I had never seen it. Young Casey was amazed, giving me viable reasons why I might not have gone and seen it (I was 14, it was a puppet movie, not really the cool thing to do). In fact, he was much kinder than I was when I found out he has never seen the Godfather, and publicly shame him every chance I get…it’s a god damn classic Casey, a GOD….DAMN…CLASSIC.
Anyway, I digress. I found it on Amazon, and immediately hijacked the beautiful Sara’s account to settle in and watch this “classic” that I missed out on.
If you aren’t familiar, and I am sure most of you are, it was the first movie to be done all in puppets. Jim Henson and Frank Oz co directed, and sure, they used a few homunculus’ to dress as the puppets, but to be fair, you’d never know. Henson said that they were perfectly matched for the job, because his strength’s and Oz’s strengths were different, so it was the perfect match.
Now, let me explain something about me, and how my brain functions. I am not a fan of slow paced movies unless there is some great dialog, or intriguing action to bridge the action scenes. Certain sounds, and certain motions, really set my melon off into some anxiety. I don’t know why, I just know it does, and so I live my life accordingly. I say this, because this becomes important for this review.
To say this movie was slow paced, is an understatement. The Komodo dragon people (Mystics) share a prophecy with the Vulture people (Skeksis), that a Gelfling will return the Dark Crystal shard to the bigger crystal, and thus end the ruling of the Skeksis. Almost like the Lord of the Rings….well…exactly like the Lord of the Rings.
So the Master Mystic throws all this on Jen (male gelfling) right before he dies, and it has to be done before the three suns converge, tells him to follow the main sun to Aughra, to get the Crystal, then move on to finish the quest.
So off he goes, to start the quest. I will say this, he does it without question, and knows the path is frought with danger, because the Vultures obviously want to stop this from happening.
While Jen is getting sent on his way, the old Vulture ruler dies and disintegrates, so this means a new leader needs to step forward. Originally, there was supposed to be 7 Vultures, to represent the seven deadly sins, but somehow they ended up with 9. Two lay claim, and they have a dumb competition where they hit a stone with swords until the stone breaks, and the dick Vulture wins, and the annoying vulture loses and is banished. They strip him, you find out they have two sets of arms (done so Henson got the rights to these creatures, and the original design stayed in possession of the creator Froud).
After this, the dick Vulture sends out Giant Hermit Crabs, and then Crystal Bats, to stop the Gelflings, and then…..all right, look, if you’ve never seen it, you need to go watch it and find out what happens. I don’t want to give away the ending that everyone knows.
Now, to be honest, I absolutely hated this movie. I wanted the Vulture people to triumph, just to make sure there would never be a sequel I hated it so much.
First off, the pacing of it was so god damn slow. If they’d have used human actors, this would have been a 22 minute story on TV. But because it was puppets, those things take forever. I know there were a few scenes put in there just to stretch out the time to make it a legitimate movie. Rumor has it that after a horrible screening in San Francisco, Henson cut out 20 minutes. Coming in at 93 minutes, that’s a blessing.
Part of the idea for the movie was for children to watch it, and it actually scare them. Henson thought that fear was a healthy emotion (he is correct), and it should be played upon. Thus, he wanted the Skeksis to be scary, and the Mystics to be a softer version of them.
I admit, the design of the Skeksis were probably terrifying to children in 1982. Back then, there was no google machine. We had Fangoria. We had Son of Svenghoulie. We had the muppets. Puppets weren’t supposed to be scary. So imagine seeing an add with a cute little Gelfling, bringing your kids to a theatre, and getting a methed out vulture for half the movie. (Dark Crystal Meth to be exact)
Unfortunately, the American public saw it much the same way I did, and it didn’t become a children’s classic. But, for a $15 million dollar movie, it did make $40 million dollars. It was the top grossing movie in France in Japan. France thinks Jerry Lewis is a genius, and have you ever seen Japanese porn? This explains a lot right here.
Luckily, with VHS, and DVD, and distribution, the film got a second life, kids saw it when they were a little older, and found their older brother’s stash, and BOOM! You have a classic.
Now, about my brain. Part of the reason I hated this movie was the half ass thought put into the voices. The Gelflings voices were just so…canned. Soft, melodic, it was the sound of innocence they were looking for, but come on, they’re explorers. Even the Hobbits got a little edge to them after a bit. Not Merry and Pippin, those guy sucked, but Samwise grew a set of Hobbit balls.
The Vultures seemed to be voiced by people who had to come up with their version of a witch’s voice, and they didn’t prepare. I’m no voice actor, but I think I could come up with something at least as good as they did. Their voices just caused my brain to become itchy. Not because I was scared, just….itchy.
The other thing that bugged my melon was the motion of the puppets. Up and down, up and down, up and down…nonstop. It was like watching a play from a pirate ship, peering over the railing. Up and down, the gentle lapping of the waves lulling us into believing this was a good movie. I didn’t fall for that shit, but a whole generation did.
I could ramble on, but lets review this quicker than this movie. Komodo people vs Dark Crystal Methed out Vultures race (I use this term loosely) to fulfill/stop a prophecy. They spring it on a Gelfling, that wouldn’t even make it out of the Shire, let alone to a journeys end. Hermit Crab beings and Crystal Bats couldn’t stop them, and they slooooooooooooowly make their way to the shard, then to the Vulture lair. All they while, the Komodo’s are making their way to the Vulture lair for the big finale.
The acting…its fucking puppets. There was recitings, with feelings.
I will say, though the Gelflings looked like Janice from the Muppet show, some of the other puppets were cool. The Meth Vultures were cool, but the Komodo people looked like the before picture of the Meth Vulture. The little furry guy that was dog like, was annoying, and not that impressive. Aughra was cool looking, but most of the others…meh.
I love the Muppet Show. I think Jim Henson and Frank Oz were genius’. I read that it took 5 years to get this movie made, and I just couldn’t wait for it to end. Literally five minutes in, I knew why I avoided it for this long.
At least Labyrinth has David Bowie’s crotch in it…