16
Jul 04

FT Top 100 Films 61: THE DARK CRYSTAL

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FT Top 100 Films
61: THE DARK CRYSTAL

 
Its like The Muppet Movie without the laffs. Well it is The Muppet Movie without the laffs – at least it would be if The Great Muppet Caper had not already been The Muppet Movie without the laffs. But The Dark Crystal is The Muppet Movie without laffs and without the muppets.

For some strange reason (or probably due to the lack of success of The Great Muppet Caper)  Jim Henson decided to make a strange, sci-fi/fantasy puppet movie. He figured since he had been so successful making money out of cheap puppets and making people laugh, it should be a synch to make a serious adventure film with expensive puppets. To some degrees he succeeded – though one could also say the world was not ready for The Dark Crystal. 

The world is ready for The Dark Crystal now, because we have DVD players and love the making of documentaries. One of the best things about puppets is behind the scenes, trying to work out how they did it. I saw a documentary on the history of the Muppets a couple of years ago. I could have watched it for hours, the strange split personality of puppeteers knowing what can, and cannot be seen by the camera. Couple this with someone like Frank Oz who also did the voice, and my admiration overflows. Especially for the Muppets, they interviewed people, interacted and (key point) were also really funny. The Dark Crystal is not funny. Its daaaaark.

The quest plot is bog standard for this kind of fantasy, and the creatures “gelfings” are straight from creature design 101 (bit elf, a bit hobbit). But the world conjured up looks tremendous, even if the lead characters look more like deformed simpletons than mystical creatures. An oddity then, one which was twenty years ahead of the current fantasy obsession. Did it kill a genre dead at the time. Maybe, though it looks and feels a lot better than the current wave. Pity about the jokes though.

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