Updated: Apr 17, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW
“THE DARK CRYSTAL”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 1982; PG for frightening images, peril, thematic material and one puppet nude scene; 4K streaming iTunes and Vudu
Best extra: “The Myth, Magic and Henson Legacy: Go behind the scenes with Lisa Henson and Toby Froud”
THE 1980s was a great decade for fantasy films: “The NeverEnding Story” (1984) by Wolfgang Petersen; “Legend” (1985) by Ridley Scott with Tom Cruise and Tim Curry; “Willow” (1988) with Val Kilmer, and “Labyrinth” (1986) by Jim Henson, inspired by English fantasy illustrator Brian Froud starring David Bowie.
There was also “The Dark Crystal,” directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, from a story by Henson and David Odell. It was the first feature film inspired by Froud’s work. Froud’s most influential book was “Fairies,” co-written and illustrated with Alan Lee, concept artist for Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films, “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” Published in 1978, this compendium of all things fey has never been out of print. It is an illustrated encyclopedia of fairies, goblins, and all things weird taking them out the world of Disney and back to their pagan roots.
Puppeteer Jim Henson was inspired. Together with Froud, co-writer Odell, and the Henson crew, they came up with “The Dark Crystal,” an original fairytale of a world divided, where Balance and Truth have been skewed to the darkside. Now young Jen, a gelfling raised by the gentle Mystics, must find the missing shard to the great crystal guarded by the evil, power hungry Skeksis, and return it before the three suns converge. He meets Kira along the way, another of his kind, who agrees to help. They’re aided by several magical creatures including Kira’s “pet,” Fizzgig, a rolling furball with a huge mouth, lots of teeth and a fierce bark.
He’s adorable, a truly fierce little Muppet.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment does a spectacular job with the 4K Ultra HD picture. Remastered from the original 35mm film, images sparkle. Colors are largely jewel-toned yet very natural. Contrasted with other presentations, the HD range is a dynamic improvement in detail, contrast and depth. Definition in background shots and dimensionality to characters and settings are excellent. Movement looks more fluid. It’s the best “DarkCrystal” has ever looked, and that includes the theatrical release.
The Blu-ray was also sourced from the same remaster. It looks very good, but there’s a huge difference between it and the 4K.
A lively Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel soundtrack delivers dialogue, effects and orchestral score by Trevor Jones (“The Last of the Mohicans,” 1992) all around the room. Ceiling effects include thunder, rain and flying critters that might have you ducking. Environment is a large part of “The Dark Crystal” and the enhanced atmospheric experience is a plus.
The Blu-ray maintains its DTS-HD 5.1 track found on the earlier release. Everything sounds just fine – and is decidedly immersive – from dialogue to score.
Sony provides a new feature: “The Myth, Magic and Henson Legacy: Go behind the scenes with Lisa Henson and Toby Froud.” Lisa, an American television and movie producer, and Toby, an actor who got his start as baby Toby in “Labyrinth,” reminisce about their creative fathers.
Otherwise, all bonus features released on the earlier Blu-ray have been ported to the new package; all are found on the Blu-ray disc. A commentary with artist Brian Froud covers production detail and experiences with Henson and others. Froud is a worthy storyteller, a non-stop speaker who knows how to entertain.
Another plus is the Picture-in-Picture Storyboard Track showing Froud’s original sketches and designs alongside scenes from the film. Also find “Original Skeksis Language Scenes,” with introduction by David Odell; “The World of ‘The Dark Crystal’ Documentary”; “Reflections of ‘The DarkCrystal’: Light on the Path of Creation” and “Shard of Illusion,” deleted scenes and a photo gallery.
This latest 4K UHD release breathes new life in an old favorite. All the better to share with friends and family.