The Dark Crystal - 4K Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray / Media Reviews' started by Michael Scott, Mar 9, 2018.

  1. Michael Scott

    Michael Scott Moderator / Reviewer
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    The Dark Crystal


    [​IMG]
    Movie: :4stars:
    4K Video: :4.5stars:
    Video: :4stars:
    Audio: :4stars:
    Extras: :4.5stars:
    Final Score: :4.5stars:



    [​IMG] Movie

    36 years ago, before the time of CGI, we had Jim Hensen. The man has given so much to the world of puppetry and the ability to create fantasy out of nothing but cloth, string and the limited visual effects of the time. Back before the smash hit that was Labyrinth, Jim Henson and Frank Oz got together to make a film that was COMPLETELY devoid of human interaction (ala Labyrinth, Farscape, The Neverending Story etc) and came up with a mystical fantasy world that became known as The Dark Crystal. As a kid I never really noticed the mystical new age underpinnings of balance and homogeneous spirits, as it was just a fun fantasy flick with a slightly scary twist (even at 7 years old it kind of gave me a slight scare). However, as an adult, it’s a more interesting watch, as I dissect the famous “new age” wave of the 1980s that Henson infused into the fantasy genre.

    Over a thousand years ago, an unnamed world is split apart due to a magical crystal being cracked in half. Out of the chaos two races emerge. The dark and twisted Skesis, and the mystics. The Skesis take control of the crystal and form a huge oppressive empire, ruling the world as they see fit. There is (like in all these movies) an ancient prophecy about an elf like race, known as the gelflings, bringing a shard of the ancient crystal back and uniting the mystical power, putting an end to their reign once and for all. Fearing the prophecy above all else, the Skesis exterminated the gelfling race, leaving no survivors. Or so they though. Outside of their domain, the mystics live in peace and harmony with nature, and watch over a single lone surviving gelfling named Jen (Jim Henson).

    The time has come, as the Skesis emperor is passing away, and the leader of the mystics recognizes that it is his time to leave as well. Imparting on Jen the severity of his task, the mystic head puts the weight of their world on the glefling’s shoulder as he must fulfill the thousand year old prophecy that threatens to topple the entire world unless implemented. With the Skesis learning of his existence, Jen has to dodge the Garthim (the forces of the Skesis), as well as find a connection with ANOTHER gelfling survivor by the name of Kira (Kathryn Mullen), all the while unraveling he mystery of what befell his world centuries ago.
    [​IMG]
    The Dark Crystal is one of those films that people either love, or they hate. Luckily most people really enjoy the Henson flick, and it has become one of my favorite go-to’s for the 80s puppetry watches. I easily put it above The Neverending Story, a film that I felt was a bit TOO dark for the children it targeted. Jim Henson and Frank Oz use a decidedly dark aesthetic to the story, but everything is still kept to a very PG level despite some ominous undertones (such as the Chamberlian getting stripped of his garb). Also, I never really noticed HOW much of a New Age clone the movie really was. Especially as a young boy. Now that I’m older it’s pretty obvious with the idea of the split halves, and balance (something Star Wars also borrowed heavily from when it created the idea for the Force), yet still keeping a children’s fantasy at heart.

    The visuals for The Dark Crystal are nothing short of magnificent, and Henson’s use of puppetry is so well done that it holds up even 36 years late. A trait that makes it wonderfully appealing to newcomers, and those who love the nostalgic feel of a generation long gone by. Even though I really adore the film, I have to acknowledge the fact that The Dark Crystal, while good, just doesn’t seem to be able to laud itself as one of the best movies of the 1980s (such as Labyrinth, which followed 4 years later). Maybe it was because of the super dark themes running throughout the film, as good vs. evil is played out on a decidedly adult scale, while a basic child’s cartoon story is on the surface. I remember that many of my friend’s parents in the 80s wouldn’t let them see it because it was deemed to “dark”, and I think that hampered it from being as widely accepted as some of the other films of its time. Luckily, watching as an adult brings a new appreciation for the film, and my enjoyment level has gone up considerably as time has gone by.




    Rating:

    Rated PG the MPAA




    4K Video: :4.5stars: Video: :4stars:
    [​IMG] First thing I have to make clear, is that
    The Dark Crystal is NOT going to look like a modern CGI film. It was shot using 35mm FILM stock, and has a decidely 80s ambiance to it. The use of puppets and optical effects of the time will not ever net a film that looks bright and glossy, ala digital films of this century. BUT, I will also say that the new master struck from the original 35mm elements makes for an incredibly filmic presentation, and easily an upgrade that is worth the cost. Supposedly the film was given a meticulous restoration and remaster by Brian Henson and crew, and the results are really really impressive. I always thought the 1080p Blu-ray was a good looking Blu-ray, but comparing it to the new 4K UHD disc, there is a shocking difference. Details are much more clean and clear, with sharper clarity all around allowing you to see every line and crease of the puppets. There is almost a hazy washed out feeling to the Blu-ray, which is completely gone in the 4K edition. Colors are the real joy here, with the use of HDR giving such a rich and vibrant look to them. Color saturation is deep and full, with the purples and golds of the Skesis castle sharply contrasting the gray stone world around them. The forest greens where Kira and Jen navigate are so rich that you can almost feel the colors popping off the screen. The film still maintains a healthy grain structure, but it is tighter and less noisy, making for the best presentation I’ve ever seen The Dark Crystal every display.






    Audio: :4stars:
    [​IMG] Much like the video, the rather mediocre audio track from the 2009 Blu-ray has been given a kick in the pants with a full on Dolby Atmos track. The jump is noticeable, but not wildly shocking as well, as T
    he Dark Crystal is just one of those films that doesn’t show THAT much improvement by having Atmos overheads. In fact, I’d say it’s much more of 7.1 track than anything, but I will agree that the 5.1 track from the Blu-ray is easily outclassed by this new mix. The Atmos mix is just fuller and richer, with a wider sound stage and a few cool uses of the overheads (such as when rocks fall). Vocals are crisp and clean in the front of the room, and the LFE adds a good bit of weight throughout the movie.











    Extras: :4.5stars:
    [​IMG] • 4K Restoration of the film from the original camera negative

    The Myth, Magic and Henson Legacy: Go behind the scenes of this iconic film with stories from Lisa Henson and Toby Froud.
    • Deleted Scenes
    • Commentary with Brian Froud
    • Picture-in-Picture Storyboard Track
    • Original Skeksis Language Scenes with Introduction by Screenwriter David Odell
    • The World of The Dark Crystal Documentary
    • Reflections of The Dark Crystal: "Light on the Path of Creation" & "Shard of Illusion"
    • Photo Galleries
    • Theatrical Teaser & Trailer










    Final Score: :4.5stars:



    The Dark Crystal was a staple of most of our childhoods, and is a fantastic film even to this day. The magical blend of puppetry and classic set pieces makes for a very textural film, and the amount of love and energy that Frank and Jim put into the work is nothing short of jaw dropping. For those who have the 2009 Blu-ray, yes, this is EASILY worth the upgrade. The extras are given only one new feature (the Blu-ray was already really feature rich), but the new video remaster is excellent, and the Atmos track surpasses the 5.1 track without hesitation. Simply put, a great edition for a great film, and a great watch.





    Technical Specifications:

    Starring: Jim Hensen, Frank Oz, Kathryn Mullen
    Directed by: Jim Henson, Frank Oz
    Written by: David Odell (Story), Jim Henson (Screenplay)
    Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 HEVC
    Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), Czeck, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin America) DD 5.1
    Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin America), Swedish, Thai, Turkish
    Studio: Sony
    Rated: PG
    Runtime: 93 minutes
    Blu-Ray Release Date: March 6th, 2018






    Recommendation: Excellent Watch

     
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  2. Todd Anderson

    Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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    I’m probably going to offend 99% of HT world (a la ET), but this is one flick that never resonated with me. Now, admittedly, it wasn’t part of my childhood (somehow I missed it), so the nostalgia is lost for me. But a roughly a decade ago I bought a copy to watch with my then younger kids. We made it through roughly half the flick and unanimously voted to halt operations and call it quits.

    What I find so intriguing is how many viewers and reviewers love it to pieces. Mike, your assessment is right on par with what I’ve read on numerous ocassions.

    Go figure!

    It reads as if the 4k release should play well to fans of the flick— and because of that, I’m happy for the masses! ;-)
     
  3. Michael Scott

    Michael Scott Moderator / Reviewer
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    hmmmmm, I'm not sure if forgiveness is an option. Can we vote people off the island here? :greengrin:...E.T., now this? tsk tsk tsk ;)
     
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  4. Todd Anderson

    Todd Anderson News Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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    I knew it!

    I KNEW IT!
     
  5. tripplej

    tripplej AV Enthusiast

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    Thanks for the review. I never saw this one when it came out long time ago.. I will check it out.
     

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