The Dark Crystal Reviews
But this was always Henson's stock-in-trade as a puppet-maker and designer of elaborate costumes. The real breakthrough with "Dark Crystal" is in the extension of his passion for creature creation to the world at large. Kermit sat in a normal Earth swamp when he sang "It's Not Easy Being Green," but the characters here trudge through undergrowth that is as alien and sentient as they are. A large trunk standing in water suddenly uproots itself and skitters up a hill. Nearby, an innocuous-seeming boulder claps shut, revealing that it was no boulder, but a rock-like creature with a huge mouth for catching unsuspecting prey. The adjacent fungus pods twitter in excitement. Later, creatures with four stilt-like legs run at speed on their way to a battle with the beetles in the most exciting action sequence of the movie.
Speed, though, is something of a rarity within this approach to filmmaking. People wearing heavy and complicated costumes can only move so fast, and there is a lot of lumbering and sluggishness in the presentation of "Dark Cyrstal" that causes the mind to wander. The story does not do much to keep our attention; it was never Henson's priority, and it is as pat, predictable, and derivative as his creatures are fresh and innovative. The bland lead characters, called Gelfings, have a wooden feel in more ways than one. A power of theirs called "dreamfasting" adds a creative dimension, but their overall lack of depth makes it is easy to understand why a real human star was chosen for Henson's later, similar project, "Labyrinth" (1986). That film, though, is ultimately less ambitious than this one, which remains unique in its approach to world- building through puppetry.