As you can see, I've been playing around with the article format, using my extremely novice skills to utilize a hacked Front Page '98 (shoot me) to the very best of my ability. As basic as it is, I think I prefer this layout to the old way. But I'm not the one who has to sit through these articles, if you find the new layout distracting or difficult to read through, drop me a line and let me know. Conversely, if you prefer it this way, send me 15 bucks. For a better overall feel of the new look du jour, I've also given the makeover to my past few articles.
Woo hoo! With this review, we're one step closer to creating the site most-attractive to people with stacks of Starlog magazines by their bed. By the time I review Krull, we should get an interview. This whole thing is really just a plot to ultimately sell off the thirty-six dozen packaged He-Man Toothpaste Toppers I own. Once I'm sure that everyone on the planet who could conceivably be interested in such a shitty item is reading the site, then you'll see a much greater concern over whether or not I accept American Express. But I really don't have to hold my breath and count the seconds to pound out a review on Dark Crystal...ever since I first got the chance to view it a few weeks back, its grown on me harder than an extended version of the Growing Pains theme. I don't know how this one slipped by me all the years, but suffice to say, had my parents taken me to see this instead of Return of the Jedi back in '83, its definitely possible that most of the articles on this site would be about that fat freak puppet Aughra who likes to dismember her eyes.
Friends of all shades have been shilling this movie to me for years, but I just didn't think anything 'Muppets' would amount to something worth two hours of my time and a video rental. The only thing about Muppet movies that I ever found interesting was the fact that Kermit was able to order ice cream in 'dragonfly flavor' with a straight face. Other than that, its all pass and go. Puff puff give. Little did I know that my puppet predjudice was keeping me from seeing a movie that'll ultimately be an easy candidate for my top ten ever. That said, while you're not going to run out to buy Dark Crystal posters if you're seeing it for the first time, you'll still feel like you've just seen something special. This comes from an era where the amount of effort that had to go into making a movie like this good was absolutely incredible. They didn't have CGI graphics and whatnot to instantly and much more easily conjure up entire new worlds at the drop of a hat. Back then, these movies took a huge amount of patience, energy and passion to create, and based on that alone, its impossible to not appreciate the flick.
On the flip side, its also hard to resist a movie that obviously comes from a time where Henson was battling a severe hallucinogenic addiction. The movie is fucked up. Its got a good moral and heroes and all that jazz, but man, anyone who says Henson's work was one-dimensionally 'happy' obviously hasn't seen this movie. Its like Henson watched a Tim Burton marathon for a week straight while drinking Ice 101 before filming. Then again, its rated PG and they're still puppets, so I'd be overstating things to call this one 'scary'. Still, I can't imagine too many little kids staying perfectly skill when giant crow creatures start screaming incomprehensible lines while trying to blade a big hunk of metal. Its a near-textbook fantasy, and like most of those, the villains have this real creepy element to them. I don't have any figures here to tell you how well the movie did, but I'd bet the critics gave it some applause. For a movie that could've just as easily been crappy, they really pulled it off. Now, let's go through what it was actually all about. For those of you who haven't seen the movie, consider this a crash course.
After the breathtaking opening sequence in which each of the voice actors' names appear in a sort of 'spaghetti style' font over a desert backdrop, we find Whoopi Goldberg obviously sloshed during an awards show appearance...an embarassment to the Academy as a whole, she stumbles on stage reading a back issue of Dynamite magazine, a popular 80s mag that featured only the best sci-fi movies available. It wouldn't have been quite as bad had the staples in the magazine not given out, leading to Whoopi fumbling over herself trying to pick up the scattered pages before they went to commercial. Meanwhile, some fat guy finally puts two and two together and realizes that yes, he's standing right next to the clairvoyant bartender of the Starship Enterprise.
Later in the show, Whoopi sticks her proverbial 'fat black ass' into naysaying critics faces by appearing again, this time in full ceremonial gear alongside the emperor of the evil Skeksis. Making things more confusing was the random appearance of World Championship Wrestling superstar Bill Goldberg, who completely avoided all questions of suspicion over the Whoopi-Bill 'Goldberg Connection'. Then, Link from Zelda puts on bear makeup and starts looking for a discarded piece of purple crystal. The end.
If you have a life, feel free to send it to me via e-mail. Realplayer format preferred.
Actually, the real story is somehow even more involved than that. Our hero is Jen, one of the only survivors of an elven race known as the Gelflings. After his family was killed, he was brought up by the sloth-like ancient wizard heroes, the Mystics. Mystics speak softly and slowly, and generally look like hairy diseased elephants. But when you consider their evil rivals, the Skeksies, who all look like fermenting corpses of giant mutant crows, you soon realize that looks mean little in the whimsical town of urRu. Basically, Jen finds out that a prophecy has named him - a lowly bastard elf - as the world's savior. The only one who can stop armageddon, which is on its way. To do that, he has to find a broken shard of the infamous Dark Crystal and return it to the gem. Easier said than done, because if there's anything those dirty Skeksies don't want, its a kinderwhore elf fucking with their crystal power source. Can Jen save the world before its too late? Of course he can, its Jim Henson for Christ's sake! But let's see how he got there.
Since the movie is so jam-packed, I'm only gonna cover the basics. But I should mention that there's just too much debauchery and overall puppet freakiness to cover in its entirety, so no matter how much you can gather from this review, I strongly suggest checking the movie out for yourself. Of course, 90% of you probably already have, so let's just consider this a friendly stroll down memory lane. Let's get reaquainted with those weird purple beetle soldier monster things all over again!
Its not a happy day in Mystics HQ, for a multitude of reasons. First of all, this marks day one of the 'mirrors in every bedroom' era, which serves as nothing but a constant reminder to all the Mystics of just how ugly they are. I mean, you talk about your sympathetic hero in peril. All these guys look like they were about to drop any second, its pretty hard not to pity them. But they are the good guys, and they are ten trillion years old, and they've all got Roman noses, so let's respect them.
Still, bad, bad day for the heroes. As it turns out, the 'Great Conjucture' is set to occur any day now, and the Mystics just remembered that if they don't take action quick, the whole world's gonna be swarming with evil and despair really soon. The lead Mystic, on his death bed, has the unfortunate task of telling Jen that they waited 15 years, right up to the very last minutes to tell him that he's gotta save the world. He is the chosen one, you see. The prophecies don't lie, they just make shit really frustrating for everyone. How do you think these Mystics felt knowing that they had to entrust their fate to a 40-pound faggy elf just because some stupid prophecy says so? Its things like this that keep religious faith down. Do you think most people actually want to believe that Jesus Christ looked like the bass player from Nirvana? Luckily, what Jen misses out on in height and testosterone he makes up for in absolute and total blind faith.
His mission, should he choose to accept it: find the lost shard belonging to the Dark Crystal. Return it. Of course, that's not going to be easy, since the villainous Skeksies currently hold the Dark Crystal for its magical powers. And they're uh...not going to be all that easy to contend with. Have a looksie...
Meet the Skeksies. Bob, Big Bob, Little Bob, and Robert. They're the law in this town, and the law states that they can basically maim, kill, or eat whomever they damn well please. They're all hideously falling apart and can't do much by way of casual conversation, but they are, by far, the most powerful guys in town. They control the Dark Crystal, and use their misbegotten powers to wreak havok on the planet: enslaving, killing, and attacking virtually everything they come into contact with. They also have some of the worst table manners I've ever seen. The dinner scene somehow manages to be more disgusting than that part in Gremlins where the bad mogwais go to town with the leftover fried chicken.
They're so evil, the guys can't even get along with each other. Within the first moments of meeting them, we're treated to a scene where on Skeksie yells for another to shut the fuck up, annoyed over his constant Yoda-like jibba jabber. Yes, they sound a lot like injured Yodas, directly because Frank Oz, who did the voicework in Empire Strikes Back, is here to bring more nauseating sounds to the silver screen. Up above you'll see a pic from a scene where the new Skeksie emperor is crowned - a distinction only given to the one crow who can slice through a big piece of granite. Everyone has their rituals, let's not go judging. Needless to say, villains this ruthless aren't going to take to Jen too lightly. But he'll worry about that later - first he's gotta find that missing shard.
And who's the first person you talk to when you're out looking for rare crystals?
Aughra is not your typical fat grey butch freak bitch by any stretch of the imagination. She's a modern day Morton Downey Jr. in her convictions - this sloppy thing is one in-your-face phenom. Aughra kicks off her friendship with Jen in the only way she knows how - by pulling her eye out of its socket and shoving it in his face. You know Aughra's one confident gal because she doesn't even pull an obvious 'I've got my eye on you!' joke. And for that, I commend her. Girl's a true visionary with her material. Besides, there's really not much point in her nailing the target with biting wit, because all we really have energy to notice is the fact that, for a disgusting withered creature, the gal's got absolutely shapely breasts. At least the luck of genetics only overlooked most parts of her body, not all of 'em.
Despite her callous appearance and vicious looks, Aughra ain't no cretin. As soon as Jen tells her why he's there, she hands over the crystal chard and tries to help in any way she can. Unfortunately, the usefulness of a giant bummy oaf is limited, and you really get the impression that Jen had the whole 'in-and-out' ideal running through his head the whole time he was there. He wasn't really interested in seeing Aughra's various weather instruments or what other parts of her body were detachable, he just wants to get on with his mission. But the action's about to pick up in a major way.
The Skeksies use their magic and learn of Jen's heroic intentions, so obviously, they're gonna do what they can to put an end to it. If they didn't, they wouldn't be very evil, would they? And the Skeksies don't want people to label them as bad guys just because they look like rotting garbage. They belief in the old addage of being judged by their actions. So, if people are gonna believe they're misfits, their first order of business is sending out a horde of giant, purple beetle-like creatures to trash Aughra's pad and dismember Jen. Remember, its your visual assertations that caused all this. Don't blame the Skeksies, they're just doing what you expected them to do.
The beetles do their job well in destroying Aughra's home, but Jen escapes. Now he knows that this is not going to be an easy task. See, the Mystics didn't really tell him that this would be a particularly dangerous mission, he just headed out there not knowing what to expect. Five minutes later, and he's got an obese monster shoving eyes in his face while big beetles try to set him on fire. I'd take my chances with the Great Conjunction. Who needs this kinda stress?
Where there's stress, there's stress relievers. And what better way to ease the tension than to get romantically linked to the only other Gelfling still around - and a pretty cute one to boot! Her name is Kira, and she's an absolute sweetheart. Obviously, the two really hit it off. Kira's been hanging around with these pod people all her life, and we've already seen the guys Jen's been around. Seeing something that doesn't induce vomiting is refreshing for the both of 'em. Kira decides to help Jen on his quest, and vows to keep the jokes about his name to a minimum.
The two engage in this weird ceremonial thing where they're allowed to share their memories and experiences. Thus, they both see, firsthand, how the other grew up. As a side effect, they cash in on all the little factoids the other one picked up through the years. For instance, before this mind-sharing thing, Kira had no idea that Jon Voight was Angelina Jolie's dad. On the other side, Jen had no idea that an entire episode of Seinfeld dealt with people trying to buy Jon Voight's car. Obviously, both Gelflings left the meeting feeling damn near omnipotent, but most importantly, much closer to one another. They're elf lovers.
Back at the ranch, Aughra tempts fate by find at least 200 ways to call the Skeksies idiots. Considering that they're pretty much known for killing people and the fact that she's grossly outnumbered, Aughra might wanna rethink her strategy.
This little scene serves as a clever plot device to remind us that yes, the Skeksies are still around, and yes, they're still evil. Elsewhere, the Mystics continue their journey towards the castle, mounting towards some final climax that isn't quite yet apparent to the audience. I dunno, maybe they did explain why they were making this long trek earlier, but chances are good that I purposely got drunk before watching this thinking it'd be a flat out Muppet movie. Plus, its difficult to pay attention to the minute details when some abhorreal creature is screeching at the top of its lungs every six seconds.
Meanwhile, Jen and Kira are met by Chamberlain, an exiled Skeksie, who promises them that he wants peace and just wants to help them end the conflict between the Skeks and the Mystics. Nobody's buying that, however, so the two just run off, leaving the Skeksie to deliver, in succession, 40 noises that sound progressively more and more like chalk being grated against a chalkboard. Its unreal. You're rooting for the good guys to win not because they're very interesting, but just because you can't stand listening to the bad guys' voices anymore. Its a great trick to get us rallying behind the heroes, but believe me when I say its draining. I told you they sound like Yoda, but it'd be a more appropriate comparison if Yoda spent his time in the Star Wars movies loudly humming along to Olivia Newton John's Let's Get Physical. In other words, don't keep the volume too high. Wait!!! Wait PLEASE MAKE PEACE!
The Gelflings' instincts are proven correct as Chamberlain turns on them, knocks out Jen, and kidnaps Kira. When he presents the girl to his Gelfling emperor, she's brought to a room where we're shown the true evils of this enchanted crow society: using the powers of the Dark Crystal, they suck the life energy out of Gelflings and drink it, just like fruit punch! Obviously, this is sick. They're like high-tech vampires who use juicers. Jen holds out as best she can, as her fate won't be a pretty one if she succumbs: once drained of their energies, Gelflings turn into little gross peapod monsters with no mind of their own. So now Jen doesn't just have to return the crystal shard - he's gotta make sure they don't zap all the femininity out of his girlfriend. An elf's work is never done!
Course, I'm not sure why Kira didn't just, you know, close her eyes. I bet she's wishin' she paid a little more mind to that freestyle rapper from the old Blueblockers infomercials. Always so cynical, aren't we Kira? Well look who's fryin' without their shades now, elf bitch.
I'm speeding things up a bit now - Jen recovers from his nap and storms the castle. We're at the crucial moment now - the Great Conjunction, or whatever the hell its called, is about to take place. If the crystal isn't repaired in mere seconds, all will be lost. Fortunately, the Skeksies didn't want to complicate matters any more than they were, so they all congregated in the main lobby and brought the damn girl Gelfling with them. And now - the ending sequence. Hold on to your hats.
Kira, on her last breath, tosses the crystal to Jen, and it explodes into a white light. ALL IS SAVED! As it turns out, the full story was much more involved than we thought: when the crystal broke, the race that ruled the planet at the time split into two definitive races - the heroic Mystics, and the evil Skeksies. A time of plague and terror scorched the planet. Now that the crystal has been repaired, they reform once more, taking the shape of these towering white ghost things. Peace has been restored to the planet, and Jen's a hero. Kira's a hero too, but to a lesser extent. Remember, Sigourney didn't pave the way for female actresses until years after this flick came out.
Given the circumstances, this is about the happiest ending we could expect. The hybrid Mystic/Skeksie ghost things fly up into the heavens, leaving Jen, Kira, Aughra, and a few other people I've purposely neglected in this review to take charge of a brave new world and to watch over the crystal. Fade out.
Overall: You really can't go wrong with a movie this unique - watching it is a veritable experience. I can say with much certainty that we'll probably see a movie like this created again - almost with no type of people-pleasing shit whatsoever. A straight out, dead on fantasy piece. Its standard stuff, but its worked wonderfully. Given the sheer amount of ravenous fans the movie's garnered, its pretty hard to dismiss. And, if I had seven thumbs, they'd all be up. Seven thumbs up.
PS, a few more notes on the flick. You might've noticed that it bears some striking similarities to Return of the Jedi. But they both came out pretty much at the same time, so who's ripping off who? I guess you can chalk a lot of it up to coincidence, but it probably didn't hurt that one of the main guys working on ROTJ skipped out midway after a falling out with Lucas and landed working on this one. Also of note: any arguments that I'd have to back up this point would come out disconnected and convuluted at best, but I'd say our old pals from the Zelda series of video games were definitely big fans of this movie.
Though released in 1982, the movie's maintained popularity have finally allowed it to segue into X-E's favorite medium - action figures. Yes, now you can own your very own 12" Jen and Kira, and you can pretty much pose them in any sexually explicit position imaginable. They're not on the market quite yet, but have a little patience, and soon you can go to sleep holding a piece of Skeksie history a little closer to your heart.
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