DIRECTED BY: Jim Henson, Frank Oz
FEATURING: Jim Henson, Frank Oz (puppeteering); Stephen Garlick, Lisa Maxwell, Billie Whitelaw (voice acting)
PLOT: A meek Gelfling sets out on a journey to fulfill the prophecy that he will heal the Dark
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: With its advanced puppetry and dazzling color, The Dark Crystal is a visually spectacular movie. The standard-issue quest story, however, is nothing unusual; just recycled Tolkien, watered down for kids.
COMMENTS: The Dark Crystal may be the most elaborate puppet show ever staged. There are no human actors in the film, and the sets—from the spiny castle rising from a bleak landscape to the twisted interior corridors of the Skeksis’ lair to the forests of walking plants—are all fairy tale artifice, storybook illustrations adapted into three-dimensional scenery. A menagerie of imaginatively designed creatures parade in front of these beautifully textured backdrops. Most impressive are the evil Skeksis, hunched bipeds who simultaneously resemble reptiles, dinosaurs and birds of prey. They are opposed by the gentle Mystics, four armed, droning sloths with kind wizardly faces, and Gelflings, the “human” characters, who look like an experiment in breeding J.R.R. Tolkien’s elves with chimpanzees from The Planet of the Apes. The meticulously molded puppets–each turkey-faced Skeksis’ beak is individually gnarled—have expressive eyes, and their jaws move when they speak. The rest of the puppet faces, however, are immobile; so despite the minute detailing, the mix of animatronics with static features makes the creatures overall appearance unreal and somewhat uncanny—maybe even “weird.” (The fact that the puppets move at about three-quarters the speed of a human actor, while seriously hampering the action sequences, also adds to the movie’s artificial reality). The simplistic, muted emotions conveyed by the creatures’ features aren’t terribly jarring, however, because their puppet shells are inhabited by one-dimensional characters. Lack of character depth isn’t a problem for the villainous Continue reading CAPSULE: THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982)