Every so often I like to dig up some piece of pop culture that for whatever reason has eluded me. Sometimes I walk away from the experience feeling positive that I've witnessed something important. Other times I marvel at humanities ability to over hype some real crap. Tonight it was finally time to watch The Dark Crystal, that's an early 80's fantasy puppet flick for anyone who doesn't know. Flicks like this one add an extra layer of difficulty it that they appeal mainly to people who saw it as kids. Watching it as an adult always snatches away a little charm. It doesn't mean a movie will suck, it's just harder to get into the spirit of things. I've dealt with this kind of thing watching Monster Squad when I was like 22 and Labyrinth when I was around...24 or 5. Adding to the pressure, this one, like Labyrinth is a big favorite for some of my friends who don't understand my hated of the magic dance. So the question is...do I like it? Let's find out.
We open in fairly standard fashion for an 80's fantasy flick. Dark clouds, large vistas, and a disembodied deep voice delivering the backstory. Many a moon ago, some asshole broke a big crystal which ended up spawning two separate species. The Skeksis are some sort of lizard/bird/rat hybrid who indulge in pretty much any and all nasty behavior from soul sucking to generally bad table manners. The other species are the mystics. Lumbering multi-armed dudes who perform some sort of magic throat fart every so often. I took this all in stride. Sure it's a little cliched but nothing bad. Then I caught sight of something I didn't expect. A goddamn naked puppet.
Turns out this budding sex offender is our hero. A young lad by the name of Jen....really? We couldn't use a guys name? Alright so Jen here seems to be the last of his kind since the Skeksis went all genocidal on his people to prevent a prophecy that one of them would repair the crystal. Of course his teacher/adoptive father happens to be dying that day and finally decides to let him know that saving the world is completely on his shoulders. Guess you wouldn't want to give him a complex by telling him too early. Before ya know it the kids off on a journey while the emperor of the skeksis also kicks the bucket which leads to a battle for the throne and, you guessed it, more puppet nudity!
I was approaching this one with an open mind but found it a tad off that the only themes in place by the 20 minute mark where deathbeds and birthday suits. Oh and then these dick bushels showed up.
Jen finds an old wise woman who reminds me of the crypt keeper in drag. She gives him the shard he requires for his quest before they all get attacked by big ass beetle people. Not joking when I tell ya that these are an inspired creation. They wouldn't be at all out of place smacking down with Godzilla. They're just some good old fashioned nightmare fuel for the kids.
So far I was enjoying myself. Things were moving along, and Jen comes to find out that he's still got a chance to bone up and repopulate his race when he meets Kira. However; the second third of the story really slows down to an unnecessary degree. This left me to ponder the issues with the movie. One is that there are several scenes that have little to no point. For instance the skeksis dinner scene eventually has a point to it, but not before we're subjected to a good 3-4 minutes of how glutinous they are. It seems a moot point to show them as disgusting and cruel when we already know they're the villains. Also I started to take up a big issue with Jen. Fantasy stories have a long history of dull/lifeless heroes but this kid take the crown. Seriously! He's a walking sleeping pill. Plus he's damn near useless. He talks about how his master taught him about words and math but this knowledge comes in handy all of one time.
|I liked this part better when it was rainbow connection.|
Once our heroes arrive at the dark palace things start to pick up again with fighting and backstabbing. Yes I mean that, someone actually gets stabbed in the back. A few threatened character deaths and some mysticism, and before you know it the crystal is repaired causing the two separate species to merge into floating heads of cauliflower. These guys then report that in a moment of arrogance they broke the crystal, which caused them to split into the two different creatures. Now hold up! Everybody makes mistakes sure, but how many of those lead to a thousand years of misery and genocide? Ya can't just say “opps, sorry bout that” and then fly away. Anyway, Jen gets his lady love back from the brink of death, the land is green and fertile again, it's over. Spoiler alert?
I may sound like I didn't enjoy myself but I really did. Like other movies of this type I'm sure I would've enjoyed it more as a kid but it was decent entertainment. The production is great, there's good art design all around, and it's a pleasure to see something like this made entirely out of physical effects. I do wish I'd watched it when I had a little more energy cause it is kind of a sleepy movie. It's not going to join my collection anytime soon but at least I know it's a decent little flick. Honest recommendation is check it out, preferably with someone who really enjoys it since their enthusiasm might rub off on ya.