In this mythical tale, Jen, the last of the Gelfling race, is charged with healing the Crystal of Truth after its mutilation sets off an era of terror.
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While I have been aware of “The Dark Crystal” for most of my life (I was born in 1980) I have actually never seen it – instead, my earliest memory of a Henson film was Labyrinth. So with all the hype around “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance”, Netflix’s upcoming prequel series, I thought I should correct that so I sat down to watch it to see if it really deserved the ‘classic’ status often imbued upon it.
The film begins with a narrated backstory that explains how thousands of years ago a powerful crystal was cracked which formed two new species: the Skeksis and the Mystics. The Skeksis are the evil, bird-like creatures (although they can’t fly) and the Mystics are somewhat more laid back. As the years have passed the world is left with just 10 of each species remaining and time is running out to repair the crystal. Jen, the last of the Gelfling race, is sent by his adoptive Mystic parents to find the missing shard and restore the crystal.
The film’s characters are entirely made up of puppets (except for a very small number of shots where there’s a child in a costume) and I think that this is one thing I really enjoyed about “The Dark Crystal”. It’s not something we really see these days as we usually have CGI creatures instead – but the puppets, and the work that went into both creating them and bringing them to life, really adds to the film. It does, however, also have a negative impact on the film. It’s not easy for seven people to move a large puppet around a set so a lot of the film feels quite slow – to modern standards at least. There is also a fairly long scene where the Skeksis are eating a meal that, while technically it is very impressive, it does nothing to the story and feels like filler.
As the story progresses we learn more about the Jen and his Gelfling race as well as the prophecy surrounding the crystal and how it will restore life when it is repaired. As the evil Skeksis discover Jen they set out to stop him so they can keep using the crystal for their own evil ways and send out an army of crab-like creatures to stop him. Jen also meets some new friends that help him in his journey too – my favourite being a loveable ball of fluff called a Fizzgig.
The creatures and puppets look great throughout the film and, given that it was released nearly four decades ago, they still look good today and the handful of special effects work well too. Overall the story is fairly simple but the whole look and feel of the film far outweighs that anyway. It was a fun film to watch and my two main criticisms, 1) that it was quite slow at times and 2) the story was fairly simple, are no where near enough to spoil the film’s overall appeal. There are some dark parts to it, there are some big action scenes and, overall, it is an enjoyable, fantasy story that will likely appeal to people of all ages. I’m 37 years late but I’m pretty sure a younger version of me would have enjoyed “The Dark Crystal” too. It is certainly worth a watch, or a re-watch, before the prequel series arrives in August.
Have you seen this film? Let us know your opinions in the comments below and of course if there are any films on Netflix UK you want us to review let us know!