Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Revisit: The Dark Crystal

A Universal Pictures release 1982

Directed by Jim Henson & Frank Oz

Written by Jim Henson & David Odell

On another planet in the distant past, a Gelfling embarks on a quest to find the missing shard of a magical crystal, and so restore order to his world.

I miss Jim Henson. The man was an incredibly vibrant creative force who's energy and creative philosophy you can feel pulsating through each of the film's he touched. The Dark Crystal, in particular, is brimming with Henson's personal touch -- from the bevy of creatures they created to populate the world, to the spot on characterizations of each Muppet, you can feel his presence hovering over the film throughout.

Dark Crystal is your typical fantasy fare: a strange land is in peril, and a young hero has been chosen to save the day. But what separates Dark Crystal from other fantasy epics is the amount of visual detail, flair, and attention paid to the most minute of characters. The Muppet performers are delightful, wringing personality and life out of every little piece of cloth. Particularly impressive are the vile Skeksis, who look like vultures mixed with Victorian era-elitists. A dinner scene featuring these disgusting creature is particularly hilarious, and like something straight out of Bunuel. The film is just as well shot too -- a beautiful landscape sequence shows thousands of Henson's Muppet creations marching through the desert, almost blending into the background as they slowly walk past.

If you like fantasy, Muppets, or just plain old cool special effects, Dark Crystal is a must see. The sheer magnitude of the production -- thousands of tiny little puppets and effects -- is almost unbelievable. They simply don't make movies like this any more.

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