The Dark Crystal

From Academic Kids

image:dark-crystal-dvd.jpg
Cover art from the 2004 Region 2 DVD

The Dark Crystal is a 1982 fantasy film by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. Like most of Henson's other work, its characters are muppets (a merging of a marionette and a puppet), but The Muppet Show characters for which he is famous do not appear (though some of the same voice actors are used). Character and creature designs in the movie are by Brian Froud. The screenplay was written by David Odell, who had worked with Henson as a staff writer on The Muppet Show. Mention should also be made of the film's atmospheric music score by Trevor Jones. The movie makes an attempt to study the nature of good and evil in terms of conscience, vital drive, and harmony.

Contents

Technical Notes

The Dark Crystal was made in the era between traditionally animated feature films and later movies produced by computer-generated techniques. All characters in the movie are muppets, and none are based on humans or any other specific Earth creature.

Originally, members of one of the factions, the Skeksis, were meant to speak in their own constructed language. The Skeksis dialogue was subtitled in English. This was dropped after screen test audiences found the subtitling too distracting, but the original effect can be observed for selected scenes on the recent DVD release.

Plot

Characters

  • Jen - A male gelfling
  • Jen's Master - A mystic
  • Aughra - An astrologer of unknown species
  • Kira - A female gelfling
  • Fizzgig - Kira's pet
  • Emperor - A skeksis
  • skekSil, the Chamberlain - A skeksis
  • Skekung, the Garthim Master and later the new Emperor - A skeksis

Synopsis

The film takes place on a planet with three suns.

One thousand years before the beginning of the movie, the Dark Crystal cracked, separating godlike beings called Urskeks into the hunchbacked, gentle beings known as Mystics (or urRu in the original drafts and novelization), and the vulture-like, cruel bipedal beings known as Skeksis. The Skeksis drove the Mystics from the castle where the shattered crystal resided and then instituted a reign of terror over their world. Their wrath was particularly directed toward the elf-like Gelflings due to a prophecy that promised the restoration of the crystal and the end of the Skeksis' power. The prophecy, rediscovered in an ancient Gelfling city, read:

When single shines the triple sun,
What was sundered and undone
Shall be whole, the two made one,
By Gelfling hand, or else by none.

Jen believes he is the last of the Gelflings. After his parents were killed by the crustacean-like Garthim created by the Skeksis, he is raised in a lush valley in which the mystics reside. The Mystic who has raised him is dying, and he calls Jen to his side and reveals that he is meant to "heal" the crystal by replacing the shard at Aughra's observatory. The emperor of the Skeksis dies as the same time the mystic does because they are both part of the same being. In a duel over the succession called Haakskeekah, the Chamberlain Skeksil is driven from the palace in rags.

Jen reaches Aughra, a wise woman character of unknown species, and discovers the actual crystal shard by playing music on his flute, to which it resonates. He must put the shard back in the crystal in time for the Great Conjunction, when his world's three suns will be aligned with one another. Garthim arrive to capture or kill Jen, who flees as Aughra is taken prisoner.

Meanwhile, the Mystics hear the signal of the Crystal, and begin their trek back to the castle.

By a river, Jen is frightened by a ball-shaped, dog-like pet known as Fizzgig and meets another Gelfling, Kira, whose existence he never suspected. They stay for a night among the bulbous Pod People (also known as Podlings) who raised Kira and are then attacked by Garthim there. In frustration and despair, and feeling responsible for the Garthim raid, Jen throws the crystal shard away. Kira reassures him that he had nothing to do with the attack.

In the morning, as they awaken, they discover the old Gelfling City, where Jen reads the prophecy about the crystal and recovers the shard. Jen and Kira are confronted by the disgraced Skeksil, who offers to help them, but they refuse because of the Skeksis' extermination of the Gelflings. Riding on furry, long-legged Landstriders, the Gelflings quickly reach the castle of the crystal... just in time to see the Garthim that attacked Kira's village. Kira, followed by Jen, ride to attack the Garthim and try to free the Podlings while the Landstriders fight the Garthim, to distract them from the rescue effort, which results in the Landstriders getting killed.

The Gelflings fail to rescue the Podlings and find the Garthim closing in on them at the edge of a deep, rocky gully that surrounds the castle. Sweeping Jen and Fizzgig into her arms, Kira jumps off the cliff... revealing that female Gelfling have the ability to fly. At the bottom of the gully, Jen and Kira end up at the Teeth of the Skreesh, an undefended entrance to the castle. Skeksil meets them again and takes Kira prisoner after burying Jen alive in a cave-in.

For capturing Kira, Skeksil is restored to his position as Chamberlain. The Skeksis still need a Gelfling to make their "everlasting essence", a potion with which their leader Skekung the Garthim-Master will regain his youth, by draining Kira's life essence. She calls out to the imprisoned animals in the lab, who break free and attack the Skeksis overseer, SkekTek, killing him. Again, due to the link between the Skeksis and the Mystics, his Mystic counterpart dies at the same time. Kira escapes, and the link between her and Jen gives him the strength to escape the cave-in.

In the central chamber where the crystal is kept, Jen jumps onto the crystal himself but loses the shard. Kira throws it back to him, but she is killed by a Skeksis. As the three suns meet Jen plunges the shard into the crystal, shattering the Garthim (who were originally created by the Skeksis, and so are not truly living beings) and reuniting the Mystics and Skeksis into their Urskek incarnations. One of them restores Kira to life, and they leave this plane of existence since the crystal has been healed and is now the Crystal of Truth, and the world has been healed along with it.

gd:An Dorcha Chriostal

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