Monday, October 08, 2012

The Dark Crystal

Directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz and screenplay by David Odell from a story by Henson, The Dark Crystal is the story of an elf-like creature who goes on a journey to return a lost shard of a powerful gem in order to restore balance to his alien world. The film is a fantasy feature with a dark edge that is geared towards a wider audience as it features puppets and animatronics. Featuring narration by Joseph O’Conor, the film also features the voices of Stephen Garlick, Lisa Maxwell, and Billie Whitelaw. The Dark Crystal is a captivating fantasy film from Jim Henson and Frank Oz.

A magical crystal began to crack as one of its shards is missing that created two different races in the gentle, hunchback wizard creatures known as the Mystics and the dark, tyrannical vulture-like creatures known as Skeksis where the latter use the power of the crystal power to maintain immortality. A thousand years has passed as the Skeksis’ emperor is dying as its general and chamberlain fight over who should lead the Skeksis into further immortality. Meanwhile, they learn that the prophecy about an elf-like creature known as Gelfling where a survivor of the Gelfling massacre is set to find the missing crystal shard in hopes to restore balance.

The Gelfling chosen for the task is a young one named Jen as he was raised by the Mystics as his master tells him what to do. Jen reluctantly takes on the mission to find the missing shard as he later meets the mysterious witch Aughra who supposedly have remnants of the shard. After an attack by dark creatures known as Garthim that has captured Aughra, Jen escapes with the shard as he treks into mysterious land where he meets another Gelfling named Kira. After realizing that they’re the only survivors of their race, they continue to evade many dark creatures as they seek shelter in creatures known as Podlings who had raised Kira after the Gelfling massacre. The shelter is only brief when the Podlings are attacked and captured by the Garthim as they’re led by the exiled Chamberlain who decides to trick them so he can get back to his clan.

Jen and Kira enter the ruined Gelfling city where they learn about the prophecy as the Chamberlain also meets them as he tries to make claims to go with him so they can make peace. Instead, Jen and Kira refuse to believe him as they decide to go to the castle alone in order to fulfill the prophecy. With the Mystics trekking onto the castle to fulfill their part, it’s up to Jen and Kira to save the world from the Skeksis.

In this simple yet adventurous fantasy film about an elflike creature trying to save the world by returning a piece of a crystal shard back to its source before evil creatures can use its power to gain immortality. It revolves around a lot of exposition into how a troubled world is made and why this Gelfling is sent to save it in order to fulfill a prophecy. Even as this character named Jen learn why his kind was destroyed as he would later meet the only other survivor of his kind where she would aid him in his quest. It’s a story that has a lot of plot schematics as far as fantasy-adventure films are concerned. Yet, it is engaging enough for the audience to be invested in these characters while being aware of the stakes that is happening.

The direction of Jim Henson and Frank Oz is definitely vast in terms of its presentation. Wanting to stray away from conventional puppetry, the duo use animatronics to help the creatures move along with the world that is around them. Through some amazing wide shots and close-ups to create compositions that are quite beautiful, Henson and Oz definitely aim for something that is different from typical fantasy films. Even as they incorporate elements of horror and suspense to make the journey more dangerous as the film progresses. What Henson and Oz create is a film that is more than just a simple story about elves and dark creatures but also something that is really steeped in more adult fantasy that appeals to an audience that is willing to be invested into something that isn’t afraid to venture into dark territory. Overall, Henson and Oz create a marvelous yet imaginative film that does a lot for the fantasy genre.

Cinematographer Oswald Morris does excellent work with the film‘s photography from the lush look of the forest scenes to the brooding lighting schemes of the castle and dark places. Editor Ralph Kemplen does some nice work with the editing by using dissolves and some creative montages for the telepathic dream sequence between Jen and Kira. Production designer Harry Lange, along with set decorator Peter Young and supervising art director Charles Bishop, does spectacular with the sets such as the look of the castle, the Mystics land, and many other landscapes to create a world that is truly magical.

Costume designer Brian Froud does wonderful work with the costumes from the clothes the Gelfling wears to the more ragged clothes of the Skeksis. The visual effects work of Jon Sorensen is superb for the atmosphere that is created in the scenes involving the crystal including the lab that one of the Skeksis characters works at. Sound editor Nicholas Stevenson does terrific work with the sound to create a brooding atmosphere in the castle as well as a more intimate setting for the scenes in the forest. The film’s music by Trevor Jones is brilliant for its ethereal score filled with some ambient cuts, folk-inspired pieces, and soaring orchestral themes to play up the sense of fantasy that surrounds the film.

The film’s voice cast is remarkable as it features some amazing work from Stephen Garlick as Jen, Lisa Maxwell as Kira, Billie Whitelaw as Aughra, Percy Edwards as Kira’s pet creature Fizzgig, Barry Dennen as the Chamberlain, Michael Kilgarriff as Jen’s master, and Jerry Nelson as the voice of the emperor.

The Dark Crystal is an extraordinary film from the duo of Jim Henson and Frank Oz. While it’s a film that is dark and might be too scary for very young children, fans of fantasy films will no doubt see this as a worthy gem. Even as it shows that fantasy-adventure films with puppets doesn’t have to geared towards children as it has elements that adults can enjoy. In the end, The Dark Crystal is a solid film from Jim Henson and Frank Oz.

Jim Henson Films: (Hey, Cinderella!) - (The Frog Prince) - (The Muppet Musicians of Breman) - (Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas) - (The Great Muppet Caper) - (The Tale of the Bunny Picnic) - Labyrinth - (Muppet*Vision 3D)

Frank Oz Films: (The Muppets Take Manhattan) - (Little Shops of Horror) - (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) - (What About Bob?) - (HouseSitter) - (The Indian in the Cupboard) - (In & Out) - (Bowfinger) - (The Score) - (The Stepford Wives) - (Death at a Funeral)

© thevoid99 2012

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