The Dark Crystal DVD: Review By kerouac1

  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
It's a rare occurrence, but every once and a while, a film comes along that is so original, so imaginative, that people just don't get it. Such was the fate of Jim Henson's masterpiece, The Dark Crystal. From the creator of the Muppets, The Dark Crystal was, in my opinion, the crowning achievement of the last truly creative people on Earth. Jim Henson was a genius, plain and simple. His ideas were so out there that many felt they wouldn't work. But he made them work, and all without the assistance of computers. The Dark Crystal is all sets, mat-paintings, and puppetry. And with these tools, Henson created a world unlike any other, filled with creatures that even George Lucas would be hard pressed to create.

The world of The Dark Crystal is a world divided. Long ago, the Dark Crystal, a mythical crystal of unknown power, was split. And with that split came the division of the world itself. Two races came into being with the splitting of the Crystal: the wise and gentle Mystics, and the evil, greedy Skeksis. And for ages they lived out the dichotomy of the world, the yin and yang, if you will. But now, a prophecy is coming to pass in which the Crystal will need to be healed in order for the world to survive. And, as the hero's journey goes, the unlikeliest of beings needs to fulfill it. Living with the Mystics is a young boy named Jen, believed to be the last of a simple race of creatures known as Gelflings. Jen is sent off to find the lost shard of the Crystal, and heal it. Along the way he meets amazing creatures such as Aughra, and Kira, a Gelfling female. His quest will lead him directly into the castle of the Skekis, and into great danger.

This film has all of the elements needed for wonderful fantasy. The characters are wonderfully developed, and the story is both mythic and engrossing. You just can't help but get caught up in this strange little world. The bizarre thing about a review like this is that you want to write about the acting, but in doing so you must talk about the character performer (or puppeteer) and the voice actor. Both were wonderful in this. Much of the praise goes to Muppet regulars Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson and Steve Whitmire. These men are master puppeteers who understand the subtle nuances of movement. You truly believe in these characters even though they are little more than foam and latex.
Isolated Music Score

This is a feature I can usually do without. I don't have a DVD player to listen to music, but this score is worth it. It's whimsical and playful at times, yet dark at others. Trevor Jones' music fits the movie perfectly, and I for one am glad it was included.

Doc*mentary: The World Of The Dark Crystal

At first glance, this would appear to be your average "Making of..." doc*mentary, but it's not. Instead, this is a glimpse at two masters at work: Jim Henson and Frank Oz. Although Jim was taken from us way to quickly, we get rare opportunities, such as this, to see his genius in action. Not only do we get the great behind-the-scenes stuff, but we also get to see the progression of the characters themselves. We see Frank and Jim actually working out the movements and mannerisms of the characters. We see the subtle nuances that go into the performances. This is an hour long doc*mentary, and it's great. It serves as a reminder to what can happen when two genuinely talented people get together and share their abilities.

Deleted Funeral Scenes

How this footage was kept is beyond me, but I'm glad it was! This isn't the best scene ever, and one can see why it wasn't included in the film. It's a little too dark, and a touch slow, but it just allows us to delve even further into the imagination of Henson, and that's never a bad thing.

Character Drawings and Profiles

Normally I'm not a fan of the production sketches on DVDs unless they're for a really original film. But here we get to see some of the process that goes into taking something from the imagination and breathing life into it. These designs are intricate, highly detailed, and well worth a look.

Original language work print scenes

These scenes have the characters speaking in their original languages, before the voiceover work was done. This would be a cool feature, but the image quality is horrendous. It looks like a bad copy of an already horrible video tape. So, even though the idea is good, I would have left it off the disc due to the poor quality.

Another treat on this DVD is the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. It looks great. This is not a movie that can be enjoyed in a full screen presentation. The world Henson created was too vast, and too detailed to get chopped up in a pan and scan transfer. Although the actual quality is a little sub-par for DVD, it's not distracting, and still looks pretty good.
This movie is a fitting legacy for the genius of Jim Henson. He's was an imaginative mind that was taken from us far too soon. Luckily for us, he was able to produce a film of this caliber, showing us a glimpse of what could have been had he only lived longer. He was a master at blurring the edge between child and adult entertainment, which means the whole family can enjoy this film. It's a classic that was way ahead of it's time, and it deserves a second life.

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