I freakin’ love The Dark Crystal! Let’s watch it! Today we’re looking at every girl’s favorite scene (I’m guessing), at 1:02:10-1:03:41 on the Blu-ray.
When last left our heroes, they were in quite the spot. Outside the Skeksis’ castle, the Garthim have Jen and Kira surrounded and backed up against a cliff. Fizzgig jumps up into Kira’s hands as she and Jen back up to the cliff. With her other hand, she grabs Jen and says “Hang on!” Before he can properly react, she grabs him and jumps over the side, taking him with her. I love how “take charge” Kira is here, and how baffled he looks as she does this.
They don’t fall very far until… it happens. Insect-like wings sprout from Kira’s back, allowing her and Jen to glide/hover down slowly. How does this work with the cape she’s been wearing throughout the whole movie? Watching carefully, it appears that the wings emerge from either side of the cape, bunching the cape to the center of her back. Their slowed fall is accompanied by a whistling “falling missile” sound effect. Maybe the filmmakers added this sound so we’d get the point, or maybe the sound means there’s some kind of magic or energy manipulation in effect, allowing Kira to control their fall. There’s a quick shot of the Garthim at the clifftop, and then Jen and Kira land far below them.
Then we get a near-perfect dialogue exchange. Jen says, “Wings? I don’t have wings.” Kira matter-of-factly responds, “Of course not. You’re a boy.” She’s so dismissive as she says this, with her back to him, walking away from him. The camera closes in on Jen as he does a double-take on this. Whenever I see The Dark Crystal with an audience, Kira’s line always gets a huge response, especially from females in the crowd.
Gelfling girls and wings. How/why is this a thing? In the Creation Myths graphic novels, there’s a text piece called “How the Gelfling Maid Got Her Wings.” This is a fanciful fairy tale-type of thing, told as a story-within-a-story, so I don’t think we can consider it full-on canon. Another question is whether this really does apply to all Gelfling females. The DarkCrystal.com website specifies Gelflings of the Vapra clan as having “gossamer wings,” with no mention of wings in the other clans. I believe this is just their way of telling us that Kira is a Vapran, though, as the descriptions of the Vaprans are dead-on descriptions of Kira. In the Legends of the Dark Crystal manga, we meet a bunch of other females with wings, notably Kelsee, who does not appear to be a Vapran. This was long after the Gelfling tribes had merged, though, so who can say? In the manga, the artist designed the Gelfling clothes with this in mind, as most of the women are shown with openings on their clothes for their wings to rest flat against their backs. In Creation Myths, the Gelfling Kel doesn’t have any openings on the back of her shirt, but does make with the wings at one point, so I guess we’ll have to surmise that her wings came out of the sides of her shirt, like Kira’s came from the sides of her cape.
The Garthim just sit there and watch as Kira and Jen walk off. They explore a little down there, in the cavernous space that surrounds the castle (its “moat,” maybe?). Fizzgig barks and growls a little, and Kira quiets him, to remind us that Fizzgig is still with them, and still in the movie. (When you have a main character who doesn’t speak, it’s important to throw in these little reminders.) They then come across a very impressive carving in the rock, a monstrous face with water dribbling from its mouth.
Jen says, “Yes, a way into the castle.” He further surmises that it leads into “the lower part.” Maybe that second part was unneeded, but remember that this is a far-out fantasy world, so repetition like that is sometimes a necessary evil to maintain the geography of the scene and not confuse audiences as to where these characters are at any time. Speaking of far-out fantasy, this big scary stone face is named “The Teeth of Skreesh” in the canon. (I’m a little tired today, so you kids go ahead and make up your own Saved by the Bell jokes.) Why is it called that or who Skreesh was, we don’t know, except that this is fantasy so everything has to have an inflated, important-sounding name.
Kira says, “I don’t want to go in there.” But Jen insists, “We have to go on.” This is an interesting little role reversal for them. Just a minute ago, she was the take-charge action hero, with him tagging along in a befuddled state, but now he’s the man of action, charging headlong into danger with her being hesitant. Is this an inconsistency, is there more at work here? Let’s consider what we’ve seen in the film so far. Kira’s hero moments have been on instinct – she slew the crystal bat, she called the landstriders to escape the Garthim, and just now with the wings. Basically, she lives in the moment, and can think or fight her way out of any immediate danger. With the exception of his escape from Aughra’s place, Jen’s hero moments have more been about the bigger picture, and the overall quest. He chooses to leave the Mystics’ valley, he finds the right shard, he interprets the Wall of Destiny, and now he’s walking straight into danger, because that’s where his goal is. What we’re looking at is two differing sides of heroism, made whole by Jen and Kira adventuring together. Will these patterns continue through the rest of the film? It’ll be something to for.
Look closely: There are long, huge tattered, strips of white/grey cloth dangling down the cliff and collected at the bottom. What are these? Former decorative banners from the castle’s glory days, long ago? Remains of a lightweight bridge across the gap? No idea.
As Jen and Kira climb up into the big stone mouth, we cut back up to the clifftop, and there’s the Chamberlain, watching them. He does his whimper again, so we know it’s him. This little bit explains how he’ll get back inside the castle, when we’ll see him next. From this shot, we can surmise that he followed Jen and Kira through the Teeth of Skreesh.
The passage of time: Finally, there’s another shot of the Mystics, still on their journey. This is where our examination of the passage of time in the movie gets really wonky. Events are about to move very fast for Jen and Kira, yet here we see the Mystics are nowhere near the Castle (it’s not in sight, at least) and they don’t appear to be picking up the pace. This again has me wondering if magic is at work here, allowing them to traverse these great distances in a short-ish amount of time.
Next: Labyrinth! (No, not that Labyrinth.)
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