Sunday, January 29, 2017

Muppet Watch: The Dark Crystal (1982)

The Alamo Ritz was showing The Dark Crystal (1982) in 70mm, and while I like The Dark Crystal, Jamie is a bonafide fan of the movie.  No lie, in this case, Jamie appreciates The Muppets on a much deeper level than me.

There's no reason for me to re-hash the plot or tell you anything you already know.  If you grew up within a certain age-range, it's highly likely you saw this weirdo movie at some point.  But even as a kid I think I always appreciated the movie as a technical achievement and artistry writ large more than I got really into the characters and their issues.  And tonight, after 35 years of seeing this movie on and off, I think I figured out why.

Jen is a total weiner.

I'm not going to complain that the Henson crew gave Kira all the useful skills in this movie, because there is absolutely a sound logic to how the movie works.  But the division of labor basically boiled down to Jen knowing how to read and do math and play the flute, and Kira's abilities are all useful, life-saving skills, like talking to animals, find a good escape route that doesn't require hurling oneself down a cliffside, knowing how to patch a wound and knowing how to @#$%ing fly.  Without all this, Jen would have been mostly dead through the back half of the movie.

I do not talk in movies as a rule, but there's the scene where Jen hurls the shard away in anger, throwing it with all his might.  And when they wake up, it's like ten feet away.  It took all my might not to say out loud:  NICE THROW, JEN.

Fast forward to the climactic scene where he leaps onto the Dark Crystal, and he didn't even put the shard in his pocket.  He drops it.  Bottom of the ninth, 2 outs, 3 men on base, and Jen bobbles it for the error and gets his short stop killed in the process.  THIS IS WHY YOU HAVE POCKETS, YOU NERD.

He gets Augrah's home destroyed and Augrah kidnapped.  He gets the Pod People re-invaded (why they don't move away from the castle, I cannot guess).

Hell, he even really, really considers handing over the shard to the Skeksis on numerous occasions so everyone will just leave him alone.


It's like sending that one kid from your class who always smelled like syrup to save the day when you fully know you couldn't even send him to buy sodas without him coming back with all Mellow Yellow, being short two cans, everything is luke warm and he's lost the change.  Oh, and he dropped the case of soda so when everyone opens their Mellow Yellow, the cans spray everywhere.  But he forgot to tell anyone.  That.  That is Jen.

So, our POV character, the one we're not just watching as they go through the motions, doesn't really show up til about half-way through the film.

I mean, Luke Skywalker whines a bit, but once Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru get barbecued, he takes some pretty damn decisive action.  And it's not like he accidentally kills half of Red Squadron through his bumbling.

The movie has a lot going for it.  It builds an understandable mythology right out of the box, looks outstanding in every frame and has a story that moves quickly enough that you want to keep up.  And, mostly, it has colorful characters you can enjoy watching.

It does have some issues with dialog as most of the speaking people seem to do is either expository or exclamatory or both.  It doesn't have huge character moments and characters don't really talk to each other, which is odd, as that's kind of a trademark of Muppet stuff.  If you wanted to accidentally die of alcohol poisoning, just take a drink every time someone says "prophecy" or "crystal".

But, man, I still really enjoy this movie, and even if I didn't (like, I struggle with Neverending Story anymore) turning to look to see Jamie sitting bolt upright, absolutely rapt.  That, alone, was worth the price of admission.

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