I freakin’ love The Dark Crystal! The movie gets all dark and creepy again, 1:07:55-1:12:27 on the Blu-ray.
We’ve got a brief scene of Jen, still buried in rubble, and Fizzgig at his side, mewling and making some small attempt to dig him out. You can actually see Jen’s hand and the crystal shard in this shot, but they’re hard to spot because they’re covered in dust and blend in with the rocks. What do we think, was that intentional or not? There’s a nice bit of acting on Fizzgig here, as he fails to move the rocks, and then leans back, looking up at the ceiling in sadness. Fizzgig doesn’t have a lot of quiet moments, usually barking and growling at whatever, but here is a rare quiet scene for him, showing his sadness in his inability to help his new friend.
From there, we cut to the Chamber of Life, better known as the Skeksis’ Scientist’s lab, where we saw him steal the essence from a Podling a few scenes earlier. Here we get a wide shot of the entire room, giving us a good look at its layout. Off to one side, there’s a big opening in the floor, with a green light coming out of it. It’s left up to our imaginations as to what might be under there. The animals’ cages are all around the room, and a Crystal Bat is one of them, showing that the Scientist is experimenting on them as well as on this world’s natural creatures. Either that, or this room is also where the Crystal Bats are bred and raised. Moss is growing up through cracks in the floor, and a white light – not candlelight but looking more electric – comes out of a bunch of oddly-shaped lamps all around the room. From this, we can surmise that yes, the castle too is a living thing, further reinforcing Brian Froud’s refrain of “all things are alive” on this world.
The next shot is a table with various ghoulish medical instruments on it, and Aughra’s disembodied eyeball is on there, too. It’s all slimy and shiny, and, somehow, able to move about on its own, looking around the room. How did it get there? Did the Skeksis take it from her, or did she leave it there as a bit of spycraft on her part? The camera pans up to show Aughra still in the same cage as when we last saw, pretty much right next to the table. From this, I’d say it’s likely the Scientist took her eye from her. For what reason, we can only speculate.
The Scientist has Kira with him, and her forces her into the chair, the same one we saw earlier when he drained a Podling of its essence. It’s here we see why that earlier scene was so important. It was nightmarish and horrific, all to set up this moment. Kira is in the same position as that poor doomed Podling, so we in the audience know what she’s in for. It cranks up the suspense big time.
The Scientist throws the switch himself, instead of having one of the Podling slaves do it. During the previous Scientist scene, he did a lot of posturing and dramatic speechmaking during this process, but this time he says very little. Part of this was for exposition purposes, but part shows that in this second scene, he’s operating with a sense of urgency. He knows a Gelfling is prophesized to end the Skeksis, so it’s on him to take her essence as quick as possible before that can happen. The door to the crystal shaft (shut yo’ mouth) opens, and we get a really good look at the reflector crystal, as it moves into place, an almost 3-D effect.
Stuff of nightmares: The reflector glows bright purple, and shines a purple beam right into Kira’s face. The pained expression on her face is just terrifying. A few drips of liquid start to drop into a container at her side, as the Scientist says, “Yes, essence of Gelfling.”
Back to the tunnel, the rocks next to Fizzgig move, as Jen regains consciousness and emerges from the rubble. Sure, we all knew he wasn’t dead, but why show this now? With a quick, abrupt edit from Kira’s struggle back to the tunnel? Some part of him is responding to the agony she’s feeling, and that’s what wakes him and gives him the strength to dig himself free. This is made evident with him crying out, “Kira, fight them!” Back in the chamber, Kira can hear him, responding, “Jen?” OK, maybe they’re within earshot of each other, but I find that unlikely. Remember the second half of Froud’s refrain, that it’s not just “all things are alive,” but also “all things are connected.” So there’s some sort of mental telepathy thing happening here.
Aughra can feel it too, saying, “You, Kira, call the animals.” How does Aughra know Kira’s name. Given Aughra’s status as a recluse, I doubt they met prior to the events of the film. No, Aughra, who has the whole “Earth mother” thing going on, could hear/sense Jen’s crying out to Kira as well. Aughra then tells Kira to call to the animals, calling them to freedom. “You have the gift,” Aughra says. How does Aughra know this? Do all Gelflings have this gift, or can Aughra sense it in Kira?
Kira sings/speaks to all the caged animals in the room, and this gives us some closeup shots of some real quirky-looking animals. Remember that this ability to communicate with wildlife is called “soul-speaking,” and the manga Legends of the Dark Crystal showed that the Skeksis’ Chamberlain can do it too. Probably not the Scientist, who tells Kira to be quiet. She doesn’t, and continues singing to the animals. DarkCrystal.com has translations of what she’s singing if you’re interested (it’s nothing exciting). The animals all start going nuts in their cages, including one jumping up and down, for an impressive piece of puppetry.
The Scientist tells Kira to stop, and we get another closeup of him, this time seeing that he has two tubes going from the side of his head into his mouth, and that the monocle on his left eye appears to be bolted on. This dude was steampunk before there was steampunk. Aughra cries out, “Gelfling, free me!” She shakes on her cage, and the whole thing wavers, so it looks like she could probably break free by herself with a little more gusto. Similarly, the animals all break free of their cages and start running amok. There are way too many types of animal to list here, but I like the furry mole-like one, the little dinosaur-like one, and there’s even a bright turquoise one that flies across the screen for a frame or two. There’s even a break-the-fourth-wall moment with one animal running right at the camera.
The Scientist tries to order the animals back into their cages, but they won’t have it. More nightmare imagery as they climb all over him, biting him and hanging off of him. He reacts with great pain with this, once again suggesting he doesn’t have the physical prowess of some of the other Skeksis. He clumsily backs up against the switch, which shuts off the reflector, saving Kira. He further stumbles back, falling right into the shaft. Conveniently, part of the floor lowers, allowing this to happen. Did the animals somehow know to work the machinery to do this?
The Scientist falls into the shaft, and we see him plunge into a huge fire raging at the bottom. DarkCrystal.com tells us this is the “Lake of Fire,” which not actually a lake, but Thra’s inner sun, a huge ball of radiation at the planet’s center, which warms and provides life to its “inner world.” This contrasts the conclusion of the Creation Myths graphic novel, in which Aughra and her son Raunip visit the bottom of the shaft, to find a rocky surface covered with crystals. Perhaps they’re not at the bottom in that scene, but merely at some sort of unseen outcropping, leading to more underground tunnels.
As the Scientist falls into the pit, we get a brief shot of the Mystics, still on their long journey. One of them burns up into nothingness, again showing how closely they are connected to the Mystics. The other Mystics take just a second to notice this, and then they continue on. They’re now in a rocky, ashy terrain, with big clusters of rocks around them. Could these be graves? We don’t know.
Back in the chamber of life, Kira has a particularly ugly animal help her out of the chair’s restraints. She approaches Aughra, who, strangely, has become fatalistic, saying Kira is too late. “The Great Conjunction is at hand,” she says. “Now the Skeksis will have power over the stars!” Kira asks when the conjunction is, and Aughra says, “Very soon, when three suns touch.” So Kira is not too late, then why would Aughra say she is? I guess we have to chock this up to Aughra being out-of-sorts after seeing the Gelfling genocide and becoming a recluse in her observatory. Kira runs off to meet with Jen, and Aughra goes back to being a downer, saying, “Go, Gelfling, I fear, to death.”
The passage of time: There’s a shot of the three suns, further reminding the audience that the conjunction is on its way, followed by another shot of the Mystics on their long walk. They’re now in a completely different setting than where we just saw them. Either hours (days?) passed during that shot of the sun, or the Mystics are magic of some sort to cross these great distances. Giving the rapid pace of action inside the castle now that we’re in the third act, I’m leaning toward magic. The important thing about this shot is that the Skeksis’ castle is in the distance, establishing that the Mystics are getting close to their destination.
Next: Fun with monsters!
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