32. The Dark Crystal (1982)
One of the most underrated movies and one of the most intriguing fantasies, this movie grows in my estimation as the years go by. Muppet mastermind Jim Henson and his cohort Frank Oz co-directed this touching film and it was certainly a departure from the worlds of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. It was part Tolkien, part Star Wars and part mythology. The film's story takes place "in an age of wonder" on a planet called Thra. On this world, there is a Crystal of Truth and magical beings known as the urSkeks (or the guardians). When the Crystal is accidentally broken, the guardians split into two races: the gentle Mystics and the evil Skeksis. The Skeksis seize control and begin terrorizing the other beings on the planet, most importantly the Gelflings. The movie's protagonist is Jen, believed to be the last of the Gelflings. He is bid by the Mystics who raised him to find the missing piece of the Crystal, reunite the two beings and bring piece to the world. The movie is a powerful journey piece filled with fantastical beings and mysterious plot points (akin to Tolkien's Middle Earth, Lewis' Narnia and Baum's Oz). The design of the film was that of concept artist Brian Froud, who created the look of each creature and each set piece that fills the screen. The creatures themselves were built by Jim Henson's famed Creature Shop, which was in its early stages of development at the time Henson took on this project. The movie also has a hauntingly beautiful score by Trevor Jones (Henson used both Froud and Jones again in 1986 when he made Labyrinth). The film was a modest success at the box-office but was not all-too-loved by the critics. Too many people felt that Henson and Oz, being Muppeteers, were to be creating lighter family fare and deemed the film too dark for children. It has since become a cult film that has never really gotten the recognition it deserves. But despite this, the movie is brilliant, frightening, awe-inspiring, technically profound (for its time) and a testament to the creative genius that was Jim Henson.
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