I freakin’ love The Dark Crystal! Let’s watch it! Time to meet some more new creatures, 55:01-56:10 on the Blu-ray.
We pick things up with Jen, Kira and Fizzgig having just escaped an encounter with the Skeksis Chamberlain. They’re running through a dark, forested area. Jen says that now he understands, and that he knows what he has to do. He asks “How do I get to the castle?” and Kira responds, “I’ll show you.” First, remember that the word “castle” always means the Skeksis’ castle and no other location in this world. Shorthand like this helps the audience not be confused. Second, how does Kira know where the castle is? We’re never told. There’s no evidence to support her ever having been there before, so maybe she learned its location from the Podlings, or from someone else? We don’t know.
What’s really important in these three lines of dialogue, though, is the change in Jen’s attitude. Just a few scenes back, he threw away the shard and rejected his quest. Then, he discovered the Wall of Destiny and encountered his first Skeksis. With that one-two punch, he’s learned the relationship between the shard and the Dark Crystal, and he’s seen the face of the enemy. Now he’s an all-new Jen, with a renewed sense of purpose. Remember the beginning of the film, when Jen says to the Master, “I’ll go where you send me, though I barely understand.” He’s now reached the point where he has that understanding. Therefore, instead of following someone else’s commands, he’s acting on his own, and making his own decisions to move forward. The movie doesn’t dwell on this, though. We’re transitioning from the second act to the third right now, so the filmmakers keep up the momentum.
Kira makes a few animals calls, and out walks a Landstrider. This is a big, hulking animal, walking on long, giraffe-like legs. There is a second one behind it, conveniently. Kira introduces them to Jen, revealing that they are Landstriders, and says the Podlings taught her how to call them. OK, from this was assume a lot of her education came from Podlings, but how much we still do not know.
Look closely: There’s actually a third Landstrider, a little baby one, walking between the two big ones. Aww, cuteness.
What do we know about Landstriders? The canon makes a big deal about how they are “natural enemies” of the Garthim, and are known to battle and sometimes defeat Garthim. Does this mean the Landstriders didn’t come into existence until after the Skeksis created the Garthim? No, because they can be seen in the Creation Myths graphic novels, which take place before the Crystal cracked. They are described as “intelligent” a few times, and they do seem to understand what Kira is saying when she speaks to them in the Podlings’ language. One wonders why the Podlings and/or Gelflings didn’t keep Landstriders around more often as protection against Garthim. We can speculate that because the Landstriders are intelligent creatures, and are therefore off living their own lives, and are not mere animals to be tamed. We can then further speculate that they are choosing to help Kira and Jen here, rather than doing so because they’ve been trained to.
Kira easily climbs onto the back of a Landstrider, and encourages Jen to do the same. They then have a nice little Han-and-Leia moment when Jen says “Kira, you don’t have to go,” and she merely answers, “I know.” Agreed to go the castle together, Jen climbs onto the second Landstrider with a little more awkwardness. We next get a little bit of comedy shtick as Kira tells Fizzgig to stay behind. Fizzgig freaks out, howling and roaring like crazy – and giving us another glimpse of the second row of teeth at the back of his throat – before Kira relents and says he can join them.
The music swells as the Landstiders take off running. Kira tells Jen to hang on, as they go fast. Believe me, I have scoured every inch of the tie-in books trying to find anything that says definitively just what kinds of speeds these things can reach, but no luck. The never-erroneous internet tells me that giraffes can reach speeds of 35 miles per hour, so there’s that, but could it be possible for Landstriders to tap into the same passage-of-time magic the Mystics are using (if that’s what they’re doing) to cover even larger distances? Possible, but, again, I’m only speculating.
We get a wide shot of Kira and Jen riding on the Landstriders’ backs as the Landstriders pick up speed. This was some of the most complicated puppetry in the whole movie. The Landstriders were performers on stilts, so the costumes had to be kept super-lightweight for them to move around. This was especially difficult with the Jen and Kira puppets on their backs, but this shot shows they managed it, somehow.
Jen says “The prophecy never said anything about this.” Kira answers, “Prophets don’t know everything.” Her casual use of the word “prophets” would seem to suggest that this is a relatively common thing in this world. This dialogue also reinforces the fact that even though we’re dealing with a prophecy, it’s about what might happen, not what will, so the ending of all this is not, ahem, set in stone.
There are several more shots of the two Gelflings riding the Landstriders, out of the shadowy woods and into a more sunny, brighter setting. This is a “hero moment,” for our protagonists, with swelling music, and continuing that forward progression as we ride alongside them, straight into act three.
Next: The essence… of nightmares!
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