Sony // 1982 // 94 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // March 13th, 2003
Another World, Another Time...In the Age of Wonder.
The Dark Crystal takes place in a land that has, up until now, been peaceful and serene. This all changed when a shard of the Dark Crystal was lost. Soon the land is split between two groups: the good and noble Mystics and the evil, vile Skeksis. When the leaders of each respective tribe begin to pass away, a prophecy is begun that includes a Gelfling named Jen discovering the lost shard, returning it to the Dark Crystal, and either A.) bringing peace to the land or B.) causing the forces of evil to take over the land, thus paving the way to years or pain, heartache, and reruns of The Bachelorette. Along the way Jen will meet a female Gelfling (he thought he was the last of his breed) named Kira, do battle with the evil Skeksis, and finally fulfill his prophecy amongst the glowing light of The Dark Crystal.
That wacky Jim Henson sure did have a malevolent streak in him. Take his 1982 "kids" film The Dark Crystal -- filled with more monstrosities than a Tim Burton movie, The Dark Crystal is something of an oddity in the Henson world of entertainment. Sure, there's a lot of stuff in it for the kiddies. But for every enchanted Gelfling or barking fur ball, there's also a drooling, ugly skeleton-like Skeksis for the adults, making The Dark Crystal a different and altogether strange cinematic treat. Though the story is a bit slow at times (it seems like it takes for-ever to get to the rousing conclusion), this is still a weird and enchanting tale. The most interesting aspect for this reviewer was the fact that it was told with only puppets -- not one human actor is featured in this film. The film also gets high marks for being void of any digital or CGI effects (not that it had much choice to begin with...). In this live world of puppets and Muppets, it's nice to see real materials and actual performers on the screen, not something churned from a bulky mainframe. Of all the creatures, the dastardly Skeksis are the most entertaining...and repulsive. Appearing to be a cross between a vulture, a corpse, and Rose Kennedy, the Skeksis slurp their meals, lumber about, and shriek their thoughts at anyone and anything in their paths. The voice talents are, as usual with a Henson film, top notch, including director/sometimes actor Frank Oz (The Score, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) and Jim Henson himself as the Gelfling protagonist Jen. Although The Dark Crystal may be a bit too scary for some younger tykes, older children will eat up this amusing tale of good vs. evil.
The Dark Crystal is now part of Columbia's high bitrate Superbit line. Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, this picture looks very good, if not great. I am not sure how the original DVD looked, but this one isn't quite up to what I would consider the high "Superbit standards." The image sometimes retains a dark and grainy look, though this is most likely due to the source print and not the transfer. Otherwise, the colors and black levels are generally sharp and bright without any major imperfections marring the image. Overall this is a nice picture, though I think it could have looked a bit better. The soundtrack is presented in two options: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and DTS 5.1 Surround, both in English. Either of these sound mixes will do the trick on a home theater system -- each is filled with a fair number of surround sounds and directional effects. Because of the film's age, there isn't quite as much dynamic range on these tracks as I'd have liked. However, the mixes are free of most distortion and hiss, making for a very nice viewing and listening experience. Though the video and audio portions of this disc are nice, I don't think this DVD deserves to bear the markings of the Superbit line. Also included on this disc are English and Spanish subtitles.
Keeping in line with most all of Columbia's other Superbit titles, The Dark Crystal: Superbit doesn't feature a single supplement. Since the original release was also a mostly bare bones disc, viewers won't be missing out on much with the purchase of this disc.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 1982
MPAA Rating: Rated PG