|A long, long, time ago, before "The Lord of the Rings" came to the screen, before "Harry Potter" had even been conceived, before "The Neverending Story" showed us the dangers of reading a book, there were some Gelflings... remember them?
In the 1980's muppet-animated flick "The Dark Crystal", the elf-like Gelfling race (elf, Gelfling...? I doubt that's a coincidence there) was subject to mass genocide by the skeletal, birdlike (and evil) Skeksis on the basis of a prophecy that a Gelfling would mend the shattered Crystal at the re-unification of the three suns (The Great Conjunction), and thereby end the reign of the Skeksis once and for all, the Crystal itself having been nearly destroyed many many centuries before the story begins. "The Dark Crystal" is a tale of two Gelflings, Jen and Kira, who are the only known survivors of their race, on a quest to save their world from the reign of the (evil) Skeksis and restore the Crystal the Skeksis have cracked. And that's your plot in a nutshell.
Ok, so the plot is basic and, if you haven't actually seen the movie (or are too young to remember), might be seemingly trite and clichéd, but what really makes this film enjoyable is the incredible puppetry of Jim Henson and Frank Oz, and the fantastic set designs of Brian Froud. These elements come together to create an environment which is at times a little surreal in parts, and just plain goofy in others (if you liked the Ewoks in "Return of the Jedi", however, you shouldn't have a problem), but overall the movie contains some thoroughly entertaining eye candy.
You might think that after 20-plus years, a film like this might hardly be remembered. You'd be thinking wrong. Recently, this reviewer had the unique opportunity to attend a showing of the film in Los Angeles, and record numbers showed up for the event (which was, by the way, a midnight-only showing) The audience was filled with fans who had seen the movie numerous times on TV, VHS, and DVD, but nevertheless, laughed at the funny parts and were moved at the emotional scenes. The entire experience filled me with a bittersweet sort of nostalgia -- with Henson's death and the onset of digital imaging, it is unlikely that another movie such as "The Dark Crystal" will ever be made again. The technique is time consuming, expensive, and too "hokey", it would seem, for today's audiences.
But many Elfwooders remember "The Dark Crystal" fondly from their childhood as one of their first introductions to fantasy, and there are probably many who can trace their love of the genre directly to The Dark Crystal. As such the film probably deserves more respect than it gets, despite moments of occasional "cheese" factor. "The Dark Crystal" is available worldwide on VHS and DVD, and makes for perfect rainy day or Friday night movie-watching. Check your local video store for details.
Rating: 5 fairies for the vision, scope, and atmosphere; 3 faeries for the actual delivery of the tale
Starring: Frank Oz, Jim Henson, and a little furball named Fizzgig. I want one.
Director: Gary Kurtz and Frank Oz
Official Website: http://www.henson.com/
Remember it? Get nostalgic with us.