Welcome to Muppet Mondays! Over the next several Mondays I will be working my way through the various movies in the Muppets and Jim Henson oeuvre.
Title: The Dark Crystal
Release Date: December 17, 1982
Director: Jim Henson & Frank Oz
Production Company: Henson Associates | ITC Entertainment
Technically, this is not a Muppets movie but it was the next step in Jim Henson’s vision to create an original live-action movie featuring only puppets and animatronics on screen. I remember watching this several times as a child (and imitating the Chamberlain’s “hmmms”) even though I didn’t like it much due it’s creepiness and the fact that I didn’t enjoy fantasy stories as child.
Rewatching this as an adult I still find a lot of the characters and scenes to be nightmare-fodder and now that I’m more well-versed in fantasy, I can tell that the plot is not at all original. It’s particularly disappointing that the gelfling Jen (voiced by Stephen Garlick, performed by Jim Henson) is a protagonist with no real character beyond being the one to heal the crystal.
With those reservations, The Dark Crystal is nevertheless an impressive work of film-making. The puppet and animatronic work is jaw-dropping and shows a clear progression from the innovations made for the two Muppet movies that preceded it. The movements and facial characteristics of the Skeksis is particularly impressive. The movie really creates a dream-like alternate world unlike anything else seen on film.
I can see why this movie was not received well at the time of its release and why it’s also become a cult classic. It’s easy to miss the greatness of what The Dark Crystal is for the even greater possibilities of what it could’ve been.