AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Dark Crystal
Director: Jim Henson (Dir)
Release Date:   17 Dec 1982
Duration (in mins):  93-94
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Cast: Jim Henson  (Jen, A Gelfling)
  Kathryn Mullen  (Kira, A Gelfling)
  Frank Oz  (Aughra, A Keeper of Secrets)
 

Summary: In another world, during the Age of Wonder, the land is desolate and dark. One thousand years earlier, a shard was broken from the great Crystal and forged two races: the gentle urRu Mystics and their cruel counterparts, the vulture-esque Skeksis. Only ten of the Skeksis remain, ruling the kingdom from the castle where the Crystal is housed. They cheat death by drawing life from the sun’s light, deflected into their eyes through the power of the Dark Crystal. When the Crystal cracked, the Mystics moved to a faraway desert, but now only ten remain, practicing rituals of ancient wizardry with the hope of reviving their ailing leader. A Gelfling named Jen lives among the Mystics after the Skeksis killed his entire race. The Master Mystic tells Jen that he must fulfill a prophecy and find the Crystal’s missing shard. Before the Master dies, he instructs Jen to follow the path of the Greater Sun to Aughra, a seer who will help guide him, and Jen embarks on his journey alone. Meanwhile, in the castle, the Skeksis emperor dies. When Skesis Lord Chamberlain attempts to usurp the throne, his peers object, and order him to compete in a “trial by stone.” Chamberlain and his challenger, the General, use large, curved blades to cut into a block of stone until the General chops the stone from its base and wins the throne. The Skesis strip Chamberlain of his clothes and banish him from the castle. They move to the Crystal room, where the Crystal shows them images of Jen’s journey. Fearing the prophecy, the General orders their large, beetle-like Garthim soldiers to retrieve Jen and bring him to the castle. On a rocky cliffside, Jen finds Aughra and follows her into her cave, which contains a spinning orbital replica of the universe. She presents him with a box full of crystal shards, instructing him to select the correct one and return it to the Crystal before an alignment of the three suns called the “Great Conjunction.” He blows into a Mystic music pipe until one crystal glows purple. Suddenly, the Garthim break in and destroy Aughra’s home, but Jen escapes. While Jen hides in the forest, the shard shows him images of a creature breaking the giant Crystal. He discovers Fizzgig, a fluffy monster, and Kira, another Gelfling. When Jen and Kira touch hands, they telepathically exchange their histories: Jen explains his life learning among the Mystics, while Kira lived among the forest animals. As the Skeksis feast in the castle, the Garthim return with Aughra. Infuriated that she is not Jen, the Skeksis command another search. While floating down a boat on the river, Kira spots a Crystal Bat and shoots it with a slingshot, explaining that the Skeksis can see whatever the bats see through the Crystal. The bat, however, emerges from the water and catches sight of the travelers. Kira takes them to her adoptive guardians, a clan of friendly Podlings, who dance, play music, and feast. However, the Garthim break into the Podlings’ village and capture many of the inhabitants. Kira and Jen run for safety into the forest and they fall asleep in each other’s arms. In the morning, Kira shows Jen an abandoned Gelfling temple, where he finds a carving that reads: “When single shines the Triple Sun, what was sundered and undone shall be whole, the two made one, by Gelfling hand, or else by none.” They are interrupted by Chamberlain, who tells Jen he is a Skeksis outcast and offers to help them. Skeptical, Jen refuses his aide and he, Kira, and Fizzgig make their escape on the backs of two rabbit-like creatures that stride on long, stilt-like legs. At the castle, the Skeksis use the light beams of the Dark Crystal to drain the life from the Podlings and turn them into slaves as the Emperor drinks their “essence.” Kira and Jen encounter the Garthim in a field and free a cage of captured Podlings. To escape the Garthim, Kira grabs Jen and jumps off a cliff, opening a pair of wings to coast them gently to safety. Meanwhile, the nine remaining Mystics travel across the land toward the castle. In a cave tunnel underneath the castle, the two Gelflings again encounter Chamberlain, who captures Kira and brings her to the General. A rockslide buries Jen underneath a pile of boulders. Instead of immediately killing Kira, the General decides to first drain and drink her essence. As the life drips out of her, Kira uses a chant to summon the caged animals around her to set her free. The creatures knock her Skeksis captor into a fiery pit below. The three suns move closer in the sky, and the Mystics approach the castle. Jen stirs himself from the rubble and falls into a dark hole, surrounded by Garthim. The soldiers smash a hole in the wall, and Jen uses the portal to climb into the fiery pit below the castle’s torture room. Aughra directs him to Kira, and the Mystics hum a magic chant to put the Garthim guards outside the castle to sleep. Jen finds the Crystal chamber and watches as the Skeksis surround the jewel, awaiting the Great Conjunction. When the Skeksis notice both Kira and Jen in the room, Jen jumps on top of the Crystal, but drops the shard. One of the Skeksis throws Fizzgig into the fiery pit and Kira uses her wings to retrieve the shard. She throws the shard to Jen, but the Skeksis stab her and she dies. Jen replaces the lost shard and the Crystal emits a bright beam of light, causing the Garthim and the castle to crumble. The Mystics enter the chamber and surround the Crystal, which projects individual beams of light that lift them into the air. They are transformed into their original ghostly, luminescent urSkek forms, a combination of the Mystics and the Skeksis. One of the urSkeks explains that in their arrogance, they had shattered the Crystal and severed their race in two. As Jen holds Kira’s body in his arms, the creature revives her. The urSkeks and the Crystal dissolve into a colored mist, which turns the castle into a crystalline, silver structure and restores life and beauty to the land. 

Distribution Company: Universal Pictures
Associated Film Distribution Corporation
Production Company: Universal Pictures
ITC Entertainment
Director: Jim Henson (Dir)
  Frank Oz (Dir)
  Philip Kohler (Prod mgr)
  Dusty Symonds (1st asst dir)
  Chris Newman (2d asst dir)
  Keith Young (3d asst dir)
  Nick Laws (3d asst dir)
  Gary Kurtz (Dir, 2d unit)
  Vincent Winter (Asst dir, 2d unit)
  Brian Smithies (Dir, Miniature eff unit)
  Gareth Tandy (Asst dir, Miniature eff unit)
Producer: Jim Henson (Prod)
  Gary Kurtz (Prod)
  David Lazer (Exec prod)
  Bruce Sharman (Assoc prod)
  Duncan Kenworthy (Assoc prod for Henson Organization)
Writer: David Odell (Scr)
  Jim Henson (Story)

Subject Major: Immortality
  Magic
  Monsters
  Mystics
  Revelation (Theology, inspiration)
 
Subject Minor: Death and dying
  Forests
  Genocide
  Planets
  Puppets
  Rivalry
  Self-sacrifice
  Slavery
  Sorcerers
  Sun
  Swamps
  Witches and witchcraft

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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