I freakin’ love The Dark Crystal! Let’s watch it! Today, we get some action and carnage, 47:11-49:01 on the Blu-ray.
The Podlings are in the midst of their big-time wild party, only to be interrupted when a big, black claw smashes through a wall. The Garthim are there, attacking. We get shots of them tearing up the walls, complete with debris falling all over their heads. Having the puppets interact with their environments like this continues to “sell” their existence in this world, so we don’t think of them as puppets but as big, scary bug monsters.
The Podlings scream with fear, and a lot of them are frozen in place, apparently too terrified to react. Fizzgig growls at a Garthim, and then quickly ducks out of the way before one of them smashes him with its claw. Kira is the only one who keeps her cool, finding Jen amid the chaos and telling him to come with her. One Podling decides to fight back, ineffectively bonking a Garthim on the back with her cane. In the manga Legend of the Dark Crystal, Gelflings Lahr and Neffi showed the world that the Garthim could be defeated in battle. It’s unknown whether their story survived and if the characters in the movie are aware of it, but this one Podling, at least, shows there’s some belief in fighting back.
As Jen and Kira try to flee, a Garthim grabs hold of Jen. Jen uses the crystal shard as a knife-like weapon, stabbing it. It hits the Garthim with a blue glow, hinting at whatever energy-based or perhaps magical qualities the shard contains. We then cut immediately to the Mystics, still in the midst of their long journey. Their heads all perk up, as they can somehow sense the shard has been used. What are we to make of this? That they are in tune enough with the crystal to know when it is being used? That this is the Dark Crystal’s way of calling to them, as it called to the Skeksis earlier? We’re not told – it’s up to the audience to interpret. Then there’s more shots of the Garthim chasing around the Podlings, including one of the Garthim picking up a Podling. Then a shot of Jen and Kira outside, with her leading him away from the fight, Fizzgig right behind them.
Stuff of nightmares: Inside, the Garthim pick up more Podlings, stuffing them into big cages, their sad, frightened little faces pressed up against the bars.
The cages appear to be made out of bamboo, so bamboo exists on this world. What I want to know is, who built these cages? They don’t match the designs seen inside the Skeksis’ castle, and I doubt the Garthim made them, as they don’t appear to be craftsmen of any sort. If I may speculate, perhaps they were made by the non-essence Podling slaves the Skeksis keep in their castle, or perhaps the cages are the creations of Skekis who, in earlier years, traveled widely. These include SkekLach the Collector, from the manga, and SkekMal the Hunter or SkekCru the Mariner, whom we know only from the DarkCrystal.com website.
Oooh, man. Then there’s a shot of a child Podling, holding a doll, looking around in confusion as the Garthim rage all around her. When I saw The Dark Crystal on the big screen at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge a few years ago, folks in the audience lost their freakin’ minds with fear that something awful was about to happen to this little one. Fortunately, a grownup Podling – a parent, assumedly – takes the kid and escorts her away. In the next shot, we can see that the bamboo cages are affixed to the back of the Garthim, and are bent to a similar shape as the Garthims’ backs.
One Garthim stars right at the camera, giving us another good look at its purple crystal eyes, along with a sharp musical sting. The camera then cuts to Jen and Kira. This reestablishes to the audience that although the Garthim and snatching up Podlings, the Gelflings are the ones they’re really after.
We’re outside now, and three Garthim are looking around. One of them sees Jen and Kira and starts running at them. It looks like it’s all over, but no. The Chamberlain is there, dressed all in rags. He jumps out of nowhere – or, at least, from the right of the frame. We don’t know where he was hiding. He raises his hand, and the Garthim stop in their tracks. Jen insists he and Kira run, and they do. Fleeing into the woods, Jen asks “What was that creature?” and Kira answers, “Skeksis.” This raises the question of how she knows that. Has Kira encountered Skeksis in person before, or does she merely know about them from stories? The latter seems more likely, but there’s no way to know for sure.
The Garthim start to move forward again, but all the Chamberlain has to do raise his hand once more, and they back off, turning and walking away. This shows that, although banished, the Chamberlain can still command the Garthim, just by virtue of his being a Skeksis. Again, we think of the Chamberlain as whining and skeletal, but here we see him as the “man of action,” jumping into the fray and bossing around the monsters. The scene ends with him turning and looking back the way the Gelflings ran. He does his famous whimper again, reminding the audience that he’s “that guy,” still a part of the plot.
Next: The long dark night of the Gelfling soul.
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