I freakin’ love The Dark Crystal! Events are moving faster and faster as we get closer to the finale. Today we’ve got chases and escapes, 1:24:28-1:15:47 on the Blu-ray.
Jen has regained consciousness, and he and Fizzgig make their way through the cavernous tunnels. The atmosphere is very cavelike, so my guess is he’s still in the tunnels under the castle and not the castle proper. Fizzgig growls and barks loudly, and Jen tells him to keep quiet. Jen is perhaps speaking for the audience when he says to Fizzgig, “Some help you’ve been.” Jen steps forward into an opening and looks around. This is just long enough of a pause so that we know something is about to happen, and it does. One more step forward, and Jen he falls into darkness.
The screen is pitch black in silence for a few seconds, making a lot of viewers think something’s wrong with their TVs, until Jen moves up into frame, holding his head. We then see Fizzgig above him and, wow, the hole he fell into is huge. How did he not see it? I guess he was still dazed from getting knocked out earlier.
Then there’s a great shot with Jen in the foreground and blackness behind him. There are scary noises, and then several Garthim emerge from the blackness. We only see their glowing purple eyes at first, and then their forms as they enclose around Jen. No CGI here, people, this effect was done in front of the camera, courtesy of the lighting guys. I love lighting tricks like these in movies. There’s a similar one in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet where Laura Dern’s character, in a white dress no less, emerges from darkness all around her, and it amazes me every time. Jen says, “Garthim” right before they appear, showing that he’s been a fast learner about the world beyond his valley. He started the movie not knowing they existed, and now he can recognize the sound of them approaching.
Action! Jen shows some mad skills, weaving and ducking away from the Garthim’s claws, even jumping over one of them and landing on the other side of the room, separating him from the group of them. It’s Gelfling parkour! One Garthim lashes out with its claw and smashes the wall, with an orange-y light coming from the other side. Jen seizes the opportunity, and climbs through the hole. On the other side, he’s in the crystal shaft (shut yo’ mouth). In a shot that was in all the trailers and commercials, Jen climbs up the side of the shaft while a Garthim claw tries to grab him. It’s a “fantasy adventure” moment in its purest sense. Jen keeps climbing, taking a moment to look down, and it really does look like a lake of fire (lava?) down there, and not an inner sun. Who knows, maybe the inner sun is deeper.
The canon actually has something to say about this dark room. It’s called, simply, the Pit, and it’s where Garthim go when the wait to be summoned. The canon specifies that the Pit is right next to the crystal shaft, so it must be describing this scene. I have a couple of problems with this. First, when the Garthim were summoned earlier in the film, they didn’t come climbing out of the Pit, but they were already running around inside the castle. Second, if this room is where the Garthim live, how is it that one smack from one of them breaks open the wall? Maybe it demonstrates how this world has fallen so far into disrepair this close to the Great Conjunction, but that’s kind of stretch, even for me. No, this business about the Pit is just the fantasy cliché of giving every little thing an inflated importance. I say it’s scarier to say that the Garthim were down there in the darkness because they were relentless hunting Jen.
We then cut to outside the castle, where the Mystics have arrived at a big glob-looking thing that is the front door. This “front door” is shaped very similar to the weird goblet thing that the Skeksis’ Scientist collected his subjects’ essence in. This opening looks much larger in the manga Legends of the Dark Crystal, in which a huge crowd of Gelflings escaped through it. Perhaps it was made smaller after that event.
We don’t stay with that scene, though, because we’re quickly sent back to Jen. See what I mean about things moving fast now? Jen looks up and sees the Dark Crystal floating above him. We know it’s the Crystal, but he asks himself, “Is that the Dark Crystal?” This is significant in that we’ve seen the Crystal several times, but this is Jen’s first time seeing it, after hearing so much about it. He reaches the opening to the Scientist’s lab, the chamber of life, and he climbs inside. The lab is empty, except for Aughra, who now has her eye back in its socket. He exclaims “You’re alive!” reminding audiences that the last he saw of Aughra was her home going up in flames. She again says that there’s no time, and quotes the “When single shines the triple sun” line again. Is this repetition still needed so late in the movie? Doesn’t the audience get it by now?
Jen asks which way Kira has gone. Aughra points, and Jen exits to the right of the screen. There’s some real subtle stage direction here, because a few scenes earlier, Kira left the lab by going to the left of the screen. As we’ll see, they’ll eventually arrive at the Crystal Chamber, but from separate directions. Why does Aughra send Jen in the opposite direction that Kira went? Is she in batty old lady mode, or does she somehow know how things’ll play out if the Gelflings take opposite routes through the castle? We can only speculate.
Then, just that fast, we’re taken back outside again, to the Mystics. Each scene is just a few seconds during this stretch of the movie. Two Garthim are standing guard (as opposed to being in the Pit) and they move to block the Mystics’ entrance. The Mystics do their deep chant again, and the Garthim are somehow mesmerized. They part ways and let the Mystics pass. There’s an amusing bit of staging to this, as five Mystics are in the shot, doing the chant, only to have two more in the background poke their heads up at the last minute. I guess those two are the 20 Feet From Stardom Mystics. I think it’s safe to assume that the chant works similarly to the soul-speaking demonstrated by Kira throughout the film. It’s interesting to note that the Garthim remain subdued under the Mystics’ power, even after they stop chanting and continue forward.
Finally, we have a quick couple of shots of Fizzgig rolling around inside the castle, which is the filmmakers letting us know where he is, moving all the pieces into play for the finale. In this shots, we can get a good look at the various symbols carved into the walls, including a large black triangle, again emphasizing the importance of this world’s three suns.
Next: The world hangs in the balance.
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