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Check out "The Dark Crystal"
We'd never forsake Jim Henson!
By Starling Root
Sci-fi/fantasy movies are becoming increasingly more socially-acceptable--not that QB was ever too concerned about the "cool" factor. Once reserved for the likes of cult-fans alone, sci-fi/fantasy movies are sucking in viewers at the box office and earning rave reviews. From the Harry Potter and Narnia series to the renowned Lord of the Rings trilogy, sci-fi/fantasy films are adored by the world-over, but it's important to examine the lesser-known predecessors to these movies. One highly deserving film would be Jim Henson's opus "The Dark Crystal" (1982). This puppet and animatronics truly helped set the high standard for the visual effects we expect out of sci-fi/fantasy films today.
The tale, of a gelfling named Jen trying prevent the Armageddon of Planet Thra, is accompanied by brilliant aesthetics that are sure to mesmerize even today's demanding high-tech special effects fans. The scenes are masterfully crafted, featuring bizarre landscapes and rare plants never seen before in our world. Jim Henson and his crew create a world that beckons the audience to explore, leaving them with a wistful ‘If only....' trembling on their lips. The bog through which Jen and his friend Kira journey to reach the Skekis' castle is lush with vegetation and fictitious creatures that pop up from branches and leaves with the enthusiasm of a Jack-in-the-box. The Skekis' castle is intimidating yet handsome. It seems to be built entirely from onyx and shines radiantly in the sun. Inside is a labyrinth of rock with stained glass windows and strange fuzzy creatures scuttling across the floor.
The character design is what is especially impressive about "The Dark Crystal." Although all of the characters are puppets or costumed people, their animated movements bring them alive. The human qualities of the gelflings are fascinating. Their eyes are bright and dewey, to indicate wetness, and Kira and Jen's movements lack the stiffness most puppets posses; they are flexible and realistic. Their hair reflects light beautifully and sway naturally in the breeze. Jen and Kira both have faint lips, similar to those of porcelain dolls, and their cheekbones are high and well-defined. Even their tunics have fine Medieval tailoring, including seed beads and lace-up necklines. The Skekis are reptilian beings with sharp beaks and wrinkled faces. Their eyes gleam with evil, and their regal garments convey their lust for power.
The lighting is spectacular. All the colors are sharp and contrasting, as are the shadows. Light reflects the mood of the scenes, with soft light for joyful moments and heavy shadows for sad ones. The light bounces off the characters genuinely and adds depth, making the film frightfully real.
Need food for hungry eyes? Check out "The Dark Crystal."
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