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The Dark Crystal - Superbit Collection

Reviewed by: David Litton
Genre: Sci-Fi
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen
Audio: English DTS 5.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1
Language: English
Subtitle: English, Spanish
Length: 93 min
Rating: PG
Release Date: 03/04/2003
Studio: Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
Commentary: None
Documentaries: None
Featurettes: None
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: None
Trailers/TV Spots: None
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: None
Music Video: None
Other: None
Cast and Crew: John Baddeley, Stephen Garlick, David Buck, Barry Dennen
Written By: David Odell
Produced by: Jim Henson, Gary Kurtz
Directed By: Jim Henson, Frank Oz
Music: Trevor Jones
The Review:

I'm not really sure what to make of Jim Henson's and Frank Oz's "The Dark Crystal." I admire the puppetry and the creative nature of the visuals and the material, and the overall splendor of the filmmakers' imagination is given an at-times breathtaking sheen that is truly one-of-a-kind. But unlike some movies aimed at a young audience, this one can't quite bring the adults into the story in the same way that impressionable children have warmed to its fuzzy characters and morality lesson of good versus evil. ***

The plot is your average fantasy adventure yarn, taking place in an enchanted realm where a dark crystal is the source of balance and order in the world of mythical creatures. When the crystal is broken, it gives way to the power of the Skeksis, a tribe of knarled, branch-like beings that take control of all other species, including the Mystics, whose knowledgable ways have foreseen the coming of one who will find the missing shard of the crystal and restore their world to its original state. That one person is Jen, of the Gelflings, thought to be completely extinct after the dominance of the Skeksis; his journey to recover the piece brings to his attention Kira, also a Gelfling, and from there, the two set out together to right the wrongs of their land. ***

As a story of good versus evil, parents can relax in the fact that there is a strong lesson buried within the confines of the material about the difference between right and wrong. But for me, one who was never brought up on a film like this, I can't honestly say I'm in favor of the piece. I'll admit that the handiwork of Henson is always a joy to watch, but I'd pick Kermit and Miss Piggy anyday over the Gelflings. The movie hasn't really aged that well, either, and in the passage of time since 1983, better, more accessible family fare has come into play. Worth a look-see for the inventiveness of its appearance, but as a fantasy film, it's somewhat parched of any magic. --

Image and Sound

Upon renting the original 1999 DVD of "Dark Crystal" and comparing it with this new Superbit transfer, the differences are clear, and this new edition reigns supreme. Gone is the dirt and speckles from the previous 2.35:1 image, and in their place is a wonderful mastering effort than has made such flaws a distant memory. The picture is very clean and wondrous to behold, with colors that are vivid and well-saturated, and complimented by accuracy and deep, solid blacks. Contrast is overall pleasing, with only some minor lapses here and there, and shadow detail is impressive. Edges are sharp with terrific small object detail, and there are very little enhancement artifacts to speak of. One of the better Superbit titles to come along in some time. ***

Not so astounding is the selection of soundtracks. Both the DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks have a compressed, hollow feel to them that keeps them from being as expansive and immersive as other 5.1 tracks. Surround usage is minimal and subtle throughout, with the occasional effect aimed in the right direction for some amusement here and there. Deep bass isn't very clean or focused, and while low rumbling accompanies some of the effects, it's not the least bit impacting. The looped dialogue sounds very good, however. In terms of which track is the better of the two, both should be equally pleasing. --

The Extras No special features included.
Commentary None
Final Words: As this is not one of Columbia's Superbit Deluxe editions, this is a movie-only disc that is recommended only if you feel the need for superior picture quality and mediocre sound. Otherwise, the previous releases should suffice.

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March 18, 2003