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Appellate Judge Mac McEntire's Blog

Appellate Judge Mac McEntire • Location: Shrewsbury, MA
• Member since: April 2005
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Seeing THE DARK CRYSTAL with an audience
April 16th, 2011 8:14PM

Get this: As part of its Jim Henson retrospective this weekend, the Brattle Theater in Cambridge showed THE DARK CRYSTAL on the big screen, and I was there. I’ve seen the movie plenty of times, but seeing it with an audience was something now.

First, the movie: Taking in all that Henson craftwork on the big screen was a real delight. OK, the effects are dated in a lot of ways here in the age of Pixar, but the craftsmanship that went into THE DARK CRYSTAL is nonetheless eye-popping, and, as always, the practical effects have a tangible quality to them that simply can’t be recreated with CGI, no matter how hard they try. People say the plot is not deep, but watching it again, I noted how almost everything in the movie has a duality to it. The crystal is in two pieces, which must be rejoined. The kind Mystics and the sinister Skeksis are clearly linked to one another. There are only two Gelflings left. The heroes’ goals are about uniting the two halves of this world. The exposition-delivering Aughra is oddly singular, with only one eye no less, and she remains unchanged as the rest of the world transforms. Perhaps why she’s the one who held onto the shard before Jen came along--it was safe with her, because she’s something an outsider, whole in this otherwise fractured world.

But I’m not here to examine the intricacies of THE DARK CRYSTAL. I could do that watching it at home. This is about the theater experience, and seeing the movie with an audience. The audience at the Brattle was, shall we say, raucous. They cheered, laughed, and applauded from one end of the movie to the other.

I’m of two minds when it comes to people cheering and applauding during movies. Most of the time, it cheeses me off and makes no sense. I want to say to the people in the theater, “The filmmakers can’t hear you!” Other times, though, the magic of communal movie enjoyment kicks in, and it feels all right. This is usually when the crowd is really emotionally invested in the movie, and somehow in tune with one another to elicit a simultaneous response. This is most often seen when viewing classic or fan-favorite films on the big screen. Who doesn’t want to cheer when Indy shoots the swordsman, or when Luke blows up the Death Star, or when Fu Hung Hsieh battles Devil Grandma? (Too obscure a reference?)

This was my experience with THE DARK CRYSTAL at the Brattle. At times, the jovial crowd response was a bit much, especially nervous chortling over unintentional double entendres like “Jen’s pipe gives no comfort.” I was concerned that the audience had chosen to view the movie not as an amazing technical achievement and a purely imaginative spectacle, but as some sort of “so-bad-it’s-good” schlockfest. Fortunately, I was wrong, and in my grumpiness, I forgot how the screening began. When the words “A film by Jim Henson” are the first things we see on screen, the Brattle audience erupted into huge applause, out of pure love for all things Henson. So maybe the audience was overenthusiastic at times, but everyone was united by their adoration for the movie, laughing with it, not at it.

So, when the credits rolled and Jim Henson’s name came up again, I was all to happy to hoot and holler with the rest of the crowd. Skeksis forever, Gelflings never!


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