So in case you didn’t know, The Dark Crystal is my favorite movie of all time. I love everything about it: the music, the practical effects, the old-school special effects, the simple story, the creatures, the lore, the philosophy, etc. I love practically everything about that movie. So I was a bit intrigued (and extremely skeptical) when I learned that Netflix was going to do a prequel to the film via a Netflix produced series. Well, my hopes were dashed a few weeks ago when I got a hold of this comic. Why should they be dashed? Because I fucking hate this comic. What does that have to do with the prequel Netflix series outside of being based on the same film? Nothing, I just think it’s going to suck.
This comic does everything I dread having a sequel do. It relies way too much on the prior entry it is extending (while this may be a comic, it’s a sequel to a film). You know, like The Force Awakens. This is a fatal flaw that makes the work incapable of standing on it’s own. If you want an example of a sequel done right, look at The Godfather Part II (while a sequel that has the same characters from the last film, it continues the plot without too many call-backs to the first, and evolves the characters in natural ways, and contains enough original material to stand on its own), Aliens and Terminator 2 (while it does follow a similar pattern to the original film, with a similar last act of escape and blowing it out the airlock, it expanded the lore of the alien/robot creatures, had more backstory given to the protagonist which ties into events of this film, and utilizes the similar beats in a more action-oriented setting rather than a horror-oriented setting to give it a different feel and makes it its own thing), The Empire Strikes Back. They all possess their own unique moments that make them stand out from their predecessors while not copy-catting them too much, if at all.
But not this comic book. It has virtually all (and I mean ALL) of the problems The Force Awakens had. Also problems that 2011’s The Thing had (those assholes couldn’t even add a fucking number to the title, or a letter, or anything, so now it’s more difficult to distinguish from the title alone which film you’re watching). Not to mention that Brian Froud (if I remember correctly) was firmly against there being a sequel to The Dark Crystal. The story was told. It was done. It didn’t need a sequel, it left nothing open for a sequel. Anything that follows was meant to be left up to the viewer’s imagination (that thing Hollywood doesn’t remember anyone has). Plus the theme was wrapped up, how the crystal was cracked because of the urSkeks’ pride and folly, a lesson they have learned from when they became reunited.
From here on, I’m assuming you’ve already seen The Dark Crystal, and don’t give a shit about me spoiling the events of what happen in this comic.
First of all, this film begins with the same goddamn opening narrative that the movie did. Motherfucker, you should assume people reading this already know about this! And if they don’t, encourage them to go watch the original movie! This isn’t fucking Star Wars where everyone is ok with the opening intro, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…”
So right away I was getting a bit annoyed and worried when it was doing callbacks like that. But this thing is just getting started.
So we get a new race introduced (just one character from that race). Fire people. This fire child needs to break the crystal open, take a shard, and take it to the core of the planet to restore her people, which will supposedly result in the destruction of the rest of the world. But their time seems limited anyway, since the crystal doesn’t burn as brightly as it used to, because I guess the crystal is supposed to have a limited lifespan which must be rejuvenated by breaking it apart, taking it to the planet’s core, and restoring it to its glory while wiping out practically everything else.
Alright, I’m not going to lie. While I am a fan of the film, I’m not a fanatical fan. I don’t think I’ve ever been a fanatical fan of anything, despite what some reviews of some movies may lead you to believe. If I’m a fanatic of anything, it’s regarding entertainment in general in the movie/series/books department. I want to experience things that bring me joy; and let the others that don’t bring me joy, or disgrace the material they are based on, suffer my wrath so that I can feel better about myself (you know, constructive criticism disguised as destructive criticism). Either way I’d like to get some joy out of the experience. The point I’m trying to make is that I haven’t ever gone in-depth with the Dark Crystal lore. I haven’t read every spin-off novel/comic, I haven’t read The World of the Dark Crystal in its entirety (though I enjoy the snippets I do read of the latter). Because I believe there are some things that should be left to the imagination. And if someone thinks otherwise, that they wish to explain things so that there are less things left to the imagination, then they had better know what they’re doing. Because if they don’t, there’s going to be hell to pay.
So I don’t know if the Firechild was something brought up in The World of the Dark Crystal. I don’t know if the crystal was meant to have limited power that would run out (because I guess getting powered by the 3 suns, by the conjunction, isn’t enough apparently). What I do know is that the execution of these ideas is terrible. Some firechild (emphasis on the “child” part) gets sent to explain her people’s plight and take the shard by force if she must. Out of all the schmuks they have in their race, and they fucking send her? Her!? The girl who stumbles over her own words and seems to be new at just about everything? Who is careless with her powers? Christ, at least they had a decent explanation for sending Jen out into the world to set things right rather than anyone else, because he was all the hippy Ur-Ru had. The main reason the writers seem to have done it this way is to have the firechild be exactly like Jen, only female, and stronger with more passion and character. With similar hippies raising her to be the chosen one for a journey. The only difference is the race and the context.
Second, the Gelflings certainly seem to have repopulated the world quite easily, and established social and political hierarchies. After only 100 years. I’m calling bullshit on that. This is taking the easy way out to construct a traditional formula that we’ve seen done thousands of times in mainstream films/shows to make a socio-political message. The Gelflings are back, repopulated, and running the show, in control of the crystal, and have low-class and upper-class people that are looked down and up upon respectively. And it’s the lower-class that is looked down upon that are the chosen protagonists for the story. A “child” of fire, a young Gelfling boy who is treated poorly by the upper-class of Gelflings. What the hell has happened to this Dark Crystal world? Why is this shit in a Dark Crystal tale?
Anyway, the firebitch does end up breaking the crystal (partly to spite the upper-class/religious asshole gelflings). Which results in the skeksies and ur-ru to come back, as we all remember them from the last film. Relying on the original source much? But why would the skeksies and ur-ru come back when they’re supposed to be one as the urSkeks? Why is it that the comic thinks things are supposed to work that way? Because that seems to retcon a few details provided in the movie itself, nevermind Brian Froud’s The World of the Dark Crystal. Oh, it gets better. The skeksies throw a hissie fit at the chamberlain again, making him some-what outcast, and thus putting him in the exact same fucking position that he was in the movie, whimpering, and pursuing the two lead protagonists through much of the story. Oh, right, and the Garthim show up, just like that. Except the Garthim are now controlled by Jen (who wields the scepter, which I guess controls the Garthim), which he uses to pursue the firechild and the lower-class gelfling.
This is just volume 1, which is supposed to be a collection of 4 issues, out of a 12 issue series, which means there are 2 more volumes set to come out later this year. And I have no desire to read them. I’ll read other reviews and stuff, but I consider this sequel series to be a disgrace, and am glad the planned movie adaptation didn’t come to fruition. It has too many call-backs to the movie making this less capable of standing on its own. The plot is dumb. And it brings in socio-political stuff that isn’t utilized well enough to make it fit into this fantasy world. Dune this is not (and was never intended to be).
The only sections that got me invested were when Jen and Aughra were conversing with the firechild and attempting to understand her position and grapple with the state/fate of the world. But those moments are brief and fleeting.
A part of me wants to write (aka bitch) about this some more, but I’m going to reign myself in and leave it at that. If you want to read a decent Dark Crystal spin-off comic, read the 3 Creation Myths comics. Sure they’re not perfect, but they do enough to be their own thing and offer some interesting insights as a prequel series (which I believe the Netflix series will be based on). I don’t agree with everything that is brought up, particularly in volume 3, but they’re nowhere near the disaster of this sequel. There’s also one other prequel comic series titled Song/Shadow of the Dark Crystal, but I haven’t read them… yet. I’ve heard the Netflix series is supposed to be based on those (mainly because the writer of those comics is involved with the writing of the prequel Netflix series). There’s also a manga series (believe it or not) that I also haven’t read titled Legends of the Dark Crystal, a 2 volume manga series (which is miraculous considering how long most manga series go). #NotMySequel #FuckTheSequel
Yep, all 5 films into one review. Why? Because the films try to be grand and epic, and lengthy.
NOTE: Fair warning, I was high while writing this portion of the review. It might come off as a bit sporadic and stuff. Probably helps replicate the feel of the franchise.
So, looks like I’ll be able to make time to see the first 4 Michael Bay Transformers film before the fifth (and supposedly final) one. There were a couple things I wanted to keep in mind while revisiting these films. The gradual decline of Sam and Prime’s character. How they both slowly became worse over the course of the film series, and into the 5th film.
The thing that spoke to me the most regarding the characters in this film is innocence. Sam Whitfucky is going out into the world with dreams. Granted, they’re just dreams of getting laid, but it’s still a dream damnit! Sometimes a wet one. And his innocence on how he approaches the robots. In the same regard, the innocence on how Optimus Prime approaches humanity and the planet itself.
“Excuse me, are you the Tooth Fairy?” “Do I look like the fucking Tooth Fairy?!” “aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!” “AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
“In the beginning, there was the cube.”
And that intro. So simple. Not so simple that it’s two dimensional, a cube is at least a 3D object. But a simple statement for a simple shape. In the beginning there was the cube. After that there was the sphere. Actually that’s not too far off, considering the brass balls that show up in the sequel.
Sometimes it doesn’t take excelling shots, or insane stunts, to make a car scene memorable and riveting. All you need is some really badass hard rock tunes (such as Pretty, Handsome, Awkward by The Used) to be playing at the right time for the right length. It’s like pouring sweet chili sauce on something. It doesn’t matter how decent or bland it was prior to getting hit with the sauce, all that matters is that now it tastes fucking awesome!
And staying on the topic of music, that theme music that plays when they Autobots first arrive on Earth. Such a great tune. Also worth noting the image of the sequence of them arriving via asteroid. Something that will be a resemblance of that scene, but under a different context.
Every time Sam yells “Optimus!” and Optimus says, “Sam”, I keep fucking thinking Lord of the Rings. That film would be more interesting if Frodo was a fucking Transformer.
One thing that people complained about with this movie was how difficult it was to figure out what was going on during the action scenes, how confusing they were on a visual level. I have that opinion about the first fight Between BumbleBee and that cop car transformer. That fight sucked, shot too close and poorly. But as for the other fights, I kept up with them pretty well.
Honestly though, the best part of the movie is when those soldiers in the desert try to make it back to civilization and get attacked by that Scorpion, and the ensuing shootout that follows. That was a great intense sequence, the desperation of getting U.S. support in time before it’s too late. Plus the explosions, of course.
There are two parts I found annoying in this film. The first is when Sam is searching the house for the AllSpark (cube), and the Autobots trying to move “stealthily”. That scene dragged on way too long. That scene, and BumbleBee “lubricating” on Jon Tuturo.
But that scene where the FBI busts in on those black guys who play DDR and chases one of them through the door and into the pool, that’s one of the fucking funniest things I’ve ever seen.
It’s nice to see a movie where the military actually gets to do something and not just stand aside and do nothing because all their weaponry is ineffective. Like a Godzilla movie. It’s nice to see them able to make a difference in the big fights. That whole final battle sequence (all 30 minutes of it) is great and thrilling. Bay knows how to shoot a finale.
Otherwise, I still find this film quite enjoyable. Worth noting that Optimus has the highest hopes for humanity here, and his positive message he sends out to space for more Autobots to arrive. Unfortunately, that would eventually come with Decepticons, among other things, as we’ll see in the sequels.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Well well well. This movie. The one that everyone probably hates the most out of the entire franchise. Everything they hate about Bay is in this film (well, almost everything). Enticing upshort shots of Megan Fox. Non-enticing close-up shots of Barton Fink’s-ass (some Jew in Hollywood is yelling, “You assholes will take it and like it!”). A midget border guard in Egypt. Brass balls. Robot heaven. A motherfucking cock gun. I shit you not on that last bit. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:
It’s the greatest thing I’ve seen since the literal cock-pit in Zone of the Enders. You think I’m kidding about that being a real thing too? Think again!
Oh, and of course, there’s what everyone calls the racist droids, Skidds and Mudflap.
There’s a whole bunch of other things in this movie that irritate the fuck out of people, which is why I’m not going to bring up the Social Justice Bastard for this review. But to be honest, not much of it irritated me all that much. Don’t get me wrong, I understand perfectly why people don’t like all that stuff. I get it. I just don’t find it that offensive to me personally, so let me have this while all the rest of you assholes have your politically correct anti-straight-white-horny-male-people movies and shows. I don’t want to be forced to keep revisiting the 70s and 80s, and sometimes the 90s, to get my fix for those guilty pleasures.
This still has what I wanted in a Michael Bay action film where he gives no shits about doing anything other than providing explosions and dumbfuck humor for low common denominator imbeciles like me. Though in all fairness, I didn’t find the humor quite as funny as in the first film. At the same time, the most annoying aspects of this film didn’t irritate me quite as much as what I thought were the most irritating aspects from the first film. I’ll take Skidds and Mudflap, and that humping mini-droid over the prolonged room search and lubrication bits. It did get close at times though.
It also has the biggest unbelievable bullshit moment out of the entire franchise (so far). I mean, I’m pretty sure the entire franchise is full of unbelievable bullshit moments, so many that everyone’s top 5 list is probably different from most others, but I’m drawing the line when it comes to transformers being able to transform into sexy hot college babes. No, just, no. Fuck that. Save that for when Michael Bay decides to do a Terminator film (believe me, at this point, that would probably be the best thing that’s happened to the franchise since Terminator 2, he can’t possibly fuck it up more than it’s already been upfucked).
And yes, I find that to be more bullshitty than the idea that the government was somehow successful in covering up the existence of the Transformers after that big finale battle in Los Angeles in the previous film. Who the fuck that that would pass the believability test?
As for where the film shines, where do you think? The action of course! So many fucking explosions go off during the finale, I’m surprised the Earth wasn’t set off its axis (more on that later when we get to the sequel). And the action scenes are overall improved from the first film, especially when Optimus Prime kicks ass in that 1-vs-3 fight in the Forest. The only sequence that tops that is the bonkers over-the-top finale. Because explosions. I’m a man of simple tastes, I just want to see action scenes and explosions and shooting and fighting, and have all of it filmed and paced well. And this film delivers on that for me. And because it delivers on that a tad bit more than the first film, I’m a bit torn on whether I enjoy this one more or less than the first.
Anyway, all that aside, let’s get a bit more serious and analytical, for a franchise that doesn’t deserve it. The sequence where more transformer asteroids are falling to Earth, filmed exactly the same as that moment from the first film with the autobots coming to Earth, with that great heroic music to go along with it. Only this time, it’s decepticons falling to Earth, and the mood is entirely different. It becomes difficult now to look to the stars in hope and optimism, it is now with fear and pessimism.
And Sam. Not quite so innocent anymore. He has a desire to be independent, but at the expense of leaving his entire past behind, including the autobots and Bumblebee. Sort of comes off as a bit of an asshole because of that. Plus there’s a little unintended lesson I’d like to go with in this film. That Sam attends a liberal college and gets brainwashed into becoming more of a pansy whiny asshole than before, in the sequel.
And Optimus Prime. Less merciful and pure this time around. In the previous film, he was saddened by the death of Megatron, how he used to view him as a brother. In this film, it becomes more, “Fuck them up and kill them all! No mercy for the bad guys!” It doesn’t get quite as extreme as in the next film, but you can see him evolving in that direction.
And the plot. So it’s going with the whole, “They’ve been here before, in the BC era, giving us the idea to build pyramids” plot. And one pyramid holds a weapon to destroy the sun so they can use the energy to power up more robots or build a new world or something like that. Meh, whatever, it’s really not much different from your average Marvel/DC superhero plot, whether comic or film. I find a lot of people who are harsh on this film yet favorable towards those to be big fucking hypocrites for that reason. It’s all far-fetched and unbelievable, just roll with it.
And that Rail Gun. Hah! They just put that into the film just for the fuck of it. Pretty much a personified moment that defines the existence of the franchise. “Ah fuck it, it’s awesome, let’s put it on screen!”
The only other thing more hilarious than that it Megan Fox’s speech to Sam about how much she loves him and is willing to travel so far and do so much for him, and no other girl in the world would do that. It’s a touching moment and all, but in hindsight, it becomes one of the fucking funniest moments in the entire franchise when you find out that her and Sam breakup and Sam gets a new girlfriend in the next film. And that film indicates that she was mean and acted like a bitch when she broke up with him. Hahahahah! It’s pure gold! How can you not laugh at it?
Anyway, yeah, I enjoyed this film when I first saw it, and I enjoy it now, and I make no apologies for it. This is one of those films that wasn’t ever made to be taken seriously, so I don’t even bother. Would be missing out on too much of the fun if I did.
PS: Oh, and kudos for this film tying up loose ends from the first film. That scorpion decepticon from the previous film makes an appearance here and is dealt with.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Wow. I forgot how dark this film got. I mean, goddamn, even before Robo-Spock turns traitor on the Autobots, there’s this whole atmosphere of assassinations and killing off people once they served their purpose. That fucking vulture Transformer, man.
However, none of that dark and menacing stuff reaches anywhere close to the level of that fucked up CG JFK. Holy mother of God, have you seen that creepy looking fuck? It’s like the fucking Twilight baby all over again.
But none of that is as fucked up as the reasons they bring up alluding to why Sam isn’t with Megan Fox any longer, saying that his old girlfriend was mean. I mean to be fair, she did show the potential to be a mean woman, considering her sawing that one robot to pieces in the first film, and burning the eye off of another decepticon in the 2nd film. But on the other hand, they all had it coming. I think it’s Sam and his mini-dick robots who were the assholes. Especially considering how much shit his new sexy-hot British girlfriend puts up with on his account. I mean, Jesus Christ, 80% of his dialogue is nothing but bitching and complaining about his currents state of affairs. About not having a job (I blame the college he went to, especially considering the professor he had), about not feeling like he matters, that he’s too dependent, that he’s just his girlfriend’s boy toy, blah blah blah. Fuck you! Just about every guy I know including me would kill to be in your position with a decent home/apartment, a hot girlfriend who is better than you deserve in every way (including being a more skilled actress than Megan Fox), great people to know in the right places from government to military people who can hook you up. Join the army you fucking cissy egotistical twat!
So, yeah, Sam’s character traits went significantly downhill since the last film. And Optimus shares a similar outcome, but for different and more understandable/natural reasons. So he was less peace-loving in the previous film compared to the first, but only a tad bit so. By the end of this film, he becomes more cold-hearted and less merciful, and all around more brutal in his speeches and attitude. But it makes sense. First he finds out the humans had been keeping a secret about their knowledge of the transformers on the moon, so his trust in humanity falters even more than it did in the previous film (hardly noticeable in that one). And then he is betrayed by one of his own in this one, one who he looked up to and revered more than any. It’s no wonder he turned out the way he did by the end of this film, and it’s only going to get darker from here.
And the themes this film has. Whew, I’m probably giving the film a little too much credit here, but I don’t care. There’s themes of terrorism, both external and internal, refugees, and what one is willing to sacrifice just for their own personal gain/beliefs. Seriously. The main plot involves these teleportation sticks which can bring transformers from their homeworld (or the Moon) to Earth in an instant. Prime and his mentor mention that this can be used for good to bring in refugees from their world. But a (rightly) skeptical defense official claims that it could also be used to bring in a weapon that could do harm. The weapon in this case ended up being more decepticons, terrorists if you will. You see how fucking eerie and relevant this gets?
And speaking of relevant, fun fact, the human antagonist (no, not Sam) holds up in Trump Tower for a portion of the film. Heheh. Someone should compile a list of films that reference Trump or one of his towers/golf courses.
Anyway, the action is great as usual. That sliding down the falling tower sequence is awesome and intense as hell. And the music is amazingly epic again. If nothing else, even if you hate everything else about this movie, you can’t deny that this is some amazing music to your ears:
And the villains are more intimidating than ever. I mean, just seeing them vaporize random humans in the streets, mercilessly. The film does a great job at creating a grim and semi-hopeless atmosphere during the second half. This is a feeling further maintained by the fact that the autobots and military were using stealth tactics most of the time rather than engaging the enemy headfirst, because they knew they were going to get slaughtered if they tried that approach. All the other films pretty much went with the frontal attack.
And the violence is amplified. Not just with humans getting turned to dust, I’m also talking about how some transformers start bleeding red oil as opposed to green or blue.
Sam, he tries to be a badass in this film, but he fails. Sure he manages to whack the human antagonist into an electro-teleporter-thing and kill him that way, but that’s after getting his ass handed to him several times prior to that, even when he had the drop on him. This film didn’t convince me Shia can play a badass, Indiana Jones didn’t convince me he could be a badass, and Lawless didn’t convince me either. He’s born to play a pussy. Then again, I don’t think he’s ever tried the villain role. Maybe him and Frodo Baggins should hook up.
So aside from Deep Wang and a few other minor bits, this film is as dead-serious as the Transformer flicks are probably ever going to get. It was clearly modeled to be the end of the trilogy, and Bay clearly wanted his part in the franchise to be done with here. It becomes even more evident when Sam gets ready to be married to his girlfriend, and this was clearly written to be for Megan Fox’s character as the final arc in their relationship. But it’s all not meant to be.
The franchise was too successful up to this point. It made too much money. Hollywood got greedy. So they more or less demanded Bay to make another one, offering him a shitload of money if he did so. Well, he didn’t refuse the offer, so this isn’t the final Transformer film Bay would make. Would he be able to make one as good as this? That’s a rhetorical question, I only give a shit about how much I would enjoy the sequel (or not). I’ll let you know what I think when I do a review of the next one. Which I’ll do after reading (and possibly liking) other people’s reviews.
I do find it a bit funny though with the ending. Bay being so determined to end it, the epilogue is like only 10 seconds in length then the film just ends. It’s like, “Ok, there’s that grand epic action you wanted to see, you got it, you’re happy, so boom, movie over!” It’s like the anti-Lord of the Rings ending.
PS: Oh, and it has this line of dialogue in it: “Don’t call me a ma’m, I’m not a ma’m.”
“You’re a woman aren’t you?”
Kind of interesting how this film somehow seems ahead of its time with its themes and small dialogue bits like this. Feminism! It’s a bitch.
PPS: Oh right, one other thing. Another thing I’ve liked about the franchise up to this point is that the military is actually able to do something and hold their own in a couple of these fights. They progressively got better with each film, and here is shows their training pay off with how they’re able to use stealth and accuracy with deadly/crippling force against some of these decepticons. It truly makes it seem like them and the autobots work perfectly together as a team, encompassing the vision Optimus Prime had for humanity and transformers working together for a better society, for a future that won’t share the same fate as the one that happened on Prime’s homeworld. They all work together to take out one of the big baddies near the end of the film in a great sequence further enhanced by that music score I brought up earlier.
Transformers: Age of Extinction
So how well does this hold up after these few years? Here’s how well I think it holds up: I still think it’s the best of the Transformers films up to this point.
So thematically there’s a bit of a difference going on here in opposition to the previous entry. That film dealt with themes of refugees and terrorism. Here, the good guys become the refugees/terrorists. It’s hunting season against all autobots who are given the “illegal alien” label. Just seems a bit weird to me, especially considering all they did for the humans in the past. Even for me this plot seemed pretty fucking out there, and I’m usually pretty goddamn tolerant about that sort of thing for films like this. I mean, come on, the U.S. government turning against the autobots? I would’ve liked to have seen how their military friends would’ve reacted to that.
But to be honest, I actually started to buy into it by the halfway point when underlying reasons start to come into play. If there’s anything the government has been shown to do time after time, it’s to desire power and wealth. And it turns out there’s a way for them to get both by turning the autobots into scrap metal. Hunt them down, kill them, take their parts to a science lab where they are broken down into their purest form, which causes science to have a breakthrough. Control of matter and particles, able to get it to take any shape/form the controller desires, from music players, to cars, to weapons, to their own home-made and controlled Transformers. They would no longer need to rely on the Autobots when they can make their own robots that have to obey their orders, which have no independence. That’s a good enough reason for me to buy that the government (along with corporate allies who probably bought off many key politicians) would do anything, make up any story, do any dirty trick in the book to get this sort of outcome.
Very dark, very grim, to have the world you’ve fought and bled and sacrificed for to turn against you. It’s no wonder Optimus Prime comes out so paranoid and angry and bitter and pessimistic early on in this film. Who could blame him? He has now seen the worst in not only his own kind, but in humans as well. It almost seems inevitable that his character would eventually turn out this way, from that of a noble good-hearted individual with high hopes for the future, to one who has lost nearly all hope, sees no positive outcome amidst all this, and doesn’t have much love/mercy left to go around.
Plus the isolation is more clearly felt in this environment, as this is the first Transformers film where the Autobots are not backed up by the military. They are on their own. Makes it feel like something is missing, which there is, and it seems to be intentional to create this feel.
There’s also themes of the dangers of the advancement of science. What immoral sacrifices many are willing to make for it. How it causes those in charge to turn their backs on those who helped protect and build them up much like they did to blue-collar workers like that of which Marky-Mark portrays.
Ah yes, Mark Wahlberg. A welcome change of character to Shia’s Sam. And he named his daughter Tessa, which sounds like Tesla. Heheh.
Unlike Shia’s Sam, Mark’s character can actually kick ass. He gets a badass sword-gun which can do some serious damage to transformers, and he holds his own in a fight against an assassin.
In fact, the fight scenes and action choreography have never been better than in this film. For instance, the sequence where Whalberg is running from the assassin along the side of a Chinese apartment complex. That scene is intense as hell, and a pretty sweet fight within the apartment too. Sure they probably used some really good Chinese stuntmen to pull it off, but that’s what makes it so good. The second half of the film pretty much takes place in China.
Yeah, I should mention something about China for a moment with regards to the film industry. You see, China has a strict policy of only allowing so many foreign/American films into their theater chains per year. The way to bypass that limit is to have a Chinese production company get involved and have some Chinese actors and have some filming take place in China. Most recent examples include Hardcore Henry and The Great Wall.
So there’s that, and all those advertisement for Victoria’s Secret and Bud Light and stuff. But you know what? Bay made that shit work. He knew exactly what he was making here, a film for the paycheck. So he figured why not have some fun and indulge himself. Because why not? This isn’t a franchise you’re supposed to take seriously. So he makes use of at least one of these advertisements to the point that it just gets hilarious, and I have no doubt whatsoever that was Bay’s intention. For instance, the robots crash through a Bud Light truck in slow-motion. you know, so you can tell it’s Bud Light. Then it’s followed by the camera hovering over all those beer cans in the street, like it’s the aftermath of a battle and all these fallen beer cans are fallen soldiers we should be mourning for and remember, encouraging us to honor them by buying a Bud Light beer. And to top it all off, Marky Mark gets in a brief argument with a pissed driver, and he breaks open one of those cans off the street and chugs one down. If that’s not the most brilliant over-the-top intentionally hilarious use of an in-movie advertisement in the history of film since Jeane Claude Van Damme’s Double Team, I don’t know what is.
It’s almost as hilarious as the fact that Ken Watanabe is in this playing a Transformer. And how he’s portrayed is exactly what you would expect in a Bay film. Asian stereotype to the core, with an “Oh sensei” dialogue and a Japanese samurai outfit with samurai swords. It’s every bit as hilarious and awesome as you would expect. I mean come on, as offended by this stereotype some of you may get, you have to admit it’s kinda awesome seeing a transformer running around slicing and dicing other transformers with samurai swords. Who the fuck wouldn’t want to see that?
John Goodman also plays a great and memorable gun-totin’ transformer who has some of the best dialogue in this film.
But Kelsey Grammar completely steals the film from everybody with his deadpan performance. Serious as fuck, never cracking a smile, his voice so intimidating Chuck Norris’ heart skips a beat every time he hears him speak. A huge turn from his lighthearted television sitcom roles. He is amazing in this film. It’s the human villain the 3rd film wished it had. He will make you believe you should take a film about giant robots riding giant robo dinosaurs that breath fire (while tapping their asses with swords) seriously.
Not to mention the detail shown on the alien ship once everyone gets on board it. It’s like we’re visiting what could’ve been the set of an Alien sequel/prequel on board the Disc Jockey spaceship. Quite a nice change of scenery that I wish lasted longer than it did.
The main robot villain is pretty good too, opening up lore potential about the creators of the Transformers, what their will is, his personal vendetta against the Primes and what their history is and what they stand for, etc. But he ain’t got nothing on the presence of Kelsey Grammer.
“What’s the other version of this conversation? You send in a hired help to murder my little girl? Or do you man up to do it yourself?”
“What’s your preference?”
Damn he’s great!
Speaking of which, this is the first Transformer film to end on a cliffhanger. It ends with Optimus Prime going into space, travelling the stars, ready to confront the Creators. Has me just a tad bit curious, but also has me wondering when they’re going to finally end this franchise.
Anyway, yeah, I still love this film. I loved the plot, the pacing, the action, Marky Mark, the autobots, the villains (who are as brutal as ever). This franchise was made for me.
PS: The length of the film is bigger than the previous entries. But you know what they say, everything is bigger in Texas.
PPS: Michael Bay still has the urge to have a gangster mini-bot in his films.
PPPS: This franchise seems to have a link to that film Barton Fink. Seriously, first there’s Turturo in the first 3, now we have John Goodman playing a trigger-happy nutcase. Hope there’s hellfire along some hallways in the next film.
Transformers: The Last Knight
So there’s no point in hiding it considering that you can probably tell how much I enjoyed this compared to the previous entries, all of which I’ve rated higher than this film, including Revenge of the Fallen (fuck you guys, I like that movie). I didn’t want to believe the negative reviews were true, mainly because all them turned out to be full of shit when it came to all the previous entries. But in this case, there’s actually some merit to them.
So where did it all go wrong?
Well first off, Michael Bay didn’t want to do this film. He had had enough with the franchise ever since the 3rd one. The 4th one he just decided to let himself go and have as much fun as possible with the entire mess, and it clearly showed. This 5th one however, you can tell he’s sick of doing this. But he had to sign on to do it in order to get the funds to finish his previous film 13 Hours: Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. There isn’t enough of the Bayhem madness in this film that all the others possessed. This has Hollywood handling written all over it. It’s clear that Bay’s passion was fading.
But it’s not all bad. Bay still had some tricks up his sleeve to make some moments entertaining. The best moment comes early on during the opening sequence. That fucking medieval battle, with those unbelievably awesome spiked flaming cannonballs. That’s some of the awesomist (that’s a word because I say so!) medieval battle sequences I’ve seen on film for brief moments of time. You know why? Because Bay was doing something different, with a different time period and a different scenery in a somewhat different setting (outside of a city for starters). It’s moments like this that made me think, “I really wish he’s the one who directed that recent King Arthur film instead of Guy Ritchie.” Hell, I would’ve been more interested in this film if Guy Ritchie directed this, at least it would’ve been a different style and a different sort of talent behind the camera, which is what Bay wanted to happen ever since the 3rd film. But nooooooooo, Hollywood just wants to keep milking it until it shrivels and dies a terrible torturous death. In other words, they’ve stopped Bay from jacking off when he feels like it and have now hooked him up to one of those fucked up jack-off machines from A Boy and His Dog.
Other decent moments include the first big Transformers fight in the middle of that practically abandoned town in the middle of nowhere, and when Optimus is fighting Bumblebee and makes a rousing speech about saving the world afterwords (the music and atmosphere helped with that moment, still good even if we’ve seen it several times before).
Everything else though…
Alright, so, my biggest annoyances. Part of this Hollywood manhandling can clearly be scene in one of the trailers. Specifically this one:
That trailer makes the film out to be like some fucking feminist PSA. Coming from the director who had so many close-up shots of women from every perverted angle and had a robot dry-humping Megan Fox’s leg? Yeah, someone twisted Bay’s arm and restrained him a bit for this film. Not once is there a shot like that in this film. The whole thing seems artificially twisted to be respectful to women. It comes off like some fat chick saying she’s going to eat nothing but Subway sandwiches when you know she has a stockpile of unseen cupcakes locked away in her fridge. Or when Sam Kinison said, “Don’t do drugs.” I’m not buying it. If I wanted to see some film that’s respectful/empowering towards women, I’d watch a film by Ridley Scott, James Cameron, or Patty Jenkins, or something like that. There’s a time and place for watching films where we’re supposed to be more mature, and Bay films are never that (except 13 Hours, because let’s face it that’s some serious shit).
And for the record, most of that “female empowerment” speech given in that trailer isn’t in the fucking film. And that girl is definitely not the main protagonist. She’s in roughly 30% of the film, maybe less. Basically the equivalent to Jon Turturo’s character in the 2nd film, minus dropping the pants for a partial-ass shot (that would be too weird and perverted on a number of levels, considering her age and all). There’s another British chick who gets more screen time than her, and is much more relevant to the plot, and seems more needed in this film than this girl does. So yeah, she got on my nerves. We’ve seen characters like her in several movies in the past, and it usually never works unless she’s the main character, even then it’s questionable. There’s also a small pro-illegal alien message in there too, and pro-diversity with the diverse cast of kids who show up in the illegal zone.
The other annoying character in this film was Anthony Hopkins. I hate to say it, but his attempts at humor were grating on the nerves. In fact, the humor in general hits far less often than in the previous films. Not just in a laughs per-hour ratio, no, I’m talking about the entire film. The humor fall flat more often than in any other Transformer film.
I mean, come on, Anthony Hopkins in a Michael Bay movie? This should have been so ludicrous and ridiculous that it worked. But it doesn’t. It would’ve been better if he played a human villain like Kelsey Grammar in the previous film, only channeling his inner Hannibal Lector. Why the fuck couldn’t we get that!?
Back to the feminism topic for a moment. So I will admit, I did wonder why there weren’t any female Transformers (excluding the one in the 2nd film, because that was bullshit). Well, this film finally gives us one, and she’s the villain. Why couldn’t it be a chick Transformer who kicks ass and makes jokes like all the other Autobots? Rather than have that, she’s not only a villain, but can do robo-witchcraft. Doesn’t make her all that interesting. Also a bit annoying how they make her face (and a couple other transformer faces) too human-like. But what is most disappointing about her is how she goes out. A sword swipe here, a gun blast there, and then she’s gone. That’s it. Jesus Christ, all the other final bad guys went out with better gusto than that. Why couldn’t we get some female autobot/decepticon that is thin, somehow looks like it’s wearing scantily clad clothing that’s built into it, has a semi-big rack and a smooth sexy ass, that also shoots bullets or lazers out of her tits and shits out little baby transformers that come armed with shotguns?
But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that not only did she not die, but she wanders the desert in human form dropping a cliffhanger bombshell.
FUCK YOU! MOTHERFUCK THIS FUCKING COCKSUCKING-!
SHOVE A GERBIL UP YOUR ASS AND-!
*sigh* Oh spoilers by the way. Fuck you if you care about that for this movie. So not only does this film have the balls to end on a “To be continued” line setting up for a sequel like some fucking DC/Marvel film (fuck them for doing that too), but she transforms into a human just like that one robochick from the 2nd and FUCK FUCKING FU-!
5 films and this franchise finally ran out of steam. I was perfectly happy with the first 4, and this one comes around. Oh, and make no mistake, the problems with this film don’t just lie with the artificial feminist injection, or the humor, or the cliffhanger, or the cocksucking human replicant thing (I only want to see that in the Blade Runner sequel, thank you very fucking much). It took me a while to figure out why I wasn’t into the action as much as I was with the previous films.
Then it hit me.
Aside from the opening segment, and that first battle in the deserted town, the stuntwork and practical effects were severely lacking compared to previous entries. In all those other entries, in spite of the heavy amount of CG and green screen, they had some impressive stunts and explosions going on that were raw and real. This film sacrifices just about all of that during the latter half of the film for pure green screen and pure CG, limiting if not entirely removing the need for a stunt team to pull these tricks off. There is no replacing stunt doubles, or stuntmen, or stuntwomen (especially those who stunt for Melissa McCarthy’s fat ass). Films lose something when you lose those. And this film lost a lot of that raw spirit. It didn’t seem like as much blood sweat and tears went into doing this film compared to the previous entries. That is ultimately why this movie fails, and ultimately why I can’t bring myself to give it 3 stars or more.
Oh, before I end this review, I should mention Optimus’ character evolution. So he gets more negative over the course of the previous films, having a more grim view of humanity and his own kind. Here the film kind of disables that trend. Sure he wants to kill his creators and all, but he gets brainwashed/hypnotized, and becomes “evil”. This evil version of Optimus does not last anywhere near long enough to make an impact. It only lasts for like 10 minutes, then he’s back to being normal. Not only is he back to being normal, but he somehow becomes more positive and hopeful about Earth and sends out his invitation to more robots in space to come down and live in peace (similar to the first couple films). All this amidst the fact that most of the entire world (except Cuba, because pro-Communism and Socialism and stuff) has turned against any and every Transformer, whether Autobot, Decepticon, or Transboticon. Just seems stupid and too positive considering all that’s been going on and all.
Anyway, all in all, there’s still enough here to be entertaining, but it’s a downgrade compared to the previous films. Had a hard time getting into this film until past the halfway point. And on top of that, for the first time, I’m worried about the near-future of film. Not just for this franchise that should’ve been put to rest, but for most of the films that are going to be coming out of Hollywood for the next couple years or more. In the past when Hollywood interfered, it was with tropes and conforming to traditional safety measures of what makes film entertaining and less artsy, attempting to entertain people in the easiest way possible while taking the fewest risks. Now they’re interfering to push a political agenda. If someone’s going to push an agenda like that, let it be the director or screenwriter, not an entire fucking industry.
But on the other hand, that will give me the best excuse in the world to stop watching the shit coming out today and looking to films of the past for my entertainment pleasure.
PS: Oh yeah, John Turturo is in this (briefly), and John Goodman is in this (as an autobot). This film loses another point for not having them talk to each other and having John Goodman who fucking berserk setting everything on fire and running into the battle with all guns blazing and all grenades blowing while screaming, “I’LL SHOW YOU THE LIFE OF A MIND!”
PPS: I was laughing a bit at the French stereotype transformers, and also wondered why the film didn’t have British robot stereotypes. And the film takes the time to call itself out on its racism. Don’t do that, the audience can do that just fine by itself.
Some of you may be wondering what my favorite movie of all time is, or if I even have a favorite film. Well I do have a favorite film, and this is it. It beats all the other films I have seen so far in my life, by a mile. Most, if not all, fantasy films wish they had the amount of originality, creativity, philosophical depth, work, effort, and passion put into this film. I have yet to see one that even comes close to this (that includes The Lord of the Rings films).
That glorious opening music. The artwork and practical effects. The epic feel of it all. I find it difficult to comprehend how film-goers can’t hold some kind of admiration for this film, much less enjoyment. The creativity shown on display here is second to none in the history of film-making. This may be a Jim Henson movie, but this is no lighthearted Muppet movie.
What’s it made of?
It begins with some of the best fantasy music you’re ever going to hear in a film. There is not one sequence in this film that isn’t accompanied by a score that feels nothing short of amazing and epic, much less in place. There isn’t one moment that lacks music where one would wish it was playing. For the duration that Jen is exploring the forest, the silence adds to the paranoia of being watched, the fear of what he might find. When Jen and Kira are exploring the caverns beneath the crystal castle, the environment encapsulates the isolation and the dread of being surrounded by menacing darkness. There’s the notes played by the peaceful Mystics are calm and soothing; as is something about their chants, with some power behind it. The festive atmosphere of the pod people. And then just the music of the film itself. Encapsulating the feel of setting out on an epic journey when Jen sets out. The evoking of seeing something grand when we see the planetary movement mechanism in Aughra’s home. The dread further induced when the Gartham show up. The music couldn’t have been done any better.
And who is responsible for this blissful sound that graces our ears? None other than Trevor Jones, whose other major film highlight for containing some of the greatest scores ever put on film is The Last of the Mohicans, another film favorite of mine. In addition, he also composed the music for Labyrinth (of course), Runaway Train, Angel Heart, Excalibur, Dark City, and In the Name of the Father.
Regarding the practical effects, I have to start with the Gartham. Oh man, these are some of the scariest freaky looking creatures I’ve ever seen in my life. These things would make Charles Bronson shit his pants. Crustacean looking creatures that seem part lobster, part shrimp, part crab. One of the greatest creature designs in film history. Designed by Brian Froud, who spent five years working on the costume designs for this film. His only other major works in terms of art design were found in Labyrinth (of course), and Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (yet another one of my favorite films). And to think that Studio Ghibli almost got a hold of that one. If anyone was to do a remake or modern adaptation of The Dark Crystal, Studio Ghibli would be the best option. Hell, in Japan, The Dark Crystal scored big at the box office (the same can’t be said of America, who was all gooey eyed over E.T. at the time).
The set designs themselves are every bit as outstanding as everything previously mentioned. There aren’t just floors, clothing, and walls to walk beside and thrones to sit on. Oh no, there are small intricate details carved into the floors, into the walls, carved upon the sand, welded into metallic objects worn by several characters. Patterns emerge if one pays attention closely, the triangles and circle within the triangle, and circles within those triangles, and on and on, and how it all connects to the 3 planets for the great conjunction. The moon shaped staffs. The mechanical solar system model in Aughra’s home. The made up letters and language that are embedded in the floors of certain rooms within the structures. The film is deceptively deep with the amount of lore hidden below the surface of the film, something viewers can catch onto if they look close enough. It’s something on par with The Lord of the Rings, though the film isn’t in as grand of scale or length to show as much of this world as Lord of the Rings does with its world. There is much to ponder upon with the things you only glimpse within the film. It’s all in the details, something only a genius like Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Brian Froud (a dream team come true) could come up with.
And speaking of lore-building, there’s also a brief moment where Kira is sitting on the throne in the ruins, implying that Gelflings used to rule, may have once been a great society, that she feels a small calling to be a queen, like her ancestors were, just as how Jen felt a calling (some music) that led himself into the ruins. A forgotten world, a forgotten time, in the age of wonder.
Plus just about everything was built to scale. The only thing not built to scale in the film (some landscape paintings aside) is the actual crystal castle itself. That in of itself is a major feat.
And then there’s the cinematography itself, done by Oswald Morris, the last film he would ever work on as cinematographer. He worked on The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, The Man Who Would Be King, Fiddler on the Roof, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Lolita, and A Farewell to Arms. This film is arguably his greatest achievement as a cinematographer, so at least he ended his career on a high note. Aside from just about every shot in the movie, the scenes with the mystics journeying through the land stand out in a good way. The vast background paintings add to the fantastic feel of the film.
What are the themes?
There is an underlying theme of power and control that can be surprisingly relevant to today’s society. The Skekses use the power of the dark crystal to brainwash and mind control the masses, parasitically thriving upon them in their dumbed down state. There are the mystics who don’t use the crystal at all, but rely on nature for control, which gives them wisdom and understanding. Wisdom and knowledge of nature is a power in of itself, as demonstrated when they use those powers to make the fearsome Gartham powerless. The Gartham, which represent the power of the dark crystal. They rely completely on it, and are literally nothing without it. Something born from such a power used for evilness, as strong as it may be (something capable of wiping out species mind you) becomes nothing in the face of those who use the power of nature. So there is a subtle environmentalism theme going on, which is difficult to catch onto because what is normally obvious to the viewer in terms of being a metaphor for technology seems like something that may exist naturally in this world. It’s all part of the mystery of the world.
However, it is shown that relying only on nature, or only on technology, is not the best thing to do. As strong as each power can make each race that only relies on one end of the power spectrum, those races have been slowly dying for the past thousand years (the thousand years being a semblance of Indian religion). Regardless of the good intentions of those who don’t rely on dark technology, it is not enough. By the end of the movie, it is clear that these sides must come together, as they once were. Harmony can be achieved by technology and nature, a good path and come from such a union. There is a way for technology to be used for good if used for the right reasons in the right hands. Should there be discord and disagreement, there with be a violent separation between beings (the population), which will be bad for everyone. An imperial use for technology is not the same, nor as good, as opposed to a humble use.
Duality is something that must also be considered. As stated earlier, the Skekses and Mystics eventually meld together, each individual mystic melding into their Skekse counterpart, to restore their long ago state of godlike beings. Two made one. The evilness, then, of the Skekses and their use of power is not entirely evil in of itself. Evilness is an illusion. Their use of power is one side of the same coin, the other side being the mystics use of power. When two are made one, it is implied that they are capable of having great power and responsibility to use power in each way. Their wisdom shall let them know what the best way to use such power is under specific circumstances. In addition, both races initially had different approaches to death. During the first act, when the Skekse emperor is dying, he remains fearful of death, struggling to stay alive ’till his last breath, having violent spasms in an attempt to reject death’s embrace for as long as possible. But then there are the mystics, who accept that death is the natural order of things, and embrace it, and go through it peacefully. The joining together of the two sends a message that a fusion of the two approaches to death must be considered. Death is a fearful thing, and steps probably should be taken to avoid it. But if it is meant to be, then accept it.
One could consider the other interpretation, an alternative to Dualism. That the Skekses are evil, representing selfishness, genocidal natures, enslavement of the masses, a physical form that indulges in the wants of the body (encapsulated by the dinner scene with the Skekses). The Mystics, on the other hand, are more spiritual by nature, displaying elements of Christianity and Buddhism with their pilgrimage to bring peace back to the world and their habit of creating sand mandalas. Their state of enlightenment contrasts with that of the Skeksies, who also have traits of ignorance, which leads to fear of a race they deem threatening, which leads them to carry out genocide. Sound familiar? Once the mystics arrive, the “spirit” fuses with the “body”, giving form to heaven-like beings who are somewhat transparent and give off a white glow, and eventually ascend to the heavens. A somewhat Christ metaphor, indicating that the spirit must overcome the wills and desires of the body in order for a needed ascension to occur for the greater good.
A key factor in considering both views is the consequences of death between those two species. The Skekses are evil, so they should be killed off, right? Well the film quickly hushes any cheers that would go on when a villain dies, as when a Skekse gets his, so does a Mystic, who disappears in a brief fiery blaze them moment the skeskie counterpart is killed off. When a Garthim is killed, so is a Landstrider. The film never allows for a chance for viewers to cheer at the death of anyone, or anything. Killing is bad, killing is not the answer. The desire to see enemies killed off as encouraged in most films, both for kids and adults, is vanquished in that instant. To have a satisfying resolution, bloodshed isn’t the answer. Peaceful resolution is. The fusion between the two species is a metaphor for resolving large world-shattering problems with peaceful negotiation, with compromise. This further supports dualism theme, an Eastern religious viewpoint.
So if dualism is to be accepted, then that implies that there is a flaw to both sides. It’s obvious what the flaws of the Skekses are, but what about the mystics? Well, they move slow, live largely in an environment absent of greenery (though granted they leave near greenery), and seem unable to accomplish that much. In fact, they even seem like old exhausted creatures, going along with their snail’s pace. Their slow, spiritual, and meditative lives aren’t enough to make changes in the world, even though they are changes that they know must be done. They rely upon those more physically capable than they are for the task to be done.
Another interesting thing about the Mystics vs. the Skeksies. The Mystics all look and act the same, while the Skeksies try to look as different from each other as possible in their voice, mannerisms, clothing, personality, etc. It’s a clash of individualism vs. collectivism, the desire to be together and act as one vs. the desire to be independent. Now, you could easily say that collectivism is portrayed as being the superior morally good choice, but don’t forget that the whole point of dualism is that two sides must be one in order to be complete and fulfilled, and much closer to perfection. In other words, there are pros and cons to both individualism and collectivism, that neither are perfect in of themselves. Yet another layer this movie has to it.
It is also worth noting that the protagonist of the film, Jen, a youthful individual is the one who heals the crystal, allowing the union of the two races to be possible. In essence, this drives forward the idea that it is the young generation, with knowledge granted from their elders, and experiences with their friends, to fix the world, to repair the mistakes made by those in power many years ago, mistakes still be carried out by those in power in his time. There is more going on here beneath the surface of the usual “lone young hero must venture forth and save the world” plot.
The whole duality theme can also be a metaphor for love. The skekses, the mystics, love thy enemy, because they are a part of each other. Similar to how Jen and Kira, while they more or less lived alone without any other gelflings, find that they don’t want to be apart once they learn of each other’s existence. It’s as if they found a piece of themselves that had been missing this entire time.
There’s a perfect moment that encapsulates this division and bringing together all in one perfect shot:
Jen to the left side, Kira on the right, the dark crystal between them both, with the Skeksies below. The crystal acts as a barrier, keeping them apart, much like the the crystal’s current state is what keeps the world broken and in disarray, the mystics being separate from the skeksies. The desire to fill this void, to fix what is broken, the desire to be whole again, is what drives everything to this point, Jen and Kira, the skeksies and the mystics.
And amidst all this there’s the Garthim to consider, empty shells of existence that only exist because of emptiness. How can they live in such a state? By being fueled by an unnatural power. The power that gives them form and a lifeforce, the dark power of the crystal, a metaphor. Being broken creates monsters. Separation, the loss of love, creates destruction and hate. Jen felt this after Kira’s village was destroyed, so he tosses the shard of the crystal in anger. And again at Augra’s home, when the Garthim show up, it’s no coincidence that they destroy the Anvil of Eternity, that machine that shows the movement of the planets in their system. It’s also no coincidence that we see Augra toss a planetary object at them. This emptiness and separation causes nothing but destruction, a universal truth.
Even when Jen restores the crystal, things are destroyed when changes happen. The Garthim are shown to be nothing but shells of emptiness. The castle appears to be falling apart. Kira lies dead. Despite all the change going on, whether it be for better or worse, whether it will mean his and everyone else’s death or not, Jen doesn’t care. All he cares about it that he lost Kira. He is broken, now that he realizes he can’t live without her, further emphasizing the dualism philosophy. Nothing matters if you are alone.
The best thing about all this? These are themes not dealt out heavy-handedly. They are done subtly, without any fancy speeches, and the film can be watched and enjoyed without consciously knowing that such themes are present.
So aside from the theme, production quality and all that, what do I actually think about the moments that are in the film? Well, I’ve already mentioned how badass the Gartham are. But a second runner-up for best creature in the movie would have to be the Landstriders. These giant four-legged creature are awesome, and can kick ass in a fight against the Garthem, but they can’t take on a large group that outnumbers them 4-to-1. And, man, hearing the sounds those Landstriders make when they’re being attacked by the Garthem, it kinda brings me to tears.
Fizgig is great. It’s awesome seeing that Kira has wings, and can communicate with animals which brings up some great moments where animals fight against the Skekses and Garthem. Jen is basically a typical cardboard fantasy character, regardless of his thematic implications. Kira has just a tad more character than him, but not much. The Skekses each felt more distinct and full of character than Jen and Kira. But honestly though, for a film like this, the characters fit in just fine as plain individuals living out an existence. Not every character in a film has to have some fantastic trait/personality to them. That only becomes necessary if it is a character-driven film. That is not what this is. The film’s strength and focus is in its world, its details, its philosophy, its lore.
The amount of original creature designs and number of plants and animals in the forest scene alone puts any 3 fantasy movies combined to shame.
If you find this film enjoyable enough that you want to get more out of it, seek out the unnofficial director’s cut, as well as the book The World of the Dark Crystal, written by the costume/creature designer himself, Brian Froud. That book will take you knee-deep into the lore that the film only touches upon, and let you know just how much work and effort Henson put into the creation of this world. You will be amazed at how much depth they went into writing out the details of this world, much of left was left outside of the film or only vaguely/fleetingly implied within it.
You will never find me giving a film a higher recommendation than this one. This is a film that could only have been made during that time period, and nothing like has ever been made prior to it, or after it.