The Dark Crystal
The Dark Crystal is a 1982 American fantasy film that tells the story of Jen, an elflike "Gelfling" on a quest to restore balance to his alien world by returning a lost shard to a powerful but broken gem.
- Directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, creators of The Muppet Show. Written by David Odell and produced by Gary Kurtz.
- Another world, another time, in the age of wonder. A thousand years ago, this land was green and good, until the Crystal cracked. For a single piece was lost; a shard of the Crystal. Then strife began, and two new races appeared: the cruel Skeksis, the gentle Mystics. Here in the castle of the Crystal, the Skeksis took control. Now the Skeksis gather in the sacred chamber, where the Crystal hangs above a shaft of air and fire. The Skeksis with their hard and twisted bodies, their harsh and twisted wills. For a thousand years they have ruled, yet now there are only ten. A dying race, ruled by a dying emperor, imprisoned within themselves in a dying land. Today, once more, they gather at the Crystal as the first sun climbs to its peak. For this is the way of the Skeksis. As they ravaged the land, so too they learned to draw new life from the sun. Today, once more, they will replenish themselves, cheat death again, through the power of their source, their treasure, their fate - the Dark Crystal. But today, the ceremony of the sun gives no comfort. Today, an emperor lies dying. Today, a new emperor must seize the throne.
- A thousand years ago, the Crystal cracked. And here, far from the castle, the race of Mystics came to live in a dream of peace. Their ways were the gentle ways of natural wizards. Yet now there are only ten. A dying race, numbly rehearsing the ancient ways in a blur of forgetfulness. But today, the ritual gives no comfort. Today, the wisest of the Mystics lies dying. Today, they summon the one who must save them.
- In the valley of the Mystics, there lives a Gelfling, Jen. The Skeksis killed his family, destroyed his clan. Only Jen survived, to be raised by the wisest of the Mystics. But there is a prophecy. A thousand years have passed, and now, once more, the world must undergo a time of testing. Now it must be healed, or pass forever into the rule of evil. At this time, Jen is the chosen one. Today, Jen's pipe gives no comfort. For today, his master lies dying. And a journey must begin; the journey of Jen.
- What in the world? This place is weird. Let's see. Her name is Aughra. "Follow the Greater Sun for a day to the home of Aughra." Hmph. Some directions! Who is Aughra, anyway? One of these things? Maybe she murders Gelflings. What am I doing here?
- When single shines the triple sun
What was sundered and undone
Shall be whole, the two made one
By Gelfling hand or else by none.
- Reading prophecy about the Dark Crystal
- But Gelfling all dead! Garthim kill them all! You can't be Gelfling! You look like Gelfling... smell like Gelfling... maybe you are Gelfling!
- A thousand years ago, there was a Great Conjunction. I was there. Three suns lined up. That's when the Crystal cracked. That's when the Skeksis appeared, and the Mystics. Another Great Conjunction coming up! Anything could happen. Whole world might burn up. [snorts] End of Aughra! Hm!
- The Great Conjunction is the end of the world! Or the beginning. Hm! End, begin, all the same. Big change. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.
- Stupid Garthim! You want Gelfling? Why not ask me?! No — easier to send your crab-brained soldiers, burn my home! Now home gone, Gelfling gone — nothing but Aughra! Mouldy mildew, mother of mouthmuck, dangle and strangle and death!
- UrZah: [at urSu's funeral] Dear friend, be well. Receive your belongings, receive them serenely. Now we send forth Jen. Watch over his dangerous quest.
- SkekZok: Crystal bats, fly! Search the land! Search the water! Search the sky!
- SkekTek: The reflector will capture the beams of the Dark Crystal floating high above. Look into the relfector, Podling. Feel the power of the Dark Crystal!
- Jen: [arriving home] Master?
- UrSu: At the time when three suns meet...
- Jen: Master! What's wrong?
- UrSu: You are in danger, Gelfling...and I must leave you.
- Jen: Leave me? Master, no!
- UrSu: Gelfling, I have told you of the Skeksis.
- Jen: The Skeksis killed my mother and father.
- UrSu: The story runs deeper than you know, and you are part of it.
- Jen: I don't understand.
- UrSu: The Skeksis will vow to destroy you...for the prophecy says you must find the shard. The Crystal shard.
- Jen: The Crystal shard?
- UrSu: To save our world, Gelfling, you must find the shard...before the three suns meet. If not, Skeksis rule forever.
- Jen: Where is it?
- UrSu: Aughra holds the shard. Follow the greater sun for a day to the home of Aughra...there. She knows all the secrets.
- Jen: Aughra? Follow the greater sun? But master, I'm only a Gelfling.
- UrSu: I should've told you these things long ago. Now it is up to you. Remember me, Jen. We may meet in another life...but not again in this one. [resting his head, passing away]
- Jen: [sorrowful] Master...don't leave me.
- SkekEkt: Oh yes, my lord Chamberlain, time to choose an Emperor.
- SkekSil: Yes, it should be me!
- SkekUng: Not him, I must rule!
- SkekShod: [to skekZok] You could be the Emperor.
- SkekEkt: There's going to be a fight!
- SkekSil: [cunningly] It's time to make...my move.
- Jen: I'm looking for Aughra.
- Aughra: Who sent you?
- Jen: My master, wisest of the Mystics.
- Aughra: Where is he? Around here?
- Jen: He's dead.
- Aughra: Could be anywhere, then.
- Jen: Are you Aughra?
- Aughra: Are you afraid of me? Think I'm going to EAT YOU?! Hmm? What do you want of me?
- Jen: A shard. A Crystal shard.
- Aughra: That's all you want? A Crystal shard? Hmph! [to vines] Drop him.
- Jen: You...Gelfling? Like me?
- Kira: [surprised] Well, yes!
- Jen: But, I thought I was the only one.
- Kira: I thought I was.
- SkekZok: Watch your tongue, harridan! We are lords of the Crystal!
- Aughra: Lords? Not for long! What about the prophecy, that a Gelfling will end Skeksis power? [sitting down on the ground] He'll come! Make you crawl, like the worms you are!
- Jen: [while riding the Landstriders] The prophecy didn't say anything about this!
- Kira: Prophets don't know everything!
- SkekUng: Is it ready?
- SkekTek: Very fresh. Very strong, sire. [SkekUng consumes the liquid and lumbers over to the mirror] Oh, it will make you young again, sire.
- [SkekUng's face revitalizes. He studies his hands in awe and bursts into triumphant laughter]
- SkekUng: Young! Young! Yes, young! [sees his hand withering again; furiously] YOU FRAUD! [throws the essence bottle to the ground]
- SkekTek: [backing away in terror] Wait! Please, sire!
- SkekUng: [angrily brushes the bottles off SkekTek's desk] LIAR! [storms off]
- SkekUng: Slave squeezer...! [through labored breaths] It always worked better when we used Gelflings...
- Jen: Wings? I don’t have wings.
- Kira: Of course not. You're a boy.
- [Last lines]
- [To Jen, after the Crystal has been repaired and the urRu and Skeksis are reunited as urSkeks]
- Aughra: "What was sundered and undone shall be whole, the two made one."
- UngIm: And now the prophecy is fulfilled. We are again one. [Jen carries Kira's dead body in his arms] Many ages ago, in our arrogance and delusion, we shattered the pure Crystal and our world split apart. Your courage and sacrifice have made us whole, and restored the true power of the Crystal. [about Kira's dead body] Hold her to you. She is part of you, as we all are part of each other. [Kira revives] Now we leave you the Crystal of Truth. Make your world in its light.
- [The urSkeks vanish]
- Jen: Master, what's wrong?
- UrSu: I was born under a shattered sky. The Crystal sang to the Three made One.
- Jen: Master, please, it's me, Jen.
- UrSu: The rule of the Skeksis has brought pain, and evil Garthim serve the Dark Crystal.
- Jen: The Dark Crystal? What is that?
- UrSu: On High Hill, watching the heavens, sits the Dome of Aughra, keeper of secrets. A wanderer may come from under the mountain, bringing murder and birth.
- Jen: I don't understand.
- UrSu: Mark well this crystal Shard. A Gelfling must restore it to its rightful place and heal the wound of the Dark Crystal. You are that Gelfling wanderer.
- Jen: Me?
- UrSu: And this the tool to forge your fate. And now Gelfling... you are alone.
- Jen: Alone? But you're still with me.
- UrSu: Your journey must begin, for the Three Suns will not wait. Remember me, Gelfling. We may meet in another life, but not again in this one.
- Skekung: [ordering silence for the other Skeksis]: Kaī! Kaī!
- SkekSil: [asserting his right to the throne] Hitoi har ti!
- SkekSil: [proposing a trial by stone] Haakskeekah...
- SkekUng: Haakskeekah!
- Aughra: Crystals, planets, suns, come together soon. Watch out! Boom! Big one coming up. Better be underground for that one. Whole world might burn up. End of Aughra! So what? We all turn into smoke in the end. Come from smoke too, some say. Who knows? Might not be so bad, smoke. Float around in the air, see world.
- Aughra: Look up, see what comes. See three suns become one. Last time, everything split apart. Boom!
- Aughra: Stupid Garthim! Gelfling was in my home. You burned my home! Now home gone, Gelfling gone — Porroh klet! Burn, ruin, conflagration!
- SkekUng: Find that Gelfling now!
- SkekZok: [summoning the Crystal Bats] Kelflinkh Krakwhee!
- Aughra: "What was sundered and undone shall be whole, the two made one." The wound of the world is closed.
Quotes about The Dark Crystal
- Alphabetized by author
- Remember The Dark Crystal? How cool was that freaking movie? I would watch that any day over all of the digitized junk that I see now. Sure, [digital effects are] beautiful, but the [old-school effects] are so visceral and so real — the actual puppets and models, and actors interacting with monsters that they could see instead of a green screen.
- I think that the original movie, for anyone who’s a fan of it and fell in love with it, I do think melancholy is an intrinsic part of it. That’s part of the charm of it and the love of it.
- Taron Egerton, as quoted in Taron Egerton, Lisa Henson on Finding Hope in the 'Melancholy' of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Io9.gizmodo.com, July 20, 2019
- I once saw this film in Italian, and it was hilarious. [...] This scene [of the Skeksis who plot against each other], in particular, was a lot of fun, because when listen to it Italian, it's like a demented Vatican.
- The Dark Crystal is a difficult film to categorize, evaluate, and appreciate. For every positive thing one can say about it, a corresponding negative can be cited: It is a brilliantly conceived world... inhabited by less than compelling central characters; it is a marvel of technological achievement... all but undone by the limitations of technology; it is a very adult fantasy... that works best for undemanding adolescents; and, finally, it is a triumph of the puppeteer's art... which cannot escape its Muppet origins.
- Kenneth von Gunden (1989), Flights of Fancy: The Great Fantasy Films, p. 30.
- From the very first in scoring the music for The Dark Crystal, I set out to find two melodic ideas — one for the Mystics, the other for the Skeksis. These two motifs, when counterpointed, fuse to become one, and in the Great Conjunction at the film’s climax, they join to become the central theme.
- The Dark Crystal is a movie I saw a little too young, it shocked me a little bit and never left my mind.
- Louis Leterrier, as quoted in THE DARK CRYSTAL PREQUEL CREATORS PROMISE 'PURE PUPPETRY' AND NO CGI AT NYCC, Syfy.com, October 5, 2018
- This weird UFO of a movie that didn't belong in the Eighties. It was ahead of its time and a little bit obsolete at the same time because it was done with puppets.
- Louis Leterrier, as quoted in THE DARK CRYSTAL PREQUEL CREATORS PROMISE 'PURE PUPPETRY' AND NO CGI AT NYCC, Syfy.com, October 5, 2018
- The spiritual kernel of The Dark Crystal is heavily influenced by Seth. I've always felt that the idea of perfect beings split into a good mystic part and an evil materialistic part which are reunited after a long separation is Jim's response to the teachings of that book. Jim admitted that he didn't understand the book himself, and that everyone would understand it — or not understand it — in their own way. But he thought it opened up a whole different way of looking at reality, which I think was one of his goals in the making of The Dark Crystal.
- David Odell (2012), "Reflections on Making The Dark Crystal and Working with Jim Henson". In: Froud, B., Dysart, J., Sheikman, A. & John, L. The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths, Vol. II.
- The Dark Crystal (1982) is nothing if not a parable of Fall and Redemption...
- David Zahl, "The Gospel According to Jim Henson", Christianity Today (November 21, 2011)
Interview about The Dark Crystal (1982)
Interview with Jim Henson in 1982 about the film The Dark Crystal — Rosenthal, David N. (December 29, 1982). "Don't Look for the Muppets in 'Dark Crystal'". Lakeland Ledger. Knight News Service (Lakeland, Florida).
- It's an adventure story. But it's definitely not in our world.
- I've always thought that science fiction films set in our world have always rung false.
- I wanted to do a film where the creatures didn't look like us.
- It's a rather dark vision, actually.
- People shouldn't come expecting to see the Muppets because they are not here. This is something else.
Lisa Henson Talks 'The Dark Crystal' As The Classic Movie Returns To Theaters
Simon Thompson, "Lisa Henson Talks 'The Dark Crystal' As The Classic Movie Returns To Theaters", Forbes.com, February 21, 2018
- I think people, whether they are studied in puppetry or not, are going to love the artistic tapestry that’s up there. Some of the tiniest details in The Dark Crystal like when the Chamberlain’s eyelid starts to twitch, just make it feel so much more real, so much more alive.
- For me, watching his performances of Aughra and the Chamberlain is incredible and I'm so moved by how he infused life into those characters. That's pure talent to really take an inanimate object and give it life so believably. It's still the core asset of this film.
- On Frank Oz in The Dark Crystal
- We kind of look at it as the Henson Company's little Star Wars or Lord Of The Rings franchise. It truly has the ability to be explored in different geographical parts of that world, or different time periods of that world, and it's been so fun to expand the canon of The Dark Crystal. Now that we've got the ball rolling on that, it feels like that could continue indefinitely.
- On The Dark Crystal
- People talk about how look and feel of The Dark Crystal is so much more real than CGI but they also had no choice because there was no computer animation when The Dark Crystal was made. There were some optical effects, there were some composites that were hand done in the lab but there were no computer effects.
- The prep period for The Dark Crystal was really long, it was literally years because they had the world and the creatures developed before they ever had a firm storyline. The script for The Dark Crystal actually fell in place later than anything else and some of it was only during post-production.
- They just couldn't get their head around the idea that the person who was doing The Muppet Show and The Muppet Movie, things that were so light and joyful, that he himself would want to deviate from what he had been doing. It was really surprising to people and they expressed a lot of doubt about it. Then, the film did pretty well commercially and it also did very well internationally. This story has so many universal qualities such as good and evil, the characters are not American and they're not from any place in particular and so it worked around the world.
- On initial criticisms of The Dark Crystal
- What Jim wanted to do, and it was totally his vision, was to get back to the darkness of the original Grimm’s fairy tales. He thought it was fine to scare children. He didn’t think it was healthy for children to always feel safe.
- Frank Oz, as quoted in Q&A: Frank Oz on Henson, “Dark Crystal” and the Kwik Way, SFGate, (Jun 28, 2007).
Interview with IGN
Kenneth Plume, "Interview with Frank Oz (Part 2 of 4)", IGN, 21 May 2012
- Jim didn't have a script – he didn't work that normal way. He wanted to have a laboratory of textures and designs and ideas and rehearsals. He had a story – but he wanted the script to work in conjunction with the laboratory of creating the characters.
- This is Jim – he said, "Would you direct Dark Crystal with me?" and I said, "Why? I don't know how to direct. You could do it yourself. Why would you want me to direct with you?"
He said, "Because it would be better." And that's all that mattered. He didn't care about the credit. He knew that he had some weaknesses and he felt that I had some strengths, and so we worked together that way.
- It was not smooth at all, and it was because of me, not because of Jim. Jim should have ****in' fired me several times. Jim was extraordinarily patient. I was a young guy who wanted to make his mark in the world, and if I was the co-director, by God why wasn't I attending more meetings and why didn't I get more say in things? I had a problem of self-esteem and it came through that way. It was difficult for Jim, not for me. It was frustrating for me, but that was an unhealthy frustration. It worked because Jim was patient.
Interview with Syfy Wire
Jeff Spry, "Exclusive preview and interview for Jim Henson's The Power of the Dark Crystal, Syfy, February 16, 2017
- The original movie landed in 1982 and caused an immediate stir, being the first live-action flick which featured literally no human characters. I'm not sure the audiences of the day quite knew what to make of it. Critics expected it to fit tidily into the continuum of knowingly comedic Muppetry which had made the Henson name, and couldn't wrap their heads around this slice of totally earnest, unironic adventure which set its sights on nothing less than pure wonder. Is it sci-fi? Fantasy? A kids' flick?
- [F]or me the brilliance of the first film — the underlying reason that I hold it so highly — can be boiled down to two words: childlike wonder. Literally every character in that movie is a version of a child we'd all recognize. From the laid-back mystics — remember that high-functioning kid in every classroom who just stares dreamily out the window all day? — to the petulant and venal bullies of the villainous Skeksis. They're all cast as utterly original monsters, but they're very recognizable tropes once you know what you're looking for.
This was a movie which introduced a whole new world, after all—not just some lazy Tolkien-esque fantasy rip-off, but a teeming, exotic, alien reality full of impossible life and delightfully weird wonders. The little piece of genius which underlies the movie is that the central characters are experiencing all this craziness for the first time, just like we the viewers.
- [T]he Skeksis will always be horribly memorable. I'm pretty sure the scene where the Chamberlain is attacked and defrocked by his sneering brothers gave me nightmares as a youngster.
- I think it spoke to me so strongly when I first saw it because it set itself a very precise challenge: presenting a totally new world, which nonetheless has the capacity to make the viewer relate and respond to its characters' interactions. That sounds very simple, but as a storyteller I can reliably report that it's unutterably sophisticated.