More of You Need to Watch “The Dark Crystal”

Content Warning: Mega spoilers for “The Dark Crystal” and “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.” Also, this series literally involves the draining of life force as a central theme, which may be too much for some readers.

A few weeks ago, I had to take an unexpected trip across state lines. When preparing for this trip, I had no time beyond what it took to gather some necessities, and then I abandoned everything else. I assume the items in my apartment are having an existential crisis comparable to that in “The Brave Little Toaster.” I didn’t realize that something unessential I left behind would be the item I dreamed of most:

My copy of “Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Creation Myths: The Complete Collection.” 

The first volume is on Kindle Unlimited

My heart weeps in remembrance.  I don’t even have my Dark Crystal stickers to comfort me.

When I think of “The Dark Crystal,” I think of that stupid Instagram trend where the audio would say something like, “What is a movie from your childhood that no one else has heard of?” and then the person using the audio would share something everyone’s heard of like “Thumbelina” or “The Land Before Time.” 

The Dark Crystal” is the movie I assumed everyone had heard of when I was a child, only to reach adulthood and realize that very few people were familiar with it. Whenever I made a friend, the more well-adjusted and better dressed they were, the less likely they would have seen this movie. 

Once, I was in a room of people, and one of them brought their puppy, a small labradoodle that was more fluffball than canine. As this dog wriggled in my arms, I compared him to Fizzgig, the dog-like creature that accompanies the main character from “The Dark Crystal.” I assumed everyone knew what I was talking about, and the room went completely dead. No one had heard of it except for Bean, my poor, fantasy-loathing sister, who deadpanned, “That was a weird one.” 

That’s kind of the thing about being a child and a captive audience. A movie being part of your childhood isn’t always a good thing. I love this movie, but some scenes still give me nightmares. Or one scene in particular – the one where the skeksis shame SkekSil the Chamberlain by ripping off his elaborate robes, exposing his corpulent yet decrepit form to ridicule. It scared the crap out of me.

Enjoy the nightmares!

For those unfamiliar with the story of “The Dark Crystal,” it goes like this: in the mystical world of Thra, the last gelfling, Jen, is given a task by his dying master. He is charged with finding the crystal shard and reuniting it with the Crystal of Truth. He receives help from Aughra, the living embodiment of Thra. Are you following this? No? Too bad; there’s way more to go. Along his journey, Jen meets Kira, who thinks she is the last gelfling. The two journey together to the Castle of the Crystal, barely avoiding capture by the evil skeksis. Jen heals the crystal, causing the evil skeksis to rejoin their gentle mystic counterparts. Darkness is defeated, the land of Thra is saved, and Jen and Kira will probably repopulate. 

The repopulation of the gelfling species isn’t exactly shown so much as inferred by horny fans.

The Dark Crystal” was directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. It was released in 1982 and received mixed reviews from critics, although it later obtained cult status.

I remember watching and rewatching this movie in my adolescence. Being a Dark Crystal fan in the early aughts was excruciating. I remember scouring imdb for any crumbs of information regarding a possible sequel. I was like Goreng from “The Platform,” hungrily snacking on whatever remained of the once glorious feast.

Back when I was still in middle school, I heard rumors of a sequel in development. It was about a girl made of fire who tries to steal a piece of the crystal to heal the sun. This story was later developed into a comic book: “The Power of the Dark Crystal” (aka the comic confirming Jen and Kira repopulated). And yes, while I’m glad it exists, it’s not the same as staring into the dead eyes of a puppet as it squawks at another dead-eyed puppet.

I can’t live off the crumbs; I need a whole cake. 

After years of pining, in 2019, something wonderful happened: “The Dark Crystal: Age of the Resistance” debuted on Netflix. 

There are a ridiculous amount of famous people in this cast

Dear readers, I was stoked. I had been waiting actively for a Dark Crystal follow-up for fourteen years. If you think I can’t empathize with Star Wars fans who waited years for “The Phantom Menace,” then you are dead wrong. 

And you guys, it was an incredible follow-up. When you watch “The Dark Crystal,” as much as you can enjoy the splendid visuals, the movie evokes a sense of melancholia. The film is permeated with a sense of loss: we know that Jen and Kira are the last of the gelflings, and because of that, they are the last of a culture long gone. Throughout the set design, you can see small clues about a once-great civilization that was obliterated by the skeksis in their greed and selfishness. The only memory Kira has of another gelfling is that of her mother, who we only see for a brief moment before the Garthim, the terrifying crab-like soldiers of the skeksis, snatches her away.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” picks up about a generation before the movie. We get to see the great gelfling civilization, and it’s an amazing, fully-realized fantasy world. Seven rival clans of gelfling live not quite harmoniously on Thra with other sentient species, like Podlings and Gruenaks. Each of the gelfling clans is led by a matriarch, the Maudra, and the most powerful of these is the All-Maudra. The gelfling live under the aegis of the skeksis, the crusty-looking but seemingly benevolent carers of the Crystal of Truth.

This is the part where things get awkward. Because if you watched the 1982 movie, you know things will go to shit real soon. After all, you can’t have “the last gelfling” without killing every other gelfling. 

But “Age of Resistance” sheds light on why the skeksis killed the gelfling. We learn that the skeksis are so terrified of death that they’re willing to drain the gelfling of their life essence rather than face their mortality. 

Now some of you may wonder, “If the skeksis are so bad, why don’t you just set a giant house-cat on those ugly bird-bitches and be done with it?”

As much as I would love to chuck a meteorite at them and let them go the way of the dinosaurs, the answer is a little more complicated. 

The skeksis are evil because they are incomplete. The process that shattered the Crystal of Truth also tore them from their good counterparts, the gentle urRu. The skeksis are one half of a soul, the darker half, wandering around, unmoored, without the anchor of their good half to keep them from polluting the world.

I am so down with media that explores the dichotomy between good and evil. And I am even more into media that emphasizes the necessity of reconciling the two. It’s like how in “A Wizard of Earthsea” when Ged spends the entirety of the book trying to defeat his evil shadow, only to realize at the end that the only way to defeat his shadow is by naming it and accepting it as a part of himself.

It’s like how you can’t kill the part of yourself that wants to celebrate your “birthday week” even though that’s super obnoxious or the part of yourself that mindlessly throws away trash that should obviously be recycled or composted. 

I feel like the themes of “The Dark Crystal” better represent the complexity of the human experience than many other popular fantasy franchises. It’s a beautiful, wildly imaginative series that speaks to me.

This is why it kills me when I meet person after person, and they’ve either never seen it or have no idea what I’m talking about. I waited years for “Age of Resistance” to debut on Netflix, and the stupid platform didn’t even market the show the day it came out. It got canceled after one season, leaving fans like me lost and confused.

How am I supposed to go on as if I’m okay when I have so many unanswered questions about the characters from “Age of Resistance”? Who is Kira’s mother? Are Rian and Deet going to fall in love and have little Jen? DO THE DRAINED GELFLINGS RETURN TO LIFE AFTER THE CRYSTAL OF TRUTH IS HEALED? TELL ME, GOD DAMN IT. I HAVE NO ONE ELSE TO TALK TO ABOUT THIS.

I don’t know what will happen with the series from this point. All I have are comic books to plug the gaping wounds inside me. And since I’ve had a very difficult two weeks, I could use support from my favorite franchise. It may be a while until I can return to my apartment and reunite with my missing piece, so until then, I will rewatch my favorite movie and try to convince the rest of you to do the same.


4 thoughts on “More of You Need to Watch “The Dark Crystal”

  1. This reminds me of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when Voldemort drank Unicorn’s blood… he nasty


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