I freakin’ love The Dark Crystal! Let’s watch it! Today, the titular crystal comes into play, 19:31-21:43 on the Blu-ray.
We’re still in the Skeksis’ throne room, just after the Chamberlain has been banished and had his clothes ripped from him. A strange, almost electronic sound rings through the air, and all the Skeksis react to it. The General declares, “The Crystal calls!” and he adds, “To the Crystal Chamber!” (Even though he’s the new Skeksis emperor, I’m going to keep calling him the General, to avoid confusion between him and the emperor who just died.) Instead of freaking out this time, the other Skeksis dutifully turn and start walking toward the Crystal Chamber in an orderly fashion. As they march down a hallway, we can hear them quietly muttering to each other. The subtitles have one of them saying, “Hurry,” and I swear I can hear another one say “The Crystal,” but beyond that, I can’t make sense of their mutterings. They enter the Crystal chamber, the one we saw at the beginning of the film, again on a ramp and not stairs. They gather beneath the Dark Crystal.
So just what is the deal with this Dark Crystal? Why’s it so important? The canon describes it as the “heart” of this world, and goes on to describe how it once provided balance and harmony throughout the world. Now, though, it is cracked, and the world is all messed up with monsters and darkness and whatnot. Its shape is described as “rhombohedral.” A lot of folks over the years have asked how the Crystal is just floating there in the middle of the room, and what’s holding it up. The official, canonical answer is that it is “supported by its own gravity.” Sure, why not?
There’s a funny bit where the General snarls menacingly at the Skeksis to his sides, reminding them who’s in charge now, before turning his attention to the crystal. An image of Jen climbing a rock wall appears on or perhaps inside the Crystal’s surface. Now is when we see the easily-excited nature of the Skeksis, where just seeing a Gelfling makes them freak out. “The prophecy!” one Skeksis cries. There’s just enough time for the audience to ask, “What prophecy?” when another Skeksis responds, “The prophecy says Gelfling will destroy us.”
This is the only time in the canon that we see the Crystal call to the Skeksis like this. How often does it do this? What else has it shown them? We don’t know. The big unanswered question is why the Crystal shows them Jen. Is the Skeksis’ command of the Crystal so great that it has truly bent to their will and serves them completely? Or, is there a higher intelligence at work, so that the Crystal, by showing this, is somehow setting events in motion to where it’ll eventually be healed. That’d be an interesting interpretation of the film – that the Crystal is manipulating everything that happens in its favor. But would it hold up? Either way, this scene at least demonstrates that there is an intelligence of sorts behind the Crystal, as it acts on its own and communicates in its own way. (Yeah, yeah, it’s also a matter of plot convenience, because the Skeksis have to learn about Jen to up the stakes, etc.)
The General calls out, “Garthim! Attack!” and we get our first real good look at the Garthim – the henchmen or stormtroopers of the film. They’re basically giant bugs, a big black shell with all kinds of twitchy arms, legs and claws. The canon informs that the Garthim are not natural to this world. They are artificial constructs created by the Skeksis from “memories of sea creatures” from the Skeksis’ original world. (Yes, another world. There’ll be more detail about this in another post.) The Garthim were created for the sole purpose of hunting Gelfling, which is why they’re all gone now. I love that the Garthim’s eyes are the same purple light of the Dark Crystal, so that the audience immediately identifies them as being connected to it and to the Skeksis. This also reinforces how they were built by the Skeksis, with the Skeksis using the Crystal for their own, ahem, dark purposes.
The Garthim emerge from all around the Crystal chamber to show off how cool they are. The Skeksis’ commands to the Garthim are oddly contradictory. One says to find the Gelfling and bring him to the castle, and another says to kill the Gelfling. So, which is it? Then there’s a shot of a bunch of Garthim rumbling down a hallway, joined by a few more entering from alcoves alongside the wall. It’s basically a little trick to convince the audience that there are a whole lot of Garthim, instead of just the ten or so puppets made for the movie. The Garthim continue down the hall, and we see the Chamberlain lurking there, watching them keenly. He does the whimper again, so there’s no question it’s him, and he follows. Throughout the middle part of the movie, some might wonder how the Chamberlain gets around, and how he knows where to be. This scene is your answer: He follows the Garthim the whole time.
We cut back to the Crystal Chamber for a close-up of the Dark Crystal, still showing the image of Jen. The Skeksis comment, “Ugly!” and “Hideous Gelfling!” for a quick laugh.
Next: “This place is weird.”
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