The Dark Crystal Creation Myths
Let me start by saying, even now I remember the first time I had seen the movie, The Dark Crystal. It came out in 1982 and was a departure from the typical children’s material that Jim Henson had been known for. Sure, it was still a fable for children and the young at heart (that sounds hokey), but it wasn’t the stuff like Sesame Street. It was also a huge departure from the Muppet Show.
Those were the things his company had been known for at the time. Well, there was The Empire Strikes back, but that wasn’t something based solely on the puppetry. It’s all about the building blocks used to reach the levels of creativity that give some freedoms. If the successes weren’t there, we might never have seen the world of Thra and known of the battle to heal the crystal. But none of that is the thoughts we are digging through today.
I mean to say I am in a mindset of The Dark Crystal. I had picked up the first volume of the Creation Myths. These are the stories in the world of Thra where we learn the origins of the crystal and the Urskeks. There is even some discussion of Aughra and her child. That was a revelation. The odd mystic woman had a kid. Of course, there isn’t any real information or knowledge of how her child came into being. We just have a moment when the child is there and starts causing trouble.
Anyway, where were we? Talking about crystals and mystics and fantasy worlds. Yeah, I picked up the first volume of this series. The design of the comic storyline is a precursor to the story of the movie. The movie came first so there is always that bit where they can mess up what we know from the movie. But that didn’t happen within this story. Aside from the thought that this thing takes place roughly 1000 years before the crystal cracked, we have characters that we never knew about till this storyline.
I feel maybe that I am going off on a weird train of thought. Give me a second to reconnect to the thoughts…
I guess where I am going with all of this is, I enjoyed the new storylines developed for this. They played deeper into the story we already know. I think that’s really the more important aspect of doing sequels and such. What does the new storyline bring to the table to enhance the older story? Sometimes, they try so hard to one up what came before that the intent of the original story is destroyed in the process. Personally, I don’t feel like this is happening in these stories. Instead we have a view of the world we didn’t have with the original movie.
Which brings me back to thoughts of the movie. Over the years I have watched it again. I think it might have been on Netflix for a little bit. I’m not sure why I don’t have it in my collection of DVDs (other than we don’t really buy them anymore. When formats change on a regular basis it seems a bit silly to build a collection that you won’t be able to use after a short time). This has been one that I enjoy every time I see it.
And I saw it again after reading the graphic novel. At first I did it because I wanted to refresh my mind with how they tied together. I was looking for possible incongruences. Instead I was impressed with the level of detail that went into the story itself. From a technical perspective, the world that they created using puppets as the primary special effect was simply amazing.
We are looking at the technology of 1982, a time long before CGI. I mean, sure there were many instances where you could see the puppets as puppets. But as a whole, the illusion was strong enough to pull me into the story and see something deeper.
It brought to mind a few assemblies in grade school where puppeteers had come to the school and shared various fables through puppetry. Maybe this is a weird recollection from my childhood but it is one that I still carry and it pops back into my mind every now and then.
It’s a reminder to me that the most minute details aren’t nearly as important as we make them out to be, if they don’t serve the story. An example, the articulation of the puppets isn’t nearly as defined as it would be with live action or with CGI. But the reality is, the puppets are still able to convey something as intricate as a boy playing a flute. We understand what would happen for the process, we don’t need to see intricate finger movement. As we concentrate on creating the realism of finger movements with CGI or live action we forget that they are not the important element of the story. This is a lesson we can take to so many other aspects.
Now, I do remember in the making of the movie, they had used children in a couple scenes where the puppets wouldn’t have worked as well. But none of these times were the close up interactions. Their efforts to maintain the illusion of the puppetry added to their realism of the puppets. I think this is the distinction between this story and his other work. Throughout the story it is that the puppets are living breathing creatures. We don’t have the meta of something like sesame street where we know that the puppets are puppets interacting with people.
Take into account that the puppetry in Star Wars was of a similar vein to this. Jabba the Hut and Yoda were puppets acting as living creatures. But they fell into the category of the Muppets and Sesame Street as they interacted with real people.
In the end, it is always good to see that storytelling is the most important part of a good story. The special effects and such are more there as flavor enhancements. If we look around we can find a number of older movies and stories like this that prove that time and again. Maybe one day the CGI will reach a point where it becomes seamless with the story itself.
And then maybe there will come a time when I don’t feel like I have shared two different perspectives in a bit of writing. Either way, spend some time with the Dark Crystal. Whether you see the movie or read the comics that have been growing from the lore, you will find new realms of fantasy and story. That’s always a good thing.
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.