163 of 170 people found the following review helpful
This movie is Jim Henson's magnum opus. There isn't a fantasy movie out there that brings you to a whole different reality like The Dark Crystal does. The only movie that comes close is James Cameron's Avatar. Yes the movie is all performed entirely by puppets and yes there isn't a human being in site. That's the beauty of it. With a combination of an excellent story, innovative (for its time) animatronics, beautiful sets and cinematography you get a truly dazzling experience that any fantasy fan would be a fool not to miss.
The biggest aspect of Dark Crystal is the setting. They created a whole different world with its own animals, plants and terrain. The level of detail put into creating this new world is staggering and you get some good scenes to soak yourself up in it. From the rock caves of the Mystics to the jagged spires of the Skesis castle to Aughra's planetarium to every landscape in between. You will get drawn into this alien world. The beauty of the sets and location shots is only enhanced with some fantastic cinematography and conventional effects.
Since we are essentially talking about a puppet show brought to you as a feature film let's talk about the puppets. Granted they might seem a bit archaic by today's standards, they were nothing short of incredible back in 1982. To have puppets act and react in such an organic and lifelike fashion was never done on film before. This is the first movie where you get that sort of eye and mouth movements we have come so used to with current animatronics. Famed artist Brian Froud created all of the creatures and characters for Dark Crystal and if you're a fan of his work you will definitely see it. When you look at the majesty of the Mystics you forget they are just people covered in foam latex.
Of course having a truly creative setting and truly creative characters would not be enough to make a great movie. Lord knows fantasy fans have seen plenty of examples that prove that point. However this movie has a story that is as classic as any fable you have read before. By the time you finish this movie if will feel like you just read a grand fairy tale... only about wondrous and fantastic creatures never seen before. It's not deep storytelling. Then again it shouldn't be considering the mythical theme.
The soundtrack for this film is a perfect fit for the movie. The main themes are grand, dynamic and best of all memorable with a full orchestra giving the music vibrant life. Other pieces of the film work with what I can best describe as old western European instrumentation and themes, and again they work wonderfully. I can think of about a half dozen songs from the movie right now that would stick in my head in a good way if I let it. The music is that memorable. Okay... I do remember one song in the least useful scene (Skeksis banquet) in the movie that didn't impress me. But to be honest the music was fitting the scene, and the scene didn't impress me either.
The original release of this DVD had a host of wonderful extras that made it feel like the only DVD you would ever need. Then came the 25th Anniversary Edition, which gave an impressive upgrade to the visuals (I mean night and day difference) via a digital remaster, Dolby Digital Surround sound, a new commentary and some additional features. On a small note they took out the Spanish stereo track the original DVD had and included a surround track in Japanese.
Now we have the Blu-Ray. Even if you bought any of the previous releases (and all of them were worthy purchases at the time) you definitely want to make that double/triple dip. And I thought the Anniversary Edition was an amazing improvement. The details really, really stand out on the Blu-Ray. I see little details as plain as day that I never noticed before. It even gives new life to the aging puppets by bringing out even the subtlest of details. The sound is very much improved with Dolby TruHD in English, French and Portugese. A Dolby Digital surround Spanish track is finally included. Looks like they corrected the absence of the Spanish track on the Anniversary Edition, and then some. But then they take out the Japanese audio track. What's going on here? There are a few new extras on the Blu-Ray, but nothing that compares to the previous features. Here is a run down:
COMMENTARY BY BRIAN FROUD - Brian is the conceptual designer for the movie and essentially created the world for Jim Henson. He goes on about design techniques and how he came about the characters and inspirations for his work in The Dark Crystal.
WORLD OF THE DARK CRYSTAL - The most amazing "making of" documentary one can ever ask for. It details over an hour of footage regarding conceptual design, character creation, production, cinematography, the philosophy behind the creation of this movie and the world it is based on, and more. This documentary was made while the Dark Crystal was released so you get interviews with the man himself, Jim Henson, at the time of the movie along with scores of others involved in the movie. Most "making of" documentaries that come out with movies these days are little more than lip service to help promote the movie. I wish they would follow the model done on THIS documentary.
REFLECTIONS OF THE DARK CRYSTAL - Two-part featurette (Shard of Illusion [16 minutes] and Light on the Path of Creation [20 minutes]) with more recent interviews from writers, directors, and performers including co-writer David O'Dell, conceptual designer Brian Froud, and Jim Henson's son Brian. These featurettes also include newly discovered test footage from Jim Henson's home in England.
PICTURE-IN-PICTURE STORYBOARD TRACK - This is probably the best Blu-Ray exclusive feature in the set. As the titles describes you get a sizable window showing pre-production storyboards and conceptual drawings, each with descriptions of what you are seeing.
THE BOOK OF THRA: THE DARK CRYSTAL COLLECTOR - Hmm... is it a game? You click a button on the remote every time you see an icon appear. Not much of a game. Is it an in-movie encyclopedia? When you collect the entries in this Blu-Ray exclusive you get notes on various characters, places, and creatures in the film. Mostly the names and duties of the Skeksis and Urru (mystics). It's neat, but it would have been less cumbersome if they just made a data file type page instead of something you have to watch the movie to see. The details are sparse, and if you want to really get into this universe you're better off getting The World of the Dark Crystal. Or better yet Wikipedia.
ORIGINAL SKEKSIS LANGUAGE: Test Scenes - The original concept of The Dark Crystal was to have many of the creatures speak their own language, which we would get subtitles for, in order to further put in that different world. I think that would have been a cool way to see the movie and with this footage you get an idea of Jim Henson's original concept. Keep in mind this is not fully produced footage and it's not the same as seeing the end product. Namely the character Augra is being dubbed with Frank Oz's Miss Piggy-esque voice over and of course there is no music or post-production. Still it's interesting to get a taste of what the movie could have been like.
DELETED FUNERAL SCENES - Just a deleted scene of the Skeksis funeral. You're really not missing much taking it out if you ask me. The funeral itself is boring. The scene has some footwate with Jen talking to one of the Mystics about his quest, which was nice. No remastering on the scene of course. It's pretty grainy.
SKEKTEK'S CRYSTAL CHALLENGE - Also a Blu-Ray Exclusive. It's a trivia game played throughout the movie. A question pops up and you have to answer or get some of your essence drained. Not as annoying as the Book of Thra feature, but I still don't see why they don't just put this separate from the film.
Every time I have reviewed a Dark Crystal disk I have been impressed. It seems they just keep getting better and better. The first one had the movie with a good array of language tracks and extra features that still top all that has been offered since. The second one ups the ante with an amazing digital remastering. Now the Blu-Ray gives and absolutely jaw dropping visual and audio presentation that even dwarfs the visual clarity of the second release; especially for a movie that was made back in 1982. If you have a Blu-Ray player and like The Dark Crystal you owe it to yourself to get this.
I will admit that some people might be put off of this movie due to the lack of human actors in front of you and the fact the puppet animatronics might feel dated (although I feel less so with the Blu-Ray presentation). It's a shame people would feel that way because The Dark Crystal is fantasy storytelling at its finest. If you are a fan of the genre this movie is an absolute must. If you're a Muppet fan... well these aren't Muppets so don't expect Fraggle Rock when you see it. Any fan of grand storytelling who wants to be whisked away to a strange faraway land will find what they are looking for in The Dark Crystal. Do yourself a favor and check this movie out.
245 of 270 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2003
I'm a huge fan of The Dark Crystal (it and Labyrinth are my favourite movies of all time ever) so I was of course thrilled when a special collector's edition was released. However, I'm disappointed in the "features".
Pretty much everything on the disc is the same as what's on the non-collector's edition. The few new things to me aren't worth it. Character Illustrations and storyboards are nice and all. I was excited about "The Mithra Treatment", which I thought was the original print of the movie...where the characters speak their own language and not English (you see some of this in the deleted scenes on the disc). It is not. It is simply screens and screens of Henson's original notes. Interesting yes... but I'd rather have that in a booklet, not in screens on my TV. Then again, the fact that it was only 1 disc should have tipped me off.
The packaging is nice, the replica of Henson's notepad detailing the original ideas which would become the movie is very interesting... but in my opinion, not worth the $35 or whatever I just shelled out for this.
I'm very disappointed in the amount of "exclusives" on this DVD. The original print of the film would have been *amazing* to see, to see how Henson and Co. originally viewed the film. Maybe some new interviews with some of the other players (Oz and Froud for sure) as they look back on the movie, its box office disappointment but almost cult success. Or even a nifty booklet with a lot of these extras in it. I hate sitting in front of my TV trying to read screens of information or look at drawings which I'd rather have on paper so I can see the detail better.
So to make a long story short... if you like the movie, get the regular edition and not collector's. If you're a fanatic like me, bought the re-issued World of the Dark Crystal book and even considered shelling out a few hundred for the original pressing... and somehow MISSED buying the first DVD release of this movie, well then this is probably for you. But if you already own the DVD that came out a few years ago... I'd think very heavily on it, unless you are a fanatic. Even as a fanatic, you probably won't find any new material here (especially if you own the aforementioned book), and I'd save the $35. Or try to recoup some of your "loss" and sell your other DVD somewhere (like I'm going to try and do). I hope that if Henson and Co. decide to do a Collector's Edition of Labyrinth they put a little more work into it. I have to say, I'm disappointed with how the kids have carried on Jim's legend.
58 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 1999
I didn't buy this dvd to criticize it or take it apart. I bought it to own it and enjoy it---like most people. This is my absolute favorite movie. I looked forward to seeing all of the new features being released about this movie. The special features were incredible---the work prints, the clips, the trailers, character profiles,the deleted scenes----all of that was pretty magical to me. The problem that I had was with the overall quality of the movie itself. The sound was not top notch, and the movie was entirely too dark----NOT the content(I love this movie!)I'm talking about the color of the characters, backgrounds, etc...it seemed to have been re-issued in a darker finish. The biggest disappointment, was that the original soundtrack was not on the dvd as stated---there was an option to choose it, called "isolated music score", but when you choose it, you just get sent back to the beginning of the dvd menu. The other problem that really messed-up the whole movie----certain colors were changed. For instance: the color of the crystal became purple instead of that murky wine color. Next, when the crystal was healed, after the rock and crust fall from the walls, the brilliant white crystalline walls of the castle are no longer white---the dvd shows these walls in brown---they seemed faded; not how they were portrayed in the original. Next, when the Urskeks ascend to their higher realm, they meld together and are swept into this beautiful funnel of white energy and carried through the triangular portal over the crystal.In the dvd, however, someone changed the white color of the energy into GREEN; a serious contrast---it was so obvious. That was terrible. Lastly, the sound dips and waves in two places----immediately after Kira is brought back to life by the Urskek...right after her head moves. And the sound also fluctuates at the exact point where the Urskeks disappear through the triangle portal...right when the end music hits its climax. The reason why I know so many of the flaws is because I have the laserdisk that was put out a couple of years ago, and I played them both at the same time---mirrored---I flipped back and forth just to see if my assumptions were right.. There were major differences. The quality was just not there for it being a re-issue. By all means---if you like this movie, then buy the dvd---it's great to have and watch. Just understand that the money that you are paying for this is strictly for the special features and not for the movie itself. I never criticize things just to criticize. I don't believe in nit-picking every little detail. This is simply not the Dark Crystal that I have grown to know and enjoy. I firmly believe that if you're going to take the time to bring back something so popular and special to so many people, why do it halfway? Do it right, and make it big.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2000
Long have I loved The Dark Crystal, and when I got the DVD as a gift (my first DVD!), frankly, I was apprehensive. I hadn't seen the movie in years, until this past summer, when I rented the videotape and was appalled by the quality: the murky picture, the incomprehensible composition of many scenes, and the slow pacing. Would the DVD simply present digitally-clear proof of all these complaints?
Nope! This is a feast for the eyes, a creative masterpiece.
Okay, first off, I'll say that the pacing *is* slow, and that's the biggest flaw in this film. My only other issue, brought to light by the sharp DVD picture, is that the hero puppets, the Gelflings, are relatively unexpressive -- their facial features change very little. Perhaps that was the limited state of the art for a humanlike puppet in the early 1980s. It's ironic, because every other creature in this fantasy world (excepting the beasts of burden: Landstriders, Garthim) is delightfully expressive, from the simple Pod People to the wonderful conniving Skeksis Chamberlain. But then, I've read the same about Star Wars, even: Heroes tend to be plain and undetailed because we are meant to project our own traits upon them. Still, I'd have appreciated even a basic facial expression, a simple smile or frown, but the Gelflings don't have it.
But don't get me wrong: Those are minor complaints. I love this movie. I almost gave up on it after the atrocious VHS rental experience, but the DVD restored my faith and then some. If the pacing is slow, it is a boon in disguise, because it allows you more time to absorb the visual detail. And The Dark Crystal is loaded with detail; this is a complete fantasy world, inspired by Brian Froud (of the book "Fairies") and constructed by Jim Henson's shop. The widescreen frame is necessary (it's the only aspect ratio included) -- after seeing this DVD, I can't imagine watching the movie in TV pan 'n' scan format. Every shot is a dreamlike panorama. And the color is truly vibrant.
The sound, as well, is excellent, and the isolated music soundtrack option provides for an even more mysterious and compelling experience. The bonus material is sometimes weak (e.g., overdesigned character-photo screens with terse descriptions), but the saving grace is the documentary piece. It's an extensive look at the conception and making of the movie, and it features the most footage of Jim Henson I've ever seen in one place. The Dark Crystal was in many ways the crown jewel of Henson's achievements, and it's fitting that he gets the chance to talk so much about it. Plenty of interviews with other production people, too, including Frank Oz. (At one point, Henson and Oz are seen discussing a storyboard, and if you close your eyes, it's eerie -- you could swear it's Ernie and Bert.) Truly a treat for Henson fans. For the many who waited decades for a definitive collector's release of The Dark Crystal, it's a dream come true.
Note: I wouldn't recommend this film for young children. I'd say it's best for later grade-schoolers, especially fantasy-oriented ones (I can imagine a revival among the Harry Potter crowd). But don't assume that because it's from Henson it's another Sesame Street preschooler romp: The Dark Crystal has some frightening scenes, elements of macabre horror, and even murder. I'm saving this one until my kids are older -- and then, boy, am I going to love watching it with them.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2000
This is one of my favorite childhood movies; it's right up there with "Labyrinth" and "The Princess Bride." The plot in a nutshell: beautiful beings rule in a crystal castle until an arguement causes them to break the dark crystal which provides their power/balance. The beings are split into two: the evil Skeksis and the gentle Mystics. According to profecy, a member of the Gelfling race must repair the crystal in 1000 years as the three suns align so that the Mystics and Skeksis can again be one. The Skeksis tried to wipe out all Gelflings to protect themselves from the profecy. The only two Gelfling survivors, Jen and Kira, must find each other and heal the crystal before time runs out.
All of the puppets are very well done. They are lifelike and fit the personalities of the characters. Unfortunately, this makes the evil characters quite frightening to children, myself included. There is a scene where the skeksis try to drain Kira's essence by making her stare into a reflector of light passed through the crystal. For years I was convinced that if I stared at my ceiling light, my essence would also be drained. (However, I also thought I could access Fraggle Rock through the back of my closet.) So, what I really mean to say is that the movie may be frightening to children.
The score is wonderful. It's mystical, fantastical, and eerie....can't say enough about it. Well done, Trevor Jones.
All in all, the movie is definitely worth watching.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2000
Those who haven't seen The Dark Crystal have been missing out on what may be the greatest live-action fantasy film of all time (or at least the '80s). A completely alien world is presented as vivid, believable reality via the deceptively "simple" technique of puppeteering. The result is very unlike a Muppet film as some might expect, much more like something truly out of this world; it is a storybook brought to life. The tale is simple and enjoyable enough for children, but deep and layered enough for adults as well.
Fans of the movie should own this DVD not just for the exceptional crispness of the picture and the virtues of the ultra-widescreen format (2.35:1) but for the bonus materials. In particular the documentary explaining the production process gave me a whole new appreciation for the difficulty of making this film, and the incredible artistry and talent that was poured into it. The complexity of getting everything to work just right seems to have given the piece a strong sense of unity; the creature effects don't fight the plot nor do the characters fail to convey emotion in ways ordinary actors might. Because the technical challenges of working entirely with puppets have been somewhat scrapped in favor of CGI over the last decade, I think we're unlikely ever to see another movie like it--more's the pity.
If you liked the movie on VHS, buy the DVD. If you just like fantasy and would like to see a worthy film in the genre, buy the DVD. If you're a fan of the late Jim Henson's work and want to see something different from his other stuff, buy this DVD. This one is worth every penny.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2004
I'm a great fan of this movie, it's probably in my personal top ten favorite films (or if not then definitely in the top twenty), but while it's a great film this is not a great DVD.
The transfer of the movie is acceptable but not great - it's in widescreen as it should be, but there is still dirt and noise in various parts. The color and sharpness are superior to the previous VHS versions of course but that's about it.
The main thing the DVD lacks is extras - this "set" is a single disc containing both the movie and supplements, and the only significant one is the "World of the Dark Crystal" making-of documentary. Everything else is lacking. There are storyboards, very well drawn storyboards in fact, but there is only a small sampling of a few of them (6 I think, maybe less) not storyboards for the whole movie. Then there are character illustrations and profiles - when I first saw these I though "great, well worth having" as they are beautiful pieces of artwork by Brain Froud - however I quickly realized that there are only a few of these too, not one for every character, or at least every major character, as I had hoped.
The biggest disappointment was the lack of running commentary. This is my favorite feature on any DVD, particularly when there are several commentary tracks. When they are well done it's a fantastic feature - see Fight Club, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Criterion edition), The Lord of the Rings series (extended editions), The Simpsons box sets and most of Kevin Smith's movies for examples of great commentaries. So how many commentary tracks do you get on this DVD? Zero. 0. Goose egg. Nada. Zip. Zilch. I know Jim Henson is dead, and it was tragic that he died so young, but Frank Oz, the co-director and a major performer in the film is still with us as are many others who worked on it, as well as Jim Henson's kids, and so on. I'm not buying another edition of this DVD after feeling ripped off by this one however, so if they do crank out the "ultra super mondo special really really final and this time we mean it" edition with commentary I'm not buying it. Had this version been correctly priced for what it is, $20, maybe $25 max instead of $45, I might have shelled out again for another future edition but as it is, forget it.
The reproduction of Jim Henson's original notepad with his first ideas for The Dark Crystal is really rather dull and uninteresting. The frame of 35mm film from the movie that comes in the set is a novelty but not really a big deal - and that's about all you get. In this day and age where you can get some really great values on DVD (Lord of the Rings extended editions for example) this stands out as a bad deal. The Simpsons seasons 2 and 3 sets cost about $12 less than this for far more material, same for The Lord of the Rings films.
Go for the more basic, less expensive version of the DVD, the "boxed set" isn't worth it, though this great movie definitely is.
Overall 3 stars - would have been 4 stars if it was reasonably priced, 5 if they had the extras like commentary too. The movie by itself is 5 stars, the DVD by itself is 2 stars at best.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2009
The Dark Crystal [Blu-ray]
Review from: [...]
The first time I laid eyes on the film The Dark Crystal ,I was five years old. My Aunt took me to see it in the theater. It probably was one of the first films I saw in a theater. To make a long story short, I remember being bored with the film. That was the last time I saw it, until I got the Blu-ray Disc in the mail. Now, twenty-seven years later, here I sit in my living room watching it with my two and a half year old daughter. She walked away after the opening credits, but I was drawn in by how wonderful the disc looked and how great the story was.
The Dark Crystal is a film about the cycle of life and Good vs. Evil and their connection to each other. In a dark place, a dying race of birdlike creatures called Skeksis are in power and are the keepers of the Dark Crystal which holds the key to the life of the planet on which they all live. In a not-too-far village lives a race known as the Mystics. They, too, are a dying race, but they have raised a young Gelfling boy named Jen. Jen is the only known member of his race left, as the Skeksis have killed all of his kind off. However, there is a prophecy that a Gelfing boy will find the crystal shard that has broken from the dark crystal and bring order back to the planet. Jen soon learns that he is that person and, with the help of a female, Gelfing named Kira, Jen will try against all odds to fulfill the prophecy and bring order to the planet.
I never realized just how much The Dark Crystal really bought the world of puppets in film to life. Looking at the creatures in this film and the world in which they live, everything seems real even though it is fantasy. This film was the late Jim Henson's version of Lord of the Rings. It has a lot of detail and all the characters and creatures have their own unique personalities. The story and time in which it takes place is rooted with such deep historic overtones that you know that the story has a lot of history to it. The story is perfectly written, with the prefect balance of story and characters.
The Dark Crystal is a film that was made with puppets in the lead roles, yet the effects look so good, one can almost believe that they are real beings. The universe in which the story takes place is full of so much life and detail. Every effect and set piece was made to really drag your mind into a world that looks and feel real. The effects in this film are so great for its time that it's one of those films that you know paved the way for other films that involved puppets and animatronics.
The Blu-ray disc is filled with special features. There are original special features that are part of the DVD which include Commentary with Brian Froud, The World of The Dark Crystal Documentary, Reflections of The Dark Crystal: "Light on the Path of Creation" & "Shard of Illusion", Test Scenes of the original Skeeksis Language and Deleted scenes. The All New Blu-ray features include The Book of Thra -Dark Crystal Collector, SkekTek's Crystal Challenge - Trivia Game, Picture in Picture Storyboard Track and introduction by screenwriter David Odell on the original Skeksis Language.
Overall, The Dark Crystal is a great fantasy film. The Blu-ray disc is not only packed with great features that tell you everything you need to know about the film, but the quality of sound and picture are top notch. Sony really did a great job putting this disc together as well as transferring the film to digital. The film really looks great in the Blu-ray format. If you were a fan of the film when it came out in 1982 or you discovered it as a grown-up on VHS or DVD; the Blu-ray disc is well worth the buy.
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2005
Of course everyone already knows "The Dark Crystal" is Jim Henson's Masterpiece, but this so-called "Collector's Edition" version is probably the biggest rip-off in DVD history! It comes in a cardboard box that looks nice on the outside, but its cheesiness becomes apparent when you open it up. Inside is a little notepad, a piece of film embedded in a card, a little note written by Jim Henson's daughter, and ONE lonely disc. Said disc offers ZERO improvement over the previously released (and MUCH more reasonably priced) "Special Edition." Compare this to the FOUR discs you get in one of the Lord of the Rings Extended Editions for significantly less money! My advice: Skip this "Collector's Edition" and buy the "Special Edition" along with the beautiful Brian Froud book, "The World of the Dark Crystal: The Collector's Edition" (available here at Amazon).
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2000
The Dark Crystal is one of those rare, fantastic, intelligent films that takes full advantage of the power of imagination. So few films immerse you in a completely other world so well. It is a classical tale of good and evil. This story sees Jen and Kira, last of the elf-like Gelfling race, on a journey to the Palace of the grotesquely evil Skeksis in order to heal the fractured Dark Crystal. It is a simple enough story for young chidren to grasp, yet pertinent enough to engross adults.
This is not your typical Jim Henson fare. Incredibly real and life-like, every creature in the film was brought to life by puppeteers. Some of the creatures and situations are rather frightening and could give a young child nightmares. Giant, black, crab-like soldiers called Garthim are shown breaking suddenly into peaceful areas and causing panic and destruction. There are scenes of evil, vulture-like Skeksis torturing defenseless Podlings (little gnome-ish people). The Skeksis also have sharp, jagged teeth and some make menacing noises. I watched this film countless times as a young child, and while the creatures were frightening, I don't remember ever being afraid to watch the film. This is a film which does not underestimate the viewer's ability to think and wonder.
The wise, peaceful, four-armed Mystics are as fascinating a film creature as any I've ever seen. The lush, other-worldly settings and beings of The Dark Crystal will continue to fascinate me as they have done all my life.
The DVD version is in widescreen (thank god!). What an incredible difference! Twice as full of life and mystery.