I freakin’ love The Dark Crystal! Let’s watch it. Today we’re at 32:27-34:31 on the Blu-ray.
Jen is sitting in the woods/swamp, contemplating the crystal shard. He says, in voiceover, that although he has the shard, he doesn’t know what to do with it. (I suppose Augrha’s earlier answer of “heal the Dark Crystal” wasn’t enough of an explanation for him.) He wonders if he’s supposed to take it somewhere, and what’s so special about it. This is another scene that is often criticized for the characters saying the same things twice, but remember that the voiceover was added after early test audiences were confused by the film, so the voiceover is her so we don’t lose the plot amid all the otherworldliness.
Then, the shard shows Jen an image, not unlike how the Crystal showed the Skeksis an image earlier. This time, Jen sees a Skeksis smashing the Crystal with a staff, striking the Dark Crystal. The movie doesn’t linger on this, or give us any long-winded explanation. It’s up to us to surmise that this definitively connects the shard with the Dark Crystal. That it’s a piece of the Dark Crystal broken off by a Skeksis. For advanced reading, we of course have the tie-in books and website. Just after the second great conjunction, when the Crystal turned dark and in the minutes right after the Skeksis and the Mystics were divided into separate beings, the Skeksis were wild and animalistic, killing two Mystics on the spot – accidentally killing two of their own at the same time. In this mad frenzy, one of the Skeksis struck the Crystal, breaking off the shard. It fell into the caves beneath the castle, along with several other, lesser shards broken from the castle’s surface, where they were later recovered by Aughra for her keeping. Why did the Skeksis break the Crystal? It was in defiance of Aughra, who was pleading with them to make things right. As for which Skeksis broke the Crystal, it isn’t clear. Some fans believe it was the Skeksis scientist, but it looks like it could be any one of them. All this is depicted in detail in the Creation Myths graphic novel.
Another question to be asked is, why does the shard show Jen this? Is it merely answering his question, or is it and the Dark Crystal slyly setting events in motion to the point where the Dark Crystal will eventually be healed? We can only speculate.
Back to the scene, Jen hears something and looks around. Interesting sound design here, as the “something’s nearby” sound clearly stands out from the other ambient sounds in the forest. Jen says, “I don’t like this” in voiceover, and walks forward. He’s startled by a group of plants that withdraw into the ground all at once. (For this shot, all the screenplay says is, “closeup on flowers.”) We get a few glimpses of a hooded figure darting about in the trees while Jen looks around, cautiously.
Look closely: A tree in the background is pulsating, as if breathing in and out with working lungs.
Jen sees a footprint in the wet soil. We don’t see it in relation to him, so at this point it could be a gigantic footprint for all we know. Jen hears something else and hurries forward. Despite his earlier comment about not liking this, he doesn’t seem fearful but instead excited as to what he might find. He comes to a log covered with moss, too dark to see inside.
Here’s where we get the big jump scare. Does it work? That depends. As soon as we see the log, and the camera ever so slowly pushing in on it, we know there’s going to be a jump scare, but a lot of us jump anyway. In Roger Corman’s memoir, he writes at great length about the long, dark hallway in movies. He says audiences know something is bad at the end of the hallway, but they’re still burning with curiosity as to what it is. Therefore, a jump scare is not just surprise, but surprise and relief. That’s the case here, as Fizzgig jumps out and scares the audience. Jen, too.
Jen falls back into some mud while Fizzgig – a little dog-like creature – continues to growl at him. Jen dismisses Fizzgig as a potential danger, instead grousing, “Oh, no, right in the mud.” (More about Fizzgig in the next post, I promise.) Then, the hooded figure steps out of hiding. We see just enough of the stranger’s face to tell that this is something familiar…
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