Friday, 26 November 2010

The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal is a fantasy film directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz and is noted as being the first live-action film without the presence of humans on the screen. The film is set on Thra as the narrator describes on “another world, another the age of wonder.” All of its inhabitants and environments are inspired by common folklore and were all illustrated by Brian Froud who was famous for his faerie and dwarf design. The story follows a Gelfling named Jen who is sent on a quest to find the missing shard of the Dark Crystal to restore balance to the universe and remove the power held by the Skeksis over the planet.

Concept Designer Brian Froud was behind all of the design that took place in the production of the film which in total took up five years of his life. All of the characters are breathtaking, even though there is no human presence within the film they are all believable and realistic engulfing the audience into the fantasy. Accompanied by the stunning backgrounds it all brings in a fantasy world to get lost in. Jim Henson found a copy of Froud’s illustration book which he said ‘I loved the style and richness of Froud’s illustrations. I knew intuitively that his work could be turned into three dimensional characters for our film- it was translatable.’ ( Page 34)

The thing to notice about the Dark Crystal is that it is terrifyingly dark, where Jim Henson is well known for his cute puppets of Kermit and miss Piggy who share jokes and often involved in slapstick. The Dark Crystal is in the complete opposite direction from Kermit and co. Bringing something different to the table which Henson wanted to delve into. While Henson adored his young audience, he was never one to pander to the nose-pickers, preferring to challenge their eyes with visions of evil and the restorative effects of good; the ultimate war of destiny between the kindly Mystics (or urRu) and the wicked Skeksis.( )The cruel Skeksis are definitely the culprits behind the terror, they look like a cross between a lizard and a vulture, which fits in with their horrible nature. 

The environments and creatures are really what make the film and it is a shame that the main character Jen was very plain and the story needed to be explored more. ‘An extraordinary, often mesmerizing achievement of design and performance that's held back by an underdeveloped script and a milquetoast leading character.’ ( Even though this may be the case the film still stands out and its design is entertaining and immersive. It has gained cult classic status and rightly so, Froud and Henson should be pleased in the risk they took on developing this movie because it shows attention to detail and has so much character.

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