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Dark Crystal (DVD)

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      07.03.2010 08:53
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      Puppet film from Jim Hensen

      When I was a lot younger I can remember watching this film and finding it quite scary, it is from the creative mind of Jim Hensen who also bought us the Muppets and this is another example of his brilliance with puppets.

      Set in a different world full of strange creatures, the dominant race are the Skeksis who are a sort of flying lizard type creature and not at all nice, these were the things that as a small child I found to be quite freaky. Fable tells that their dominance will be threatened by a Gelfing which is human in form as the entrusted one will posssess the secrets of the Crystal of Truth. This Gelfing is called Jen who has the mission to restore the broken crystal and end their reign.

      Visually this film is a treat, in the days before CGI and modern animation techniques the depth of detail to both the sets and the characters is amazing. The plot is a little slow in places particularly at the beginning of the film and watching this a second time around recently that was one of the things that struck me, something either I did not notice or do not remember from my youth.

      It is a family film but I would say that it is not for very young children or those easily scared. There are a few scenes that will make you jump as the tension builds and then things appear from nowhere. There is a dark side to this film and even those creatures that are on the side of good still look a little creepy.

      Overall it is an excellent film and one I would certainly recommend as it is great to see the detail and skill that has gone into producing this film.

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        04.03.2010 11:12
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        Puppetry film from Jim Henson about a fantasy world and a quest to save it from tyranny

        Set in 'another world, another place', The Dark Crystal is a masterful display of puppetry from arguably its best creator, Jim Henson, alongside the legendary Frank Oz. Released in 1982, it was groundbreaking at the time, and despite the world moving onto things such as CGI, and the release of Avatar setting even higher standards. However, there is something that is still incredibly magical about the while thing.

        In terms of plot, The Dark Crystal is set in another world that has 3 suns and is inhabited by all manner of strange creatures which have appeared from the minds of the creators. The dominant species, the urSkeks, cracked the Crystal of Truth and split into two species, the Mystics and the Skeksis. With the last Mystic's dying breath, he entrusts the secret of the Crystal to a young Gelfling (a humanoid) named Jen, along with the mission to restore the Crystal to its full self to prevent an eternal reign of terror from the evil Skeksis.

        The plot started off quite slowly, to be honest, and I did wonder whether I would enjoy it or not. However, the key thing about it was that a lot of explanation was needed. This is a foreign land, and while this is now commonplace and just accepted in films these days, 1982 was a different matter. The film trundles along at a not very fast pace, but then, it is reliant of puppetry to tell the story, with lavishly created sets as well as the characters themselves. The innocence of Jen, the gelfling, with his long hair and babylike features, is in clever contrast to the Skeksis, larger and bigger and essentially molded on vultures, with their long necks and cruel, curved beaks. They are messy and hairy, and come across as very evil.

        Billed initially as something for the family, there is something rather dark and brooding about this. It has moments where kids could be scared, and even some of the helpful creatures along the way have creepy elements to them, and I did jump a couple of times! You would be forgiven for thinking that there are people in suits performing the actions of all of the characters, but the majority was all done with wires and rods, with visual technology allowing the majority of these elements to be taken away from what we see. For the larger creatures, humans were used, with the costumes being really heavy.

        It's a labour of love, a clever creation, and a really well designed ensemble. The plot works very well, and the character interaction flows just as well as a film involving real people would do. The characters are well thought, their history briefly discussed, characteristics developed and displayed, and fits in perfectly with the action. While said action is understandable stuttered at times due to the puppetry, it doesn't pale against the marvel of CGI that makes everything seem so realistic. In a day where we no longer know what is real and what is altered, this is a lovely no strings attached (pun intended) look at how Henson's mastery of puppetry was just as good as any of the work done with computers. The voice actors are all convincing, and the score suitably ebbs and flows as the tension reduces and increases. Simply put, it's a work of art.

        Henson originally wanted the Skeksis to have their own language with subtitles, but this was deemed to be a hinderance rather than something that would add to the film. However, extras on the DVD release do have scene featuring the Skeksis' own language, another labour of love from Henson. Overall, this is a fantastic film, and one I couldn't believe it took me so long to watch. I was impressed with everything involved in it, and my eyes flicked all across the screen throughout, so careful was the attention to detail. For 1982, this is amazing, and I think anyone would be hard pushed to do anything as magical as this with puppetry even 30 years or so on. Available for really low prices on DVD, The Dark Crystal is absolutely brilliant, and one I highly recommend.

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          21.05.2009 16:16

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          A great film for all the family.

          The second collaboration between Jim Henson and Brian Froud and another great film. The tale of good versus evil is told with the use of Jim Henson's Creature Shop puppetry and Brian Froud's creativity. A fantasy world with new and unusual inhabitants, it tells the tale of Jen and Kira, the last two Gelflings, and their quest to stop their world turning to one of evil and darkness forever. Films like this are, to me, more magical than todays computer generated imagery. The likes of Ray Harryhausen and Jim Henson used methods that, if it weren't for Tim Burton (Nightmare Before Christmas and the Corpse Bride) would be all but dead now.

          If you enjoyed Labyrinth, give this one a try. If you've seen this and enjoyed it - the sequel is being made and should be out soon!

          A brief escape from todays CGI technology and, just a little bit more believable because of it.

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          04.02.2009 16:20
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          Jen sets out to heal the Dark Crystal and set the world to rights

          I think the world of film has recently descended into a place that is dominated by CGI and mass produced movie 'masterpieces' that have no more soul than a cheese sandwich.

          We are going to take a trip back in time, long ago to the year 1982, when a film like no other was first witnessed.
          Like Labyrinth, the Dark Crystal has been with me all my life and I cannot remember the first time I saw it, but it is always a wonderful experience.

          In another world, and another time, in a land ruled by the cruel and twisted Skeksis, Jen, supposedly last of the Gelflings, sets out to heal the Dark Crystal and set the world to rights before the world becomes a dark place dominated by evil forever.
          With the help of Kira, Fizzgig and Augrah, Jen makes a journey through a stunning fantasy landscape where the animals are like nothing you've ever seen and frankly everything is simply pure unfiltered fantasy at its best.

          This is a very serious film with the idea of good versus evil in mind, and although it has a little humour and heart, it is perhaps heavier on the unfairness of life and the challenges it can present, dealing with death, slavery and persecution.
          With animal characters that kids will love, I think this is suitable for children but can be a little scary at times, and you might find yourself explaining more upsetting elements of the story. However, I challenge anyone not to fall in love with the Podlings, who I believe were designed to look like 'potato people' by conceptual artist Brian Froud. His work on this film, I might add, can be found in a marvellous book 'The World of the Dark Crystal', which is also stunning.

          Like Labyrinth, which came after this, The Dark Crystal is most notably remembered for the stunning puppet characters and the sense of fantasy they evoke; on first glance it is hard to believe you are not simply watching a live action move that was shot on another planet! You will undoubtedly look at all the characters as though they actually exist beyond being clever latex moulding and expert paint and fabrication jobs!

          I have to admit I prefer Labyrinth to The Dark Crystal simply because I love a giggle, but rest assured you cannot like one without liking the other, they are both in a league of their own!

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          03.02.2009 22:59
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          A unique and hand-crafted fantasy

          With The Lord of the Rings now fleshed out on film, it's worth reminding ourselves of previous fantastical masterpieces such as this one, achieved at great pains by Jim Henson before the onset of computer trickery. There hasn't been a film as uniquely impressionable or as memorable; as worthwhile as this legacy from Henson - with his remarkable creature puppets - since its spell was first unleashed in 1982. This - beyond Sesame Street and the muppet films - is his mature vision. A genuinely successful fantasy film - it is original, atmospheric, enriching, magical, other-worldly. It will live on, capturing the wonder of people to come as an example of everything that's good about fantasy (see next paragraph) and the idea of life as a quest of adventure and growth. The live-action models are superbly charismatic and together with the setting this prevents the film from ageing, allowing it to belong to the world it creates. The effects they manage to portray are touching, sinister, exciting, sad and triumphant. It is a proper family film, for it doesn't patronise or hold back the sincerity of its vision with its slimy representations of evil - the tainted Skeksis. Of course there are conventional fantasy elements that have inspired its conception, but then it is the mark of the strength of a vision that it can present and incorporate them into a vivid world that then takes on the look of a new one. It is a fairy-tale re-worked through the use of puppets, with suitable settings for them and it's this that gives The Dark Crystal a special and convincing difference. So convincing, in fact, that children may not be alone in their fear of it!

          The reason or need for such tales and their powers of captivation lies in the way the hidden or prevailing characteristics of our world are presented in a familiar and yet (radically) different way, for a new setting or perspective. The Skekses, Mystics, Gelflings, Podlings, Garthim, Augra, Fizz-Gigg...it's not just the strange-sounding names that contribute to a world painted in detail and conveying possibilities or hints of things greater than what the viewer had known before. Characters become recognizably good or evil despite their physical attributes, hence the wisened old Augra at first repulses us but is then later a reliable ally. The world will challenge us, it will marvel us with its abundant secrets, its deceptions and its mucilaginous goodness.

          Perhaps a slight difficulty for the viewer is the initially enthusiastic American accent of Jen (quite Disney-esque) but you get used to this and can accept that it fits with Kira and the species of the Gelflings. I like the idea of their first meeting where we are saved from an awkward introduction by the idea of their 'Dreamfasting'; a sharing of experiences and backgrounds through an exchange of imagery and dreamy narrative. Scenes like this are handled convincingly.

          The beginning narrative draws us into the world; thunder rolls out as the old master passes away and the young Jen must leave the home of the Mystics - his family - and find or discover his destiny and the secret of his singularity. Like Star Wars and Krull, we are placed firmly in this world where destiny awaits and where, after hardship, there is love to be found (Kira), friends to be made (the Podlings) and philosophical understanding to be gleaned. In this case, it is a fallen world, a severed world where the crystal of power must be healed in order to restore a balance and unite the two forces of good and evil and their opposing manifestations ruling the world of creatures. Jen and Kira, we learn, are also one of the same, and, despite whatever encounters with the world, must depend on and cherish each other. Overall it's a very natural message, and the specifics of the world ultimately become incidental to the notion of this truth and solidarity, underneath some Powers that Be amongst the heavens. The emphasis seems ultimately to rest on this example of love and companionship that braves what is most feared; bringing a determined healing light into the looming artiface of the castle.

          Considering the effort and gamble this project must have been to present its scenario on the dramatic screen, the atmosphere this film creates is what is most successful about it; and it makes the drama stay with you. Perhaps the hippie years helped to inspire its creation, in which case at least something gold lives from that period to shine on within a fantastic family experience.

          Brian Froud's illustrations inspired a creative meeting with him and Henson, and Trevor Jones' soundtrack is superb.

          'Hold her to you, for she is part of you, as we all are part of each other.'

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          20.01.2006 13:12
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          Imaginative, talented, amusing, amazing

          (The Muppets x Lord of the Rings x Harry Potter) x 1000 = The Dark Crystal
          This film isn't a normal film. It is an example of what you can achieve with years of focus (5 to be precise), patience and an amazing imagination. No normal mind could achieve such imaginative and magical characters and scenes. It is made by Henderson who is the creator of the Muppets and was made in the late 1980's. He himself never thought of this as a film but more a work of art.
          The story is about a beautiful magical land suddenly turning bad as The Crystal cracked and a shard of it went missing. This event brings forth two new races the evil Skeksis and the wise and gentle Mystics. The Skeksis take over the castle and evil reigns throughout the land. The cruel leaders with their warped and harsh bodies are dying out and the only way they can survive is through drinking the "essence of life" taken from other kind races that live throughout the land. The Skeksis kill off the race of Gelfling, a more human looking race. However one gelfling, Jen, remains. With such evil across the land, and the Mystics dying out little hope is held across the land. But there is a prophecy. A thousand years have passed and now once more the world must undergo a time of testing. Now the crystal must be healed or the land will be forever stuck in the rule of evil. Jen is the chosen one and it is up to him to save the day.
          Although the plot may seem simple, it isn’t. It is cleverly thought-out, with many more characters. Including my favorite "Fizzgig", this can only be described as an over excited fur ball with eyes and a mouth.
          The thing that impressed me so much about this film was fact that very little computer graphics were used to make. The skilled puppetry and use of scale is outstanding. Even if this sort of film doesn't appeal to you it is still worth a watch just so you can see such amazing effects created without the use of modern technologies. It is very effective and at time hilarious. Some of the woodland creatures created by Henderson are bound to put a smile on the face of everyone.
          This film needs to be watched by all, especially due to the fact that Henderson is making a sequel to be released in 2007 called "The Power of the Dark Crystal".

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            10.01.2002 02:54
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            I was raised on the innovative form of animation given to us by the marvelous Jim Henson. From Kermit the Frog to the goblins in the Labyrinth, this creative genius managed to invent creatures and worlds of such depth, wonder, and jocularity that they will be delighting audiences of all ages for years to come! Sadly, Henson is no longer with us although the Jim Henson Company continues to delight and amaze, and while the creator himself will be sorely missed, his creations remain to comfort us. Dark Crystal is a brilliant and daring piece of Henson’s work that is often overlooked. Development for this film began in 1977 although shooting did not start until 1981, and it wasn’t released until 1982. Henson was so taken with the illustrations of Brian Froud, that he asked Froud to create an elaborate visual world in which he could bring a unique tale to life. This was to be the first fully animatronic feature film and who better to further the world of Puppetmation than Jim Henson? The Story: Long ago the Dark Crystal was damaged through the arrogance and greed of the Urskeks and an age of peace came to an end. Now control is divided between the evil, power-hungry Skekis and the peaceful, wise Mystics. Jen and Kira are the last of the Gelfling race which was destroyed or driven out long ago due to a now nearly forgotten prophecy. Only a Gelfling can heal the crystal and bring an end to this era of chaos. The Skekis, of course, have no desire to loose their positions of power and will stop at nothing to eliminate any possibility of the Prophecy succeeding... The range of visual treats in this film is limitless. I have been enjoying this film for ~gulp~ 20 years now, and I still find new aspects to delight me! The verdant world that surrounds the characters, the delicate grace of the Gelflings, the gentleness of the large, homely, four-armed Mystics, the down-to-earth appeal of the placid Podlings, the shriveled horror
            of the Skekis, the gruff kindness of the witch Ogma, and the sterile intimidation presented in the Garthim servants all contrast greatly. Yet somehow they compliment each other perfectly and complete each other in ways one cannot explain. Very much like the real world! Although this was made to entertain children, this classic tale of Good vs. Evil is quite a lush, vivid, spellbinding treat for film buffs of any age! I was lucky enough to catch the Jim Henson exhibit at our local Children’s Museum one summer and I was even more entranced than the troop of Brownie Girl Scouts that we took there. Of course, I probably paid a lot more attention to the storyboards that they had on display at the exhibit than the girls did, but a great time was had by all. It was quite a thrill to see the actual puppets used in the making of this film. The beetle-like Garthim were nearly as strange and intimidating in person Without anyone animating them, as they had been in Dark Crystal. I was also quite surprised at how Large the Mystics are! They must weigh a ton, and I marveled anew at the skill of the many puppeteers who helped to make this lovely film. Fraggle Rock, Sesame Street, Mopatop’s Shop, The Muppet Show, the Muppet movies, Labyrinth, Star Wars…the list of creations with which Henson has touched the lives of children and adults around the world is truly impressive when viewed as a whole. I will never forget the sheer wonder that filled me at having the opportunity to sing a room full of Girl Scouts and Scout Leaders to sleep while I perched on the edge of Big Bird’s nest, yet of all the displays we viewed in that long evening it was the creations of Dark Crystal that I came back to most often. It was a marvel just to be able to stand before them and let their unique beauty fill my eyes. If you have somehow missed this masterful Henson creation, I sincerely invite you to explore this exceptional world of wonder.

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              25.08.2001 15:09
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              This groundbreaking movie is one of my fondest childhood memories. Hunched up on the couch on a Saturday evening waiting for it to start. This, The Labyrinth and Never Ending Story were the only films I really enjoyed (I wasn’t allowed to watch many films back then though you understand)! Hang on your saying - The Dark Crystal wasn’t ground breaking. Oh YES IT IS. This was the first ever all-puppet film. That’s right, there is not one person in this film, at all, ever!!! The film is the creative genius of Jim Henson, Frank Oz and Brian Froud (who did all the original drawings for the characters before they were made into puppets). Don’t shudder when you hear Jim Henson’s name just because of the Muppets (which are also good – don’t shoot!) as this is COMPLETELY different. The Dark Crystal is a fantasy adventure, good old fashioned good vs evil. Long ago the Dark Crystal was shattered, dividing the world into two factions. The evil Skeksis who rule the world and live longer lives by robbing the other inhabitants of the world of their life sources, and the peaceful Mystics who practice magic and live in harmony. The time is approaching where the fate of the world will be decided once and for all. The coming together of 3 suns (an eclipse of sorts) signals the end of a time, and if the Crystal is not healed before then, the Skeksis will rule forever! Who will save the world? This task is entrusted to Jen, the last surviving Gelfling, who must fulfil the prophecy and restore what has been broken by returning the missing shard and restoring the Crystal to its former glory. The Mystics have cared for Jen since the Skeksis, who were trying to prevent the prophecy from coming true as it would destroy them, destroyed his race! I don’t want to give away the movie, just in case there really is someone who hasn’t seen it (GAWD!) and also because I just hate doing that, it sto
              ps people from wanting to see it. BUT remember this is a ‘kids’ movie hahaha! I would never let that stop me watching it though. This movie doesn’t have any special effects (well not to speak of), there are no actors, no famous voices – in fact the actors who voice the characters do not even get a mention on the box! So what does it have I hear you saying. It has Jim’s genius showing through in the director’s chair, shared with Frank Oz (the mastermind behind Little Shop of Horrors and various other films). They have worked well together and the film is great because of this, I only wish they had worked together a lot more! The whole film took over 5 years to make, this may sound extreme, but wait until you see the puppets!! Each puppet was followed from conception through the build phase and on to the filming by a one person. Most of them required 3 or 4 people to manipulate, and the use of animatronics style movement is amazing for the time. Oh, and they had the use of the great Gary Kurtz (Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back) in all of their creations. Overall, I think the film is a classic and has a definitive place on my movie collection (along with the Labyrinth). I think it would be most suited to children (even in this day and age) but probably younger children than my day as older ones are spoilt by Hollywood effects already!! It would also suit people like me, who really appreciate films that dared to do something else, something different. Or if you are just plain wacky like me!! Hahaha I aquired the video (a first for me as I ALWAYS get DVD) for the ridiculously low price of 3.99 from HMV. It included a 15 minute making of feature at the end of the tape which was great to see! It explained about the puppet making, how they filmed it all, the time involved, and even showed alot of the original sketches by Brian Froud. The movie is rate PG (obviously) and runs for appro
              x. 89mins. The tape quality was really good overall and I didn't really get bored, though as a video the whole ambience was not as good as a DVD provides, so if you can find it get the DVD (about a tenner at the moment) - though there is no extra extras! I hope you enjoyed the read, and feel free to comment good or bad. Thanks!

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                25.07.2001 00:09

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                Dark Crystal is a classic fairy tale made filmed in 1982 and was created by Jim Henson. This film starts out by explaining why there are Mystics and Skekes. They where once whole then split apart. The Mystics are good,and the Skekes are evil. The Skekes then kill most of the Gelfinings because of what is said in the prophecy. However the Skekes are mistaken because there are two Gelfinings left. A boy and a girl. The boy Gelfining, Jen, was raised by the Mystics. The girl Gelfining, Kira, was raised by the Pod people. This movie is so imaginative. The characters and creatures are great. Besides the Mystics, Skekes, and the Gefinlings, there is a character named Augora. She is like a sorceress. She lives in what looks like a plantaterium. She gives the crystal shard to Jen to help him on his quest before she is captured by the skekes army of creatures. Kira's pet Fizgig is so funny. He looks like a cute little fur ball, but he does not act as cute as he looks. Kira also has horse like creatures that her and Jen ride for a while that look quite unsual also. That is when you find out that Kira has wings and that the boy Gelfinings don't. The Skekes do everything in there power to keep the propechy from coming true with there army of creatures who resemble crabs and their bat spies. They know that the three moons will aline and that the life they know will change because of a Gelfining. I will let you watch the movie to find out what happens. I recommends this to people of all ages. It is a great film that has become a family fairy tale classic.

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                17.06.2001 23:21
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                'The Dark Crystal' was one of my all time favorite films. I've seen it several times and it doesn't loose it's magic. It is basically a fairy tale, but slightly more sinister than the norm. Although made by Jim Henson, it's not quite the 'muppet' style film you might expect. I won't go into the plot, you have to watch the film; and descriptions never seem to do it justice. It's a clear cut good versus evil, which I like; don't get me wrong though, it's not too cheesy. This film is aimed at children, but don't be put off, it's enjoyable for all ages. The direction is first class, and the puppets and 'Skekses' (baddies) are amazing. Don't expect too much from the special effects, amazing at the time, they may seem tame compared to today's standards. I would definitely recommend this film to most people; it has everything; adventure, good and evil, monsters and romance.

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                  16.03.2001 14:18
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                  This has to be the film I remember best from my long distant childhood, the reason being is that it is a masterpiece made up of a combination of script, animatronics, and the magical touch of Jim Henson himself. The story opens in a long forgotten time, chaos rains on this distant World, with a prophecy about to come to its fruition, with the alignment of the three suns heralding the end of all hope and the reign of evil forever. The prophecy states that when the three suns unite and shine down onto the Dark Crystal a magical light will reflect from it, and if the light is unpure and falls on one that is also unpure then evil will reign forever. And in this case evil comes in the form of the twisted 'Skekses', a race of evil bird like creatures that for centuries have fed of the essence of Gelfling's, a race of 'fairy' people, to keep themselves young. The only way to prevent the doom of the prophecy is to heal the Dark Crystal, as it was damaged long ago, and a shard of it is missing making it unpure. This shard is worn by one of only two surviving Gelfling's, a boy called Jen. Jen has been protected by the good and loving 'Mystics', the Ying to the Yang of the Skekses, hidden away, as the Mystics know that Jen is the key to restoring peace to their World. Little does Jen know but he is wearing the missing shard of the Dark Crystal, and with it he has the power to heal the World. The only thing he has to do is make it to the Dark Tower without being captured by the Skekses who will suck out his life-force and drink it to stay young, or be killed by any other monsters on the way. Later in the film Jen bumps into something he would never have expected, Kira, a female Gelfling. And much to his surprise she has wings! Together the two of them continue their quest to heal the Crystal. Will they be able to do it in time, or will the Skekses feed from them as they two know the prophecy, and
                  know that Gelflings are said to bring their downfall. This film was a first of its kind for a cast made up of solely animatronics, and then presented as a motion picture, and led the way for other masterpieces such as 'Labyrinth'. The storyline is amazingly touching, and I highly recommend everyone to have the story of 'The Dark Crystal' touch your lives.

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                  Jim Henson's fantasy epic The Dark Crystal doesn't take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but like Star Wars it takes the audience to a place that exists only in the imagination and, for an hour and a half, on the screen. Recalling the worlds of JRR. Tolkien, Henson tells the story of a race of grotesque birdlike lizards called the Skeksis, gnomish dragons who rule their fantastic planet with an iron claw. A prophecy tells of a Gelfling (a small elfin being) who will topple their empire, so in their reign of terror they have exterminated the race, or so they think. The orphan Jen, raised in solitude by a race of peace-loving wizards called the Mystics, embarks on a quest to find the missing shard of the Dark Crystal (which gives the Skeksis their power) and restore the balance of the universe. Henson and codirector Frank Oz have pushed puppetry into a new direction: traditional puppets, marionettes, giant bodysuits, and mechanical constructions are mixed seamlessly in a fantasy world of towering castles, simple huts, dank caves, a giant clockwork observatory, and a magnificent landscape that seem to have leaped off the pages of a storybook. Muppet fans will recognise many of the voice actors--a few characters sound awfully close to familiar comic creations--but otherwise The Dark Crystal is a completely alien world made familiar by a mythic quest that resonates through stories over the ages. --Sean Axmaker