I freakin’ love The Dark Crystal! Let’s watch it! Today we head deep underground, 1:03:42-1:05:52 on the Blu-ray.
Jen and Kira have entered the castle from below, and are now in a cave-like tunnel, complete with ominous stalactites and stalagmites. The rock has a wet, glistening look down here, so it’s kind of like they’re walking around inside a living thing. Well, if we remember Brian Froud’s manta of “all things are alive” then I suppose this too is a living creature of some kind. As our heroes move forward, they pass by some flowing water, possibly part of an underground river. This is lit from below (don’t ask me how), giving an eerie lighting to the whole area. More mouselike critters are running around down here, presumably the same ones we saw during the Skeksis’ dinner scene earlier. Kira almost trips, and Jen tells her to be careful. This little character beat reinforces how they are walking into uncertain, unexplored territory.
Speaking of critters, the camera then focuses on Fizzgig for a while, who runs/rolls ahead. There’s more shots of the mouselike things (Hey, DarkCrystal.com, how about giving these things a name? They’re practically supporting characters.) and I thought we’d see Fizzgig chasing them, but no, it’s just more establishing shots. The cave pathways would appear to meet at right angles to each other, leading me to believe that are not natural but “shaped” into hallways, like the rest of the castle’s architecture. In one of the Fizzgig shots, we can see some glowing green moss on the rock off the one side. I suppose this and the water lit from below are supposed to answer the question of where light is coming from and why it isn’t totally dark down here.
According to the canon, this place under the castle is “the labyrinth.” Careful, that’s a not a word to throw around lightly in a Henson/Froud production, lest we want people thinking a tightly-panted David Bowie is about to appear and start performing “Magic Dance.” (Who am I kidding? It would be awesome if that happened!) This place is also alternatively known as the “lower tunnels.” There’s reference to “sewer tunnels” as well, but I suspect that’s a different area, not seen in the film. Some editions of World of the Dark Crystal come with a book-within-the-book just called The Crystal, which is a recreation of Froud and Henson’s original pitch. It includes mention of creatures called burrowers, who live down in tunnels under the castle and dig tirelessly for gems. We can’t consider this canon (Gelflings are called Gelfens, for example) but it’s too bad the burrowers couldn’t make it into the movie because they seem like cool monsters.
Kira says she wants to go back. Go back where? It’s already been well established that they’re past the point of no return. It makes sense to assume that she means go back down a different corridor in this maze, rather than back home. She adds “I smell death here.” I’m not sure what she’s smelling, exactly, because it’s not like there are corpses around, and I can’t find anything in the canon about Gelflings having heightened senses of smell. Perhaps it’s just an expression. Jen says they have no choice, and they press forward.
An ominous shadow appears before them, and Kira says, “Skeksis!” It’s the Chamberlain, who arrives without doing his famous whimper for once. It’s unknown how he got down there with them, but I think it’s a given that he can get around pretty easily considered how we’ve seen him traverse the landscape throughout the film. Plus, after living in the castle for hundreds of years, he must know every secret passage. He tells the Gelflings not to be afraid and says he’s there to help them. Note that he’s not using the broken English he used before, and he’s now speaking in complete sentences. He’s changed up his tactics in dealing with them, appealing not just to their inherently good natures, but to their intelligence as well. Instead of “Make peace,” now he says, “I’m here to help you.” Big difference. He says the three of them can show the rest of the Skeksis that Gelflings and Skeksis can live together in peace. He then reaches out and grabs Jen and Kira, each with one hand. He does this slowly, so perhaps he’s using soul-speaking to mesmerize them as well? They resist, though, and Fizzgig gets a hero moment as he tugs on the Chamberlain’s rags, trying to separate him from the Gelflings.
As Jen struggles, he does what we’ve been waiting for throughout the entire movie. He uses the crystal shard as a weapon, stabbing the Chamberlain in the hand. Seriously, Jen always holds the shard in the Michael-Myers-raises-his-knife pose, so it’s about time he uses it as such. It strikes the Skeksis with a bright white light, revealing some of the energy it contains. The Champerlain rears his head back in pain and cries, “My hand!” We see that his hand is bleeding, and then there’s a very quick cut to the Mystics, where one of them (OK, it’s urSol the Chanter) has his hand bleeding in the same spot, showing for the first time just how closely related the Skeksis and Mystics are. “So, my hand,” the Mystic says, almost whispering it. The Skeksis has pink/purple blood, while the Mystic has blue/black blood. I wouldn’t read too much into this, as the colors were no doubt chosen by the filmmakers to contrast the puppets’ skin color, to make it clear to viewers that it is, in fact, blood.
Look closely: The Mystics are now in a green grassy area, and in the background you can see some big wooden structure, looking like a Stonehenge type of thing. What is that?
Back to the labyrinth, the Chamberlain looks incredulously at his hand, and then he drops the peaceful act, saying, “Gelfling, you die!” He then reaches up and – get this – brings the ceiling down on Jen. Remember that the Skeksis pride themselves on feats of strength, and the Chamberlain has shown himself to be quite the man of action during the film, so it’s not out-of-nowhere for him to Hulk out like this. Jen is buries in rubble, which includes long pieces of wood. This shows that the Skeksis (and the burrowers, maybe?) have done some sort of construction down in this place. There’s a cloud of dust, and when it settles all we can see is the debris. Jen is completely buried.
The Chamberlain still has a hold of Kira. She calls out to Jen a few times and tries to get away from the Chamberlain, but he drags her off down the next cave path. She tells Fizzgig to stay with Jen. It’s quite a lengthy shot of the Chamberlain dragging Kira away, really hitting home the hopelessness of this situation. The Chamberlain appears to be pointing at the rubble pile as he walks off, but maybe it’s just that he’s holding out his free hand because it’s injured. Cut to a shot of Fizzgig looking sad, to properly tug at viewers’ heartstrings.
Next: The Skeksis’ moment of triumph.
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