I freakin’ love The Dark Crystal! Let’s watch it! The movie’s ending, you guys. It’s the final confrontation, 1:15:48 to the end on the Blu-ray.
Jen is walking around what looks like another nondescript corridor in the castle, but then he rounds a corner and we see he’s arrived at the Crystal Chamber. He’s at an upper balcony looking down at it. This shot offers us one of the best looks we get of the many symbols on the floor around the Crystal. According to Brian Froud, each of these symbols corresponds to each of the original UrSkeks, from the time before the Crystal cracked. If you’re able to sort out with symbol matches which UrSkek, you’re a bigger Dark Crystal fan then I’ll ever be. “Yes, the Crystal!” Jen says. I know lines like these were added to keep the audience from getting confused by what’s going on, but I would think by this late point in the story, if the audience doesn’t get it by now, they’re not going to get it. Jen looks around, and we get a shot of the triangle-shaped window in the ceiling. This window is our “ticking clock,” in which we’ll see the three suns get closer and closer to converging.
Elsewhere in the castle, Kira is in a hallway. She ducks behind a pillar as some (all?) of the Skeksis march past. This is an odd little moment for the Skeksis. We’re in the final moments of the movie, where the pacing and tension are cranked up, but the Skeksis are walking very, very slowly in this shot. I know that the limitation of the puppetry means they can’t exactly sprint, but we’ve seen them at least walking with urgency earlier in the film. Instead, this moment shows once again that the Skeksis have become reliant on ritual over the years. In both the movie and the canon, we’ve seen them be ritualistic and living based on their own rituals, big and small. With the Great Conjunction on their doorstep, they’re not freaking out (at least not yet), but are instead playing it out as a great ritual. Also, from their point of view, they’ve defeated the Gelflings, so there’s no need to worry. They believe they’re on their way to truly master the entire planet at the conjunction. It’s strange that the Skeksis are not questioning where the Scientist is. Maybe they’re just assuming he’s taking Kira’s essence right now, and they believe he’ll soon join them.
Back in the Crystal Chamber, Jen climbs down from the third level to the second. A Garthim is standing on that same level, off to the right of the screen, but it doesn’t make any move, even though Jen is right in front of it. Is it sleeping, or somehow entranced by the Crystal and/or the conjunction. Jen reiterates the plot again, reminding us of the Dark Crystal, the three suns overhead, and the shard in his hand. The idea here is that he’s figuring out the connection between all these things, even though that’s pretty much what he did during the Wall of Destiny scene. I suppose the Wall of Destiny was him learning this stuff in theory, and here he’s learning it in practice. Shots of the Dark Crystal during this sequence have a big orangey spot at its top, as if pointing an arrow for audience (and Jen) saying “this is where the shard goes.” Despite complaints about The Dark Crystal being confusing, reuniting the shard with the Crystal is one point the filmmakers are working hard to emphasize.
Then the Skeksis arrive, making their slow, methodical march in to the chamber. They don’t see Jen, even though he’s right there, as they silently make their way to their places around the Crystal. A bunch of black-hooded figures appear in another of the alcoves above the chamber. We can all agree that these are the Podling slaves, yet it’s odd that we don’t see their shriveled up little faces. Kira shows up next, in an alcove across from Jen. They whisper to each other, somehow able to communicate from opposite sides of the chamber. Are their funky acoustics at work, or is this some sort of magic in play? The canon makes no mention of either. The Skeksis make similar movements as they did at the start of the film. The Ritual-Master (I think) says, “The Great Conjunction comes. Now we will live forever.” That “live forever” part is an interesting character beat, in that we’ve seen the emperor die, and we’ve seen the General longing to drink essence and be young again. The rest of the Skeksis continue to chant, “We will live forever.”
Fizzgig then pops up, late to the party. He rolls over to Kira and starts making a ton of noise. The Chamberlain notices this, but it’s the other Skeksis who cry out “A Gelfling! A Gelfling!” and “The Gelfling must die!” The Skeksis do what we’ve seen them do before, drop their formal ritualistic nature and start freaking the hell out, running around and panicking. The Chamberlain then notices Jen and makes a squawking sound, and now the Skeksis really go nuts, with two Gelflings to contend with. There’s a cool bit of camera work here, as the camera swings around the room from Kira to Jen, keeping the Dark Crystal in the shot the whole time. The Skeksis call for the Garthim, who then spring to live, as more enter the chamber. There are two of them on balconies on either side of Jen, giving the feeling that he’s trapped there. A third Garthim comes up behind Jen and swings a claw at him. Jen ducks, backs away, and then, impressively, jumps off of the balcony and onto the Dark Crystal itself. This is a great hero moment, except that he drops the shard. I don’t know how they filmed this, but the shard lands right on the edge of the shaft, in danger of falling in.
The General sees the shard, states, “The shard is mine!” So the Skeksis know about the shard and its importance, but how much they know is still unknown. He reaches for the shard, grabs it, only to be attacked by Fizzgig. I guess Fizzgig jumped from above? In true villain fashion, the General calls Fizzgig a “smelly hairball.” With Fizzgig biting his wrist, the General He then, shockingly, throws Fizzgig down into the shaft. We hear Fizzgig’s growl fade into silence as he falls. Whenever I see The Dark Crystal with an audience, this always get a huge gasp from the crowd.
We don’t get any time to mourn Fizzgig, though, because this is the finale and the pacing is super-quick. Kira lets loose her wings (remember, she has wings) and floats down to the main floor of the chamber. She picks up the shard, as one of the Skeksis exposits, “She has the Shard.” The Skeksis surround her. I’m going to pause for a moment and discuss Kira’s face. In these final moments, she looks different. She’s really pale, with big bags under her eyes, and a big brown streak across her right cheek. Also her hair is really frazzled. Is this the result of being hooked up to the Scientist’s machine earlier, or is this just action hero damage, like how Bruce Willis always looks super-roughed up at the end of any Die Hard movie? Hard to tell.
The stuff of nightmares: The Skeksis crowd in close to Kira, snarling, snapping their beaks, and reaching for her with their long, clawlike fingers. There’s another ticking clock shot of the three suns getting closer, as Jen says “Watch out, Kira!” (Yeah, thanks for that, Jen.) She swings the shard around like a knife, which I suppose is why they don’t actually grab her.
Although they’ve got the Gelflings outnumbered, the Skeksis try some diplomacy. The Chamebrlain says, “Give us the shard and we’ll let you go free.” Kira knows better than the trust the Chamberlain, and she says no. Jen catches everyone’s attention, though, by shouting, “Yes! Just don’t harm her.” Here Jen faces a choice of whether to save the girl or save the whole world, and he chooses the girl. The is the same dilemma faced by Neo in The Matrix Reloaded, but that movie spent two hours on it, and The Dark Crystal covers it in just these few seconds. Kira does the heroic self-sacrifice thing as tells Jen he has to heal the Crystal. As she says this, the Ritual-Master sneaks up behind her with a knife. Why the Ritual-Master and not our main villains of the Chamberlain or the General? It just shows how during this finale, all the Skeksis have ceased to have individual personalities and are of a singular type.
Now we get five quick shots that tell a lot of story. Jen sees the knife and says, “Kira!” We see the shard flying through the air (it’s assumed that Kira throws it to him, but we don’t actually see her throw it). Then the Ritual-Master brings the knife down onto Kira’s back, with her making a painful-sounding “ugh!” noise. Jen catches the shard. Then, Kira falls to the floor. This rapid succession of shots is a contrast in positive verses negative. The shard flying to Jen is movement upward, and is heroic and positive. Kira being stabbed and falling is movement downward, it is tragic and negative.
If your heart hasn’t broken yet, it will in the next shot, of Kira on all fours, surrounded by the Skeksis, barely having the strength to be able to look up at Jen. She then does the “Oscar-bait death scene,” weakly saying Jen’s name and slowly collapsing. The Skeksis watch this quietly, with, as they said in Shaun of the Dead, a hint of sadness. They then turn their attention to Jen, perhaps realizing their fate.
Jen raises the shard in his best hero pose, and he holds this pose for quite some time. The ticking clock gets its final shot, as all three suns converge, transforming into a single sphere of white light (or, at least, that’s what it looks like). This causes a white beam to shoot downward, right onto the Dark Crystal, right in front of Jen. The Skeksis cry out, “No! No!” Amusingly, you can see a Garthim on one of the balconies swinging its claws back and forth, as if it’s also saying “No!” Jen stabs the shard into the hole on the Crystal. The Crystal turns bright white and some unseen energy throws Jen off the Crystal.
The lighting in the room changes, so it’s brighter. The Skeksis cover their eyes (it’s not that brighter, guys) and they do their thing, running around in panic. Jen doesn’t pay them any attention, focusing his attention on Kira’s comatose body. He starts crawling toward her. The Garthim fall apart, revealing their armored form to be empty shells. The canon states that the Garthim are powered by the dark light of the Dark Crystal. Now that the Crystal is light again, we can assume nothing is powering them, so they fall apart. Jen holds Kira in his arms while more Garthim fall to pieces behind him. The Skeksis continue to freak out all around Jen, but he ignores them, with Kira his only interest. Does Jen not think the Skeksis might try to kill him? Or, is he so certain that he’s about to die that he doesn’t care anymore? Or, is he so overcome with grief that he doesn’t know what the heck he’s doing? We don’t know.
More big events all happening quickly. Another Garthim falls apart, and then the walls start to crumble, revealing bright white light behind them. The Mystics show up, slowly walking into the room, apparently not fazed by all of this. Then we see the outside of the castle, rock and grime falling from its frame. Back inside, the Podling slaves pull the black hoods from their faces and they stare around, looking confused as to what’s going on. So, are the hoods some sort of visual representation of their enslavement, that by removing their hoods they’re showing us their minds are now free?
Listen closely: As the Mystics continue to enter the chamber, one of the Skeksis says “The urRu!” This is the only time in the movie the name “urRu” is spoken, and it’s not in the Blu-ray’s subtitles.
Another shot of the outside of the castle falling apart, now with a golden light shining down on it from above, from the conjunction no doubt. There’s only a second of that, though, before cutting to the Scientist’s lab. It’s in full earthquake mode, with everything shaking and dust falling from the ceiling. Aughra is there, stumbling about. She hears a familiar growl, and finds Fizzgig, hanging onto the receptor inside the Crystal’s shaft. He’s OK! Aughra says, “How did you get out there?” She grabs a rake-like instrument and reaches out to rescue him.
Back to the Crystal chamber, where Jen still has Kira cradled in his arms. Oohh, man, you can totally see tears on his cheeks. He finally takes note of what’s happening around him. The Mystics have moved into position in a circle around the Crystal. It sounds like some of them are doing their deep chant, or a variation of it. More of the walls break away as the Skeksis continue to panic. The Podlings are suddenly looking a lot better. They’ve got their color back in both their skin and their hair. I don’t know how their essence could be restored after someone else drank it. Did the Crystal give them new essence?
More shots of the walls and ceiling falling apart, revealing new, gleaming white walls behind them. The behind-the-scenes featurette on the Blu-ray has footage of these special effects shots being filmed. Because each crumbling wall shot involved meticulous model work, each one could only be filmed once, so Henson and company had to get it right the first time. Aughra and Fizzgig hurry through a rubble-filled hallway. A cute bit of puppetry here has Fizzgig roll behind a rock, poke his head up from behind it, and then continue rolling. This was done all in front of the camera, with three separate Fizzgig puppets.
What happens next is hard to describe. Now that the Mystics are in position, beams of light flow out of the Crystal, into the Mystics’ backs, and then out of their eyes, onto the Skeksis’ backs. Is it too convenient for the Skeksis to be standing in just the right place for this to happen? Between the Crystal’s energy cutting loose and the Mystics’ magic chant, I think it’s safe to say the Skeksis were maneuvered into position. The Skeksis are pulled backwards toward the Mystics as more pieces of ceiling fall. The Mystics then rise up to height taller than the Skeksis (!) and they, um, connect with some golden light between them. This is the last we ever see of the Mystics and the Skeksis. One special effect later, and they’re replaced by the UrSkeks.
So, the UrSkeks. I’ll do my best to keep this short. This is the third great conjunction. During the first great conjunction, the UrSkeks came to Thra from another world. They brought enlightenment and knowledge, and they advanced civilization in a big way. The Creation Myths graphic novels go into greater detail about what happened next, how Aughra’s son Raunip did not trust them, and revealed that darkness dwelt inside them. If I understand this right, the UrSkeks were actually outcasts from their homeworld, banished because they were neither good nor evil, and that they contained both darkness and light. On Thra, with its three suns, they became obsessed with the idea of balance, thinking that the number three and triangle shapes were the key to balance. Rather than an “either/or” existence, a third option could be what they seek. Their desire to rid themselves of their inner darkness, though, led to chaos during the second great conjunction, in which the Crystal cracked, becoming the Dark Crystal, and they were divided into two beings, the Skeksis and the urRu.
Why is any of this important to know when you’re watching the movie? Well, Aughra shows up in the Crystal chamber, which is now all sparkly and white, and she quotes the prophecy again. “What was sundered and undone, the two shall be made one.” I am totally not a numerologist, but it seems the number in question is not three, as in three suns, or two, as in light versus dark, but in one, as in a singular whole, accepting all sides, no matter how many, in balance. Is this correct? Is this the balance the UrSkeks sought for so long? We’re not told. It’s left open to interpretation.
On the Blu-ray’s commentary, Brian Froud says the UrSkeks are “unfinished,” and that he wished he had more time to go back and perfect their look. They are angelic, but also plant-like with what look like branches for their fingers and hair. Even in close-up it’s hard to tell what part of them is their clothes and what part is their body. It’s good that they’re mysterious and unreal like this, though, as it gives them the mystical, spiritual feeling of enlightened beings from some other plane of existence.
Only one UrSkek speaks. “And now the prophecy is fulfilled.” Because the prophecy was written after the second great conjunction, this means that the UrSkeks continue to have all the knowledge and memory of their former Skeksis and Mystic selves. “We are again one.” Wait, what about the graphic novel’s talk about the darkness in them? Were they ever truly “one?” There’s really no way to answer this, given how little we know about their lives on their previous world.
The Urskek continues, “Many ages ago, in our arrogance and delusion, we shattered the pure Crystal, and our world split apart.” Again, here they are taking responsibility for actions performed after separating into Skeksis and Mystics. Also interesting that although they’re from another planet they consider Thra “our world.” I guess 2,000 years would make any place feel like home. He then addresses Jen specifically. “Your courage and sacrifice have made us whole, and restored the true power of Crystal.” Jen is standing before them now, holding Kira in his arms. It’s safe to say that by “sacrifice” the UrSkek means Kira. This is reinforced when he says, “Hold her to you.”
Jen holds Kira so her face is right up against his. The UrSkek says, “She is a part of you, as we are all part of each other.” This is as close as the movie gets to actually saying Froud’s ongoing refrain of “All things are alive, and all things are connected.” The musical score swells, and there are male voices singing. Are these supposed to be the other UrSkeks?
Time for the big happy ending! Kira stirs and her eyes open. She’s alive! She’s OK! Was she dead and the UrSkeks brought her back to life, or was she merely injured and they healed her? Or was it Jen’s energy (essence?) that did it? These questions go unanswered in favor of offering audience the satisfying emotional payoff.
The UrSkek offers the movie’s last line of dialogue: “Now we leave you the Crystal of Truth. Make your world in its light.” This is nicely poetic, but it doesn’t quite match up with the canon. The Crystal was always on Thra, not brought with them from the other world. It’s unknown how the Crystal can be controlled or how its energy can be manipulated, but I suppose the movie doesn’t have to explain all that, just that it can be done. Jen and Kira don’t say anything, they just stare up at the UrSkeks with awe. According to never-wrong internet rumors, Jen and Kira were supposed to kiss right here, but the puppeteers couldn’t get it to work, making it look they were just hitting their faces against each other. So, no kissy-kissy.
It’s the big E.T. moment next, when the UrSkeks transform into a single green beam of light, with blue lights swirling around them. This light form of theirs flies up through the ceiling and, we’re to assume, to outer space. (To visit our old friend J.J. Llewellen of Earth, perhaps?) There’s a final reaction shot from Jen and Kira, a shot of the Crystal looking all bright and shiny, and then the last shot of the movie. It’s the exterior of the castle, except the castle is now gleaming and silver, and it is surrounded by green trees and fields, with a huge river running by it. Did all this transformation happen instantaneously, or are we looking at years later, after the Gelflings did indeed make the world in the Crystal’s light? I’d like to think it’s the latter, but we don’t really know.
The credits start to roll over the last shot, and then transition to a background that looks like a blurry picture of some white crystal. The music during the credits is, as with most movies, a mix of the score’s most prominent themes. If you bought The Dark Crystal on VHS back in the 1980s, you saw a different credit sequence, which ran over a purple-tinted picture of Aughra, to accommodate the pan and scan format. The ‘80s-era VHS also had after-the-credits ads for First Blood, Frances, Bad Boys, Tender Mercies, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and the Lord of the Rings animated film, along with a generic Thorn EMI promo. Kind of a grab bag, I guess.
For several years, a sequel was in preproduction, allegedly called The Power of the Dark Crystal, but it was never made. Last year, the Henson company teamed with Grosset and Dunlap to announce a contest to find a writer for a Dark Crystal prequel novel, and, as of this writing, that project is still under way.
And that’s the movie. I’ve been driving myself ger-blonkers trying to come up with the right way to end this blog series, but instead of trying to be all profound and crap, I’ll just say I hope all this has helped your appreciation and enjoyment of The Dark Crystal. Remember, everything is alive and all things are connected.
What should I do next with this blog? Any suggestions?
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