The Dark Crystal picture image

The Dark Crystal

When the world thinks about the Legacy of Jim Henson, it typically thinks of the glory of the Muppets. However Henson did more than just the Muppets in his career. We have looked his 1986 movie, Labyrinth which was a light-hearted adventure featuring human characters. By contrast the 1982 movie, The Dark Crystal is a much darker movie featuring all puppets.

Jen with the Skeksis Chamberlain The Dark Crystal picture image

Jen with the Skeksis Chamberlain

The Dark Crystal starts with some backstory about a thousand years ago a magical crystal cracked and two races appeared, the icky Skeksis and hippie Mystics. The Skeksis seized control and used the crystal to replenish their lives. The also killed a races of elf-like creature called the Gelfling because their a prophesy about how a Gelfling will heal the shattered Dark Crystal.

Among the peaceful Mystics lives the last Gelfling, a boy named Jen. As the the leader of the Mystics lay dying, he tells Jen to find a beinging named Aughra who has the missing crystal Shard. As the Mystic leader dies, the Skeksis leader also dies. There is a power struggle among the other Skeksis. Two try to became the emperor, the Genreal wins and the Chamberlin is exile. It is then they learn about Jen and they send the Garthim, crab-like creature to get him.

Jen makes it Aughra’s, who tells him that the Dark Crystal must be healed by but the time the three suns come together, an event called The Great Conjunction which is happing very soon. Aughra gives him some crystal shards telling Jen she doesn’t know which one is the Dark Crystal. Jen figures it out as it resonates with the tune the Mystic sing, but then the Garthim attacks and destroys Aughra’s home and Jen escapes.

Jen then meets another Gelfling, a girl named Kira and her pet named Fizzgig. Kira can communicate with all number of animals. Kira takes Jen to her village where she lives with the Podling after the death of her mother. The Garthim attack again and takes many of the Podlings as the Podling are used as slaves for the Skeksis after their life essences in drained away. Jen and Kira only escape the raid as the Skeksis chamberlain saves them.

Jen and Kira find an Gelfling temple of sorts and learn about the prophesy that only a Gelfling can heal the Dark Crystal. The Chamberlain turns up and begs the Gelfling to go to the Skeksis castle so that there can be peace but Jen and Kira reject him and travel to castle on their own. The Mystics also start making their way toward the Skeksis Castle.

As Jen and Kira approach the castle the intercept the Podling Hostages and free them. They flee the Garthim due to Kira’s wings, which only female Gelflings have. They enter the castle through a subterranean window but Kira is captured by the Chamberlain. The Skeksis plan to drain her of her life essences as it will make the new Emperor young again. As Kira is being drained, Jen telepathically tells her to fight and Aughra, who is imprisoned in the same room with a host of animals tells Kira to call the animals. Kira does and she escapes and one one the Skeksis is killed when he is thrown into the Lava pit that houses the Dark Crystal and when the Skeksis dies a Mystic dies too.

As the Great Conjuncture starts the Skeksis gather in the hall of the Dark Crystal. Jen magnes to get on top of the Crystal but drops the shard. Kira picks it up and throws it to Jen and one of the Skeksis stabs her and Fizzgig is thrown into the shaft of the Dark Crystal. As Jen heals the Crystal the Mystic enter the hall and they merged into the Skeksis to reveal a new race that thousand years ago shattered the Crystal with their ignorance. They bring back Kira to life and even Fizzgig is fine as Aughra saved him. Yay.

Kira holding the Crystal Shard The Dark Crystal picture image

Kira holding the Crystal Shard

In a perfect world, movies wouldn’t have to choose between style over substance. They two would work together to create a movie. Now a lot of movie do this but typically there a clear winner of intention, one wins over the over.

With the The Dark Crystal it would seem that the style of the puppets and the world that was created for the movie won over the substance but the substance and the style work more together to form this movie’s look and feel. The substance of the story and characters are made simple to give the style more room. If the movie had complicated the narrative it wouldn’t have allowed the world and the style to move as freely in the narrative. This was the issue with Oz the Great and powerful. Remember when the movie spent a good few minutes on the River of CGs but rushes Theodora’s evil transformation? That is what I mean, The Dark Crystal doesn’t rush the simple yet complex narrative yet still allows the the weird world to come through.

Weaver Mystic The Dark Crystal picture image

Weaver Mystic

So how is the story simple yet complicated? The story is simply a chosen one(s) that has to save the world, basically a hero’s journey. You don’t get much more simple than that. What makes it complicated is that technically one could save that because there are two Gelflings that either Kira or Jen could have done and the two work together like a couplet, more of them later. The is also the whole balance of good and evil and how one needs the other for balance. The Skeksis are evil and horrible but the Mystic are descried as living in a illusion of peace. One can be either wholly good or pure evil, there is a balance. That is some complex thoughts for a children’s movie.

Kira, Jen and Fizzgig The Dark Crystal picture image

Kira, Jen and Fizzgig

The characters are all really interesting, even boring Jen is fairly compelling. Jen doesn’t want to be a hero, he was asked to heal the crystal but he doesn’t whine that much. He is sheltered and somewhat naive which is a contrast to Kira who is more worldly. She knows how to speak to animals. She is the take charge one. Jen and Kira have a good balance between them, they need each other and it’s a good partnership.

The other character aren’t as develop. I wish there was more back ground on Aughra because she cool. Fizzgig is fun too has he looks like a sweet little puppy-ish thing but he has a big scary mouth. The Chamberlain is the most intresting of Skeksis as he is a schemer. He tries to trick Jen and Kira with peace to bring them to castle so he can get back in with Skeksis and when that fails he just kidnaps Kira. The other Skeksis have personalities but they are never made super clear outside their looks and moments.

Kira on a Landstrider The Dark Crystal picture image

Kira on a Landstrider

Now we have come to it, the technicals. This movie was created to be a puppet movie. Would it have been nearly as cool if it was a Live action movie or an animated movie?Maybe. The 80’s were ripe with weird live action movie, so it hard to say. But the puppets and the sheer other-worldliness they create is just so wonder to watch. The design by Brain Froud are wonder, with the dragon/vulture Skeksis and the dog/dinosaurs Mystic. Everything is so cool to look at. I also love the part where Jen walks into Aughra’s home and he sees that machine of the planets, so cool. And the Landstriders, aww those poor Landstriders.

Aughra The Dark Crystal picture image

Aughra

So let say you’re watching The Dark Crystal you make notice that the movie is dark and scary. One of thoughts about 80’s children movies is that it’s ok to scare children as long as there is a happy ending. So they can freak kids out with creepy Skeksis, throwing Fizzgig into a Lave pit and stabbing Kira as long as they show that Fizzgig is ok and the merged Skeksis and Mystic beings called UrSheks revive Kira.

Fizzgig The Dark Crystal picture image

Fizzgig

The Dark Crystal is a masterpiece of the puppet artistry in a movie form. There isn’t like anything like it, a serious and somewhat dark puppet movie.

For more – The World of the Dark Crystal: The Collector’s Edition

New Clues, clue 1 and clue 2

The Snow Queen picture image

The Snow Queen

I feel like a broken record at this point saying that a movie can be both good and bad but that is what the Hallmark 2002 Tv-Movie, The Snow Queen is, it exists in a weird void of good/bad. The things that are good about The Snow Queen are really good and things that really bad are terrible.

I watched this movie a few weeks ago and it was REALLY long so keep that in mind.

Also this was based on Hans Christen Anderson’s story.

Bridget Fonda as Snow Queen with Chelsea Hobbs as Gerda The Snow Queen picture image

Bridget Fonda as Snow Queen with Chelsea Hobbs as Gerda

For a nearly three hour long movie the plot is pretty simple and yet insane. We have a Gerda who hates the winter because her mother was killed in the winter. And we have Kai a happy-go-lucky lad who loves the winter. Gerda’s father owns the inn where Kai works as a bellboy. Gerda and Kai then fall in love but one night a shard of a mirror falls into Kai’s eye and he turns into a jack-ass. Then a woman comes to the inn and kidnaps Kai. Gerda’s father has no memory of the woman and then Gerda finds a note from Kai asking for help.

Gerda then throws herself into a river and is save by the Spring Witch, who tries to keep her as her daughter. However Gerda has a magical rose brooch that once belonged to her mother and this brooch tells she must travel through the season to get to the Ice Queen who is keeping Kai. Gerda travels through the seasons, literally she meets them, the Summer Princess and the Autumn Robber both of whom want to keep her. As Gerda goes from one season to another, the Ice Queen has tasked Kai with assembling a magic mirror as she sleeps till Winter. Kai is made to work by a Polar Bear minion of the Snow Queen, who is in love with her.

As Gerda tries to free herself from the Autumn Robber she meets an old reindeer names Rutger. After they break free and head toward the Snow Queen’s domain they hear on the wind a story that the Polar Bear is telling to Kai about how Satan made the mirror for the seasons so that when they gazed into it the mirror reflected their essence. However the mirror was twisted and corrupted Winter and made her desire her power to be absolute. Winter then stole the mirror which weaken her sister seasons. Winter flew toward heaven to demand winter be the dominant season on earth but the mirror shattered and went into people’s eyes. Kai learns he can’t complete the mirrior as removing the shard will kill him.

Gerda shows up at the Snow Queen’s place, the mirror breaks, the Polar bear is really a prince and goes off with Snow Queen. Kai is better and him and Gerda return home, happy ending.

Bridget Fonda as Snow Queen with the Polar Bear The Snow Queen picture image

Bridget Fonda as Snow Queen with the Polar Bear

Postives, let’s start there. The first and most obvious best thing about this movie is, the Polar Bear. I’m not kidding. The Polar Bear puppet was hand-down the best thing in this movie. It looks so real. Seriously, it was better then any CG could hope to make. It was made by the Jim Henson company, so it’s technically a muppet.

Another positive thing is the movie takes it time to develop Gerda and Kai’s romance. We understand their connection and the change that Kai goes through as result of the shard.

I also like the idea of Gerda traveling through the seasons, reminds me of the Secret of Mana, old JRPG.

Kira Clavell as Summer Princess The Snow Queen picture image

Kira Clavell as Summer Princess

Now for the bad stuff. First and foremost, the acting, Oh Dear lord the acting! The acting was bad. Like BAD High school levels of acting. And not enjoyably bad either just painful. I’m not sure who fault this was because actors and directors seem competent, so I just don’t get it. Maybe everyone was having an off shoot. Regardless of abilities it was bad on the acting front.

Jennifer Clement as Spring Witch The Snow Queen picture image

Jennifer Clement as Spring Witch

The technicals weren’t anything amazing, except the Polar Bear puppet. There were some nice shots but nothing above average. The costumes were beyond silly though. Why is the Snow Queen wearing a feather-like collar? It just looked silly

The Snow Queen picture image

The Polar Bear fishing

Hallmark 2002 The Snow Queen isn’t like the worse thing in the world. If You have nearly three hours and can handle some truly bad acting give it a watch but if your not inclined you not missing too much except the Polar Bear puppet.

Clue 1 and Clue 2