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The Dark Crystal
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The Dark Crystal 4K
A movie like The Dark Crystal would seem to be an ideal candidate for a 4K/HDR release. Here's a movie that was shot on film; is full of richly and carefully constructed costumes, creatures, and set pieces; and features some bold use of intense color intermixed with some fairly bland, dreary backgrounds that would allow said color to really shine. And, indeed, shine the UHD does. The 4K imagery is striking. Grain retention is even and continuous. It's very flattering and complimentary, ensuring a perfectly filmic and startlingly sharp image. Textural qualities are breathtaking, a significant leap forward even from the companion release Blu-ray and especially the 2009 release, not to mention any number of previously released lower resolution and cable broadcast versions absorbed during childhood, for those who were around to watch it way back when. The UHD is an absolute delight, a near total revelation. Fine textural wonders abound in practically every scene. It's not only sharpness of dirt terrain and rocky surfaces but also the sheer intimacy with which all of the creatures are revealed. Complex costume details and significantly deep and dense character parts abound. Every character in the movie appears , with an endless supply of tangible, tactile definition to enjoy, particularly on the variously grotesque Skeksis but also the smoother, less complex, but no less wondrous, Gelfling characters. A few inherently soft edges are visible here and there, but the textural brilliance, raw sharpness, and overall image intimacy are wonderful, miraculous, even.
The HDR-10 color palette is almost as impressive. The absolute highlight in the movie is the crystal, a large, purple-glowing object that presents with a dazzling sense of pure depth and brilliant vibrancy, particularly as it's offset against a fairly dank, dreary locale with a dearth of additional colors to get in the way. Natural greens dazzle, bright white lights near film's end are brilliant, and various support colors in places that are home to them, such as inside Aughra's lab, offer pleasing depth and accuracy. Even dark gray and black surfaces hold very accurate with satisfying nuance. Black levels offer impressive depth and shadow detail. Overall image drawbacks are few and don't warrant much more than a passing mention. There's obvious wobble in the opening titles and closing credits and the UHD resolution makes already shaky optical effects all the more disagreeable; a mountain vista seen at the 30:47 mark is one of several examples. But such are inherent to the source and not particularly bothersome and certainly not enough of take anything away from an otherwise brilliant UHD that easily ranks in the top handful of releases in terms of raw image clarity, and the HDR color isn't bad, either.
The Dark Crystal's UHD features Dolby Atmos mix, and it's nearly every bit as precise and exciting and complimentary as the 4K visuals. The track soars, presenting every aggressive action element, each musical note, any and all environmental supports with perfectly realized width and depth around the stage. Musical clarity is wonderful. It's effortlessly spacious, enveloping the listener and never fumbling essential or nuanced definition, even at its height in terms of either raw volume or orchestral complexity. Support details are not shy, but they're also very well balanced. A symphony of natural delights spring into the stage when introducing a swampy location around the 31:30 mark. Aggressive elements, subtle support details, and expert spacing as sounds filter in and move about the stage all combine to define place with striking definition and detail. Action scenes are of particularly wonderful depth and density. Bass is prominent as it's required, as creatures rumble, glass shatters, or objects crash when Garthim attack Aughra's place. There's an impressive baritone depth as the Mystics call out near film's start. Overhead channels are used in both discrete and complimentary fashion. A great example comes as Chamberlain is stripped and shamed after losing the battle to become the emperor, the overhead channels supporting both the chaotic din of the moment -- a cracking stone, raised voices -- as well as the crystal's call moments later. Dialogue, unsurprisingly, plays with expert definition, placement, and prioritization. Sony has raised the bar for catalogue Atmos soundtracks.
In another time, The Dark Crystal - a source of Balance and Truth in the Universe - was shattered, dividing the world into two factions: the wicked Skeksis and the peaceful Mystics. Now, as the convergence of the three suns approaches, the Crystal must be healed, or darkness will reign forevermore! It's up to Jen - the last of his race - to fulfill the prophecy that a Gelfling will return the missing shard to the Crystal and destroy the Skeksis' evil Empire. But will young Jen's courage be any match for the unknown dangers that await him? Revisit this masterful fantasy epic from the brilliant imagination of Jim Henson.
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CULVER CITY, Calif. (December 20, 2017) – Revisit the masterful fantasy epic from the brilliant imagination of Jim Henson when THE DARK CRYSTAL debuts on 4K Ultra HD™ and returns to Blu-ray™ and digital on March 6 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The visually spectacular tale of a young hero who must find a legendary relic in order restore harmony to the universe has been fully restored in 4K from the original camera negative. Additionally, the Blu-ray is housed in a lavish, limited edition 24-page Digibook, complete with rare archival photos and behind-the-scenes stories. Included among the hours of archival bonus material is the all-new featurette “The Myth, Magic and Henson Legacy,” where fans go behind the scenes of this iconic film with insight from Lisa Henson and Toby Froud.
THE DARK CRYSTAL on 4K Ultra HD includes Dolby Atmos audio and is presented in full 4K resolution with HDR. The 4K restoration also serves as the basis for the 1080p HD presentation on Blu-ray.
Blu-ray Bonus Features Include:
ALL-NEW: The Myth, Magic and Henson Legacy: Go behind the scenes of this iconic film with stories from Lisa Henson and Toby Froud.
Commentary with Brian Froud
Picture-in-Picture Storyboard Track
Original Skeksis Language Scenes with Introduction by Screenwriter David Odell
The World of The Dark Crystal Documentary
Reflections of The Dark Crystal: “Light on the Path of Creation” & “Shard of Illusion”
Theatrical Teaser & Trailer
This is WMG again. Regarding the "ALL-NEW" bonus feature; Lisa Henson is Jim Henson's daughter, and Toby Froud is Brian Froud's son.
The film itself however looks about as good as it ever will in the 4K format and you're going to notice alot more support wires, torn costumes, set lines, and such. But to me this is wonderful and adds more interest and mystique to a film I'm already extremely familiar with it. Lets face it, if you are bothering to buy a 4K copy of "The Dark Crystal" after probably already owning the VHS, DVD, and Blu ray, its a treat to see even deeper into it. Again, a shame they didn't package it for such dedicated fans or notate it as such on the product page.
UPDATE: After writing this review and flagging the item description on Amazon, it looks they did in fact update the product pages to reflect the digipack anniversary packaging of the blu ray vs the standard packaging of the 4k. Good on Amazon for doing that! Still wish the 4K (which is arguably the deluxe version) got the deluxe treatment, but that is on the publisher, not the seller.
This was like watching the Dark Crystal with new eyes, don't hesitate to pick this new edition up.