During the 1980’s, the fantasy and the fantastic world of puppetry became popular with Jim Henson’s creative and imaginative works. With the success of the Muppet Show, Jim Henson decided to branch out his world of puppets to the big screen. In 1982, The Dark Crystal opened to wonderful ratings and became one of the biggest grossing film during that time, in which it made over forty million dollars in the box office. His use of animatronics and creature design was groundbreaking and opened our eyes to a world of wondrous possibilities.
This American-British family fantasy film transported us to a planet called Thra, where we follow a young boy, Jen, through his journey to save his planet from a ruthless race called the Skeksis. Jen, who is a Gelfling, an elf like race that was killed by the Skeksis, lives among the gentle Mystics. The Mystics are a peaceful race of wizards that live alongside nature and never desire material things. The Skeksis are the total opposite of the Mystics. Their lifestyle solely depends upon power, greed, and the desire to live forever.
Jen is called upon by his caretakers, the Mystics, to find a powerful crystal shard that was part of a larger piece, the Dark Crystal, from the home of Aughra, a woman who uses the shard to see into the future. Aughra tells Jen about the Great Conjunction. It is a cosmic event where the three moons align and the two great races, the Skeksis, and the Mystics can join together to become one. She also tells Jen that the Skeksis and the Mystics were actually one race, but was split in two when the Dark Crystal broke. On his journey to find the shard of the Dark Crystal, he encounters Kira, another Gelfling survivor who has been living with her caretakers, the Podlings. A Skeksis outcast, the Chamberlain is on the trail of them, hoping to use them to gain acceptance back within his race. The Chamberlain is able to capture Kira and lure Jen back to his castle for trade among the Skeksis, but Jen is able to escape, however Kira was not that lucky. Using creatures like Landstriders, a sloth looking giraffe that run over land quite fast, Jen is able to get to the castle. The Skeksis are already siphoning the life force from Kira and their other captures to keep them young, when Aughra tells Kira to use her special powers to communicate with the animals in the castle. She is set free by the animals and searches for a way to escape. The Chamberlain captures Kira and brings her to the main chamber where the Dark Crystal resides; there Jen is hiding from sight of the Dark Crystal. The Skeksis spot Jen and chases him around until he finally jumps on top of the Crystal, but Kira is killed when she throws the shard to him. The Mystics then crash into the room where Jen strikes the shard into the Crystal. A light show takes place and the two races, the Skeksis and the Mystics are drawn together like a magnet, and become one unified race. Jen then takes Kira into his arms. Miraculously she is revived by the new unified beings and the castle around them transforms itself into a beautiful white crystal like structure.
I love how Jim Henson uses these spectacular puppets to tell a story with wondrous imagination, and reaches into our hearts and delivers a great message that love, strength of character, and the ultimate sacrifice can overcome tremendous obstacles. When I watched this film, I think I was about thirteen. I fell in love with the innocence of the Gelflings, and was in awe of the terrified creatures like the Skeksis, and the Great Garithm (crab-like creatures that are work soldiers for the Skeksis). At that age I wanted the heroes to win and the villains to lose. I wanted the guy to get the girl and live happily ever after. I guess in the 80’s, the filmmakers wanted that as well. Jim Henson made a few more films during the 80’s like the Labyrinth, but I hold The Dark Crystal in high regard as one of my favorites.