I freakin’ love The Dark Crystal! Let’s watch it! Time for some serious monster-versus-monster carnage in today’s scene, 1:00:31-1:02:09 on the Blu-ray.
We begin with Jen and Kira riding the Landstriders, but now they’re in a more harsh, sandy and rocky terrain, as opposed to the lush green forest from the previous scene. Part of the reason for this is that this scene is actually filmed outdoors instead of the more controlled soundstage, but the other reason is that they’ve now arrived at the Skeksis’ castle. We see this in the next shot, as a bunch of Garthim march toward the castle. This is our first real look at the castle up close, and in the day. It’s unknown how much of the castle’s rocky spikes actually have rooms in them and how much are merely decorative.
Again, I wonder about how the passage of time works in this world, and how much time has passed on Jen and Kira’s trip. It’s established that the Landstriders are fast, so our heroes got here in record time, but how much time, exactly? Yes, I know it’s a movie, and editing is employed to give us the illusion of time passing, and every movie will raise these questions if you examine it this closely, but still. Confusing the issue further is that Jen and Kira recognize the Garthim as the same ones who raided Kira’s village earlier in the film.
Kira says “Let’s go!” and with that, her Landstrider takes off, riding right into the center of the Garthim and attacks. The fans have this image in their minds of Gelflings being all gentle and living quietly off the land, but here we see one going full-on “action hero,” leading the charge into battle. One line of thought is that Gelflings had to learn to adapt and defend themselves thanks to the creation of the Garthim. The manga Legends of the Dark Crystal would have us believe that story was the first time the Gelflings ever went to battle. Against the Garthim, yes, but not the first time ever. The Creation Myths graphic novels and the DarkCrystal.com website speak fleetingly of Jarra-Jen, a sort of Gelfling folk hero. The graphic novel says “lightning was the only force that could match his intensity,” and has a text piece about him overthrowing Creghel, a cruel overlord. (It’s never actually said whether Creghel was an evil Gefling or a heretofore unseen type of creature. He remains another question mark in the mythology.) The point is, fighting and battling are not necessarily a new thing for the otherwise peaceful-seeming Gelfling.
Kira’s Landstrider attacks the Garthim, and sparks and smoke fly from the Garthim’s shell as the Landstrider’s hoof hits it. Remember that the Garthim are articial creatures fueled by the Dark Crystal’s energy, and we’re seeing some of that energy here. One of the Garthim carries the Podlings from Kira’s village in a big net on its back. The net falls from it and rolls to a spot near the cliff edge surrounding the castle. That’s when Jen joins the action, riding toward the fight. Kira falls from her Landstrider, taking Fizzgig with her, while the Landstrider keeps fighting. It’s surrounded by Garthim, but manages to knock one on its back, giving us a look at the Garthim’s underside. (Oh, like you weren’t curious.) Jen jumps off his Landstrider and helps Kira get the Podlings loose. In an impressive bit of puppetry, one of the Garthim lifts a Landstrider off the ground, and then they both go tumbling over the cliff, with the Landstrider making this awful scream as it falls. The rest of the Garthim surround the remaining Landstrider and pull it to the ground. We don’t see what happens next, but it’s safe to say they killed it. Jen and Kira get the Podlings out of their net, but now the Garthim are marching toward the two of them, backing them up against the cliff.
Before we get to what happens next, let’s pause for a minute and talk about why this scene is in the movie. We know that our heroes are on a quest to save the whole world, but that’s something hard to visualize, so in this scene we get them actually saving someone in a more hands-on way. This reinforces to the audience that this is what the characters want — to save everyone. Also, this scene ups the stakes. With their transportation gone, this is Jen and Kira’s point of no return, they’ve no choice but to go forward, deeper into danger. Escaping the Skeksis isn’t going to be an option from here on out. (Note that we don’t see the Podlings escape from the Garthim, but I’m pretty sure the movie would have us believe they get away.)
If you want more, the behind-the-scenes featurette on the Blu-ray has a lot of footage of this scene being filmed, including interview segments recorded at this location.
Next: Taking flight.
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