Do the puppets stand the test of time?
The Dark Crystal is one of those classic films I have never bothered to watch. Now, at 31 years old, I gave it a try. I had to work to remove my contemporary biases as we plugged the movie in. Released in 1982, you can imagine some of the shortfalls of the film. The obvious issues are the now dated technology.
The puppets hold up fairly well. The sets were designed with a meticulous hand—from the costumes to the props. Everything in this film shows a level of love, and that attention to craft shines through. Sure, some of the puppets look silly. The monsters aren’t particularly scary, and the combat seems to be moving in slow motion. Yet, the effort they made to create these things still shows.
It is easy to separate yourself from our current technological wizardry and appreciate an old craft. What isn’t so easy is to separate ourselves from less-than-stellar storytelling. I have to be careful here, the movie is clearly for children. It is a fairly recent craft to have movies that are entertaining to both kids and adults. The Dark Crystal is not one of these films. The story is flimsy at best. The suspense is painfully simple, and each act is predictable.
Perhaps the most annoying part of the film is the endless use of the draw out mechanism. By this, I mean the film refuses to get to the damn point. The climax of the film is almost laughably stretched for “maximum drama.” I am glad that most films have abandoned this cheap method of suspense (though television now uses it a reflex).
There is a charm to the simplicity of the story. Good ol’ light vs. dark is at play here. As a national audience, we have now demanded a more nuanced story, but this is a return to a basic storytelling. The reasons to watch this film is the excellent puppet crafting. Watch it with kids—it will make it better. 6/10