"When single shines the triple sun What was sundered and undone Shall be whole, the two made one By gelfling hand or else by none."
A 1982 science fiction/fantasy film directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz with creature design by fantasy artist Brian Froud. Out of any of Jim Henson's works, this was probably one of the most complex, being done completely with animatronic puppets in the well developed setting of the planet Thra.One thousand years ago, the Dark Crystal was whole. When it cracked on the day of the Great Conjunction of the planet's three suns, two new races appeared: the Always Chaotic Evil and aggressive Skeksis and the Always Lawful Good but all too passive Mystics (aka urRu). A few centuries later, the Skeksis discovered a prophecy that the elf-like Gelflings would heal the crystal, thus undoing their reign, so they sent their Garthim to hunt them down and kill them all. All except for the protagonists Jen and Kira, the last of their kind.Though it didn't do as well on its initial theatrical run, it spawned a cult following large enough to warrant a spin-off OEL Manga prequel (Legends of the Dark Crystal) by Tokyopop and a graphic novel prequel trilogy (The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths) by Archaia Entertainment. Currently, the Henson company is holding a contest to find an author for a new series of Young Adult novels. A sequel titled Power of the Dark Crystal has been stuck in Development Hell for years (to the point that Robot Chicken did a skit on the matter).
The Dark Crystal includes examples of:
Absent Aliens: Inverted. No humans here; the Gelflings are pretty humanoid, but not human.
Actual Pacifist: The Urru are kind gentle creatures, but they do nothing to stop the Skekses from destroying the land, enslaving the Podlings and committing genocide against the Gelflings. Partly justified in that the Urru could not act against their evil counterparts without destroying themselves in the process. Word of God says even if they wanted to commit suicide to stop the Skekses, the Urru have no will to act, because all the strength and drive of the urSkeks is embodied in the Skekses themselves.
Age Without Youth: Applies to both the Mystics and Skeksis (though they're not technically immortal), but the Skeksis suffer a bit more from it, especially when you learn that they weren't outwardly evil in their early days, but rather represented the passionate hedonistic side of the Urskek, and were rather pleasant to party with. Then as they aged for a thousand years, their true nature slowly manifested itself as a rotting from the inside out. They could reverse their decay by drinking the vital essence of other living creatures, but the effect was always temporary.
Alas, Poor Villain: The Skeksis, when not plotting to kill Gelflings or drain Podlings of their life energy; are an Affably Evil, warped brethren who get along despite disliking each other, and their desire to keep living as separate entities is somewhat sympathetic until the priest kills Kira
Ambiguous Gender: SkekEkt the Ornamentalist. Word of God states that while there are no specifically female Skekses (they're all meant to be an uncomfortable combination of both genders), SkekEkt is the most effeminate.
Artificial Limbs: The Skeksis Slave Master has a hook for a hand while the Scientist has a mechanical arm. Their Mystic counterparts have wooden limbs in the same places.
Ax-Crazy: SkekZok, the ritual master, is the first to suggest killing Kira when she is captured and is the one who stabs her to death.
Balance Between Good and Evil: Literally; since the Mystics and Skeksis are actually two halves of one being - if one of them dies, so does their counterpart.
The Beastmaster: Kira can call out to just about any animal out there and coax it into helping her. There are a lot of weird animals out there and this ability comes in very handy.
Beauty Equals Goodness: Played with. The protagonists, the Gelflings, are obviously intended to be attractive, despite any Uncanny Valley that may be invoked by looking at them. The pure urRu are made to look noble and sagacious, and when they die, they fade into sparkles. The Skeksis, on the other hand, are clearly intended to look twisted, deformed and vulture-like, which is made even worse by their advanced age. Aughra, however, is quite hideous and warty, yet proves to be a helpful character. A bit of background checking shows that in the grand scheme of things, she's actually supposed to be True Neutral, and not one to take sides. It gets really confusing with the Podlings, who are supposed to be a good, Closer to Earth race, yet somehow they wound up looking Ugly Cute at the same time. Brian Froud did admit that he toned down their appearance from the earliest incarnations, because those were far too grotesque and potato-like.
Emperor:Mine!ehh-ehh Mine! Not! I-I-I-I am still em... pe... ror.. I ... (dies, crumbles into dust)
Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Aughrua, when cussing out (in her language) the Skekses for sending their mooks to burn down her observatory rather than just asking her for the location of the Gelfling.
The Skeksis are taken aback and one cries out in offense, "Oh, how rude!"
Disney Villain Death: The Skeksis Scientist. Although it was into a shaft into the center of the planet, and we see his opposite burn to death.
Dissonant Laughter: The Chamberlain begins to laugh as the castle crumbles and the UrRu enter. It's clear he knows exactly what is going to happen next. It's ambiguous as to whether he's pleased by the prophecy being fulfilled or simply doesn't care anymore.
Alternatively, he might have gone so hysterical that he has no idea what's going on anymore.
Duet Bonding: Kira and Jen have a nice duet as they cruise down the river.
The Dreaded: An interesting example in that it goes both ways. The Skeksis are feared as the unseen, genocidal, slave-making tyrants they are. Meanwhile, the Skeksis view the Gelflings — beings capable of ending both their rule and their existence as individuals — with reactions ranging from disgust to outright terror.
Dying Race: The film provides the page quote. The Skekses and Mystics are both slowly dying out because they are the two broken and incomplete halves of a single race of immortal beings.
Eccentric Mentor: Aughra. The last thousand years have left her much wiser, if a little dotty.
Enemy Without: Played with; each of the Urru and Skekses are literally two equal halves of a whole being. Word of God says that in the past, the urSkeks tried to use the light of the Crystal to purify themselves by burning out the evil in them. Instead of purification, they achieved division because their darker halves were as much a part of their fundamental nature as their lighter halves.
Eye Scream: Aughra can remove her own eyeball at will and use it like a remote camera. While it doesn't hurt her, it certainly is weird...
In the backstory, she lost her other eye and came to be how she looks in the film when she laid on the ground to watch the Great Conjunction. A beam of intense light struck her eye, destroying it and burning her badly. She considered the knowledge she gained from the experience to be well worth the loss.
Fair Weather Friend: When the SkekSil the Chamberlain makes his move to take the throne, many of the other Skekses whisper that they're all with him. After losing the trial by stone, they all gleefully turn on SkekSil on SkekUng's command.
Fountain of Youth: The Skekses use the light of the crystal focused by a reflector to drain the vital essence of other creatures into a liquid form that they can consume to restore their youth. Podlings restore youth for a handful of seconds. Gelflings restore it for a longer period, but the rejuvenation is still ultimately fleeting. The Skekses exterminated nearly the entire Gelfling race for their essence which ran out as a result.
Good Is Boring: The uRu. Justified in that the passion, drive, and ambition of the urSkeks is embodied within the Skekses.
Grotesque Gallery / Ugly Cute: A fascinating case, since the entire world is composed of muppets and environment that are either deliberately alien or designed off of nature's less cute critters, making the whole thing one dark fairy tale based on look alone.
Heel-Face Turn: Completely subverted with the Chamberlain. Defrocked and kicked out of the Skeksis' castle, he makes obvious peace overtures to Jen and Kira. When Jen stabs him for his pains, his friendly facade completely drops and he tries to kill Jen and promptly drags Kira back to the castle to redeem himself in the eyes of the other Skekses. It's pretty clear that his promises of peace are Blatant Lies and his whole motivation is to capture a gelfling or two in order to ingratiate himself with the Skekses and get his position back. He is The Starscream after all.
Heroic Blue Screen of Death: Jen has one. He healed the Crystal, but Kira is dead. She comes back, but still... not to mention everything going crazy in the castle that makes one wonder if Jen actually succeeded.
Heroic Sacrifice: Many of the cute little fuzzballs that force SkekTek into the bottomless shaft go down with him. Fizzgig too, though he ends up catching hold of something and gets rescued by Aughra. And of course, Kira.
Hobbits: This is more or less what gelflings and/or Podlings are supposed to be. They're much smaller than all the other people in the setting, and the podlings are definitely merry.
Ironic Name: The Skeksis scientist's laboratory, where he keeps all those jailed critters and drains Podlings and Gelflings from their vital essence? Its official name is "the Chamber of Life".
Conversely, it's a Meaningful Name for the Skekses themselves, as they extract a life-prolonging potion from the Pod People and Gelflings in there.
It's All About Me: Selfishness is probably the core character trait of each individual Skeksis. The accompanying material says that although they hate each other as much as they hate Gelflings, they need each other to maintain their hold over Thra; the minimum number of them to maintain the balance being ten. It's probably the only reason they don't kill each other off completely. Word of God says it's also why UrSu, the leader and wisest of the Urru chose to die - to unbalance the Skekses by taking SkekSo with him.
Jabba Table Manners: The Skeksis, Sans SkekEkt, who happens to be a dainty eater. SkekAyuk the Gourmand is of course the worst offender (though a strong case can be made for SkekUng.)
Also justified, since he was raised in a rather sheltered environment, by very gentle and passive minded beings, and wasn't taught much in the way of survival skills (instead receiving education in things like writing and music, which however does prove useful in the course of the story).
Load-Bearing Boss: An enormous subversion; Once the shard is rejoined with the Dark Crystal, the castle appears to fall apart inside and out in great chunks of stone and mortar. Actually the stone and mortar is merely a thousand years of accumulated filth and grime which is disintegrated by the power of the pure crystal, leaving a pristine castle of pure cut diamond as it originally was.
Merger of Souls: The wise Mystics and the wicked Skeksis were created when the Dark Crystal shattered. They were two halves of the souls of the creatures which shattered the crystal, and a death of a Mystic also kills their Skeksis counterpart, and vice versa. In the climax of the film, the crystal is mended by the hero Jen, and the two races are made one once more.
Monster Is a Mommy: A swamp creature called a nebry emerges from the mud and scares Jen, but Kira reassures him it's harmless. We see two baby nebry emerge beside the adult as the gelflings move on.
Mood Whiplash: Jen is taken to the Podling village by Kira. They have a feast and dance to celebrate....then the Garthim arrive. In all likelihood, drawn in by the loud party.
Jen and Kira's first meeting.
Kira: Here. I'll help you up. *Takes his hand; dreamfasting begins*. The first thing I remember is fire.
Mordor: The castle of the Skeksis and the land surrounding it are dark, barren, and forbidding. That is until the Skeksis are no more.
Mythopoeia: The book The World of the Dark Crystal covers a lot of back story
Needle in a Stack of Needles: Jen has to dig through a box of nearly identical crystal shards to find the one that actually is the missing chunk of the Dark Crystal. He identifies it after using a trick with his flute which he learned from the urRu.
Rule of Three: The Great Conjunction of the three suns, the recurring visual motif of triangles.
The supplementary material makes it clear that this is present in Thra on a cultural and spiritual level: their cosmology, mathematics and art are all influenced by the number three, and Aughra criticises the urSkeks for attempting a division based on duality alone when threes are so important.
Scenery Porn: In pretty much every single frame. The film was actually created far more to show off the world Henson and Brian Froud had created than for the story.
Staff of Authority - The Skeksis emperor carries a scepter which designates his office. In the death scene of the first emperor, Chamberlain indicates his eagerness to take over by reaching for the scepter.
There Is Another: Jen believed he was the last surviving Gelfling until he ran into Kira (and vice versa).
The Resenter: SkekZok the ritual master is visibly resentful of SkekUng's rise to power. He even questions the new emperor's competency when it seems the Garthim have failed to capture Jen. In the written material, SkekZok was described as the old emperor's favorite and he had his own ambitions to take the throne when the emperor died. Unlike SkekSil, SkekZok just didn't have the balls to make his play for the throne against SkekUng.
The Starscream: SkekSil the Chamberlain tries to grab the emperor's scepter even before he's dead.
What Could Have Been: as seen in some of the DVD extras, the Skeksis were originally going to speak an "alien" language. A lot of Skeksis words were kept in the novelization.
The Podlings were also supposed to have many eyes coming out of their heads (since they were based off potatoes), but that looked too unnerving, so it was scrapped.
The biography of Jim Henson reveals that the change was probably for the best. Henson was convinced that the visuals alone would be plenty to figure out what the Skeksis were saying, but was proven wrong when he showed a rough cut of the Chamberlain's banishment to one of his friends, who was soon begging him to have them speak English so people could understand what the hell was going on.
World Building: What Brian Froud and Jim Henson did before making the movie.
World Half Full: By the ending, sure the Crystal is healed, the urSkeks are restored and the land becomes green and good again, but the Gelfling race is still all but extinct with seemingly only two left, not to mention the decimation of the Podling race. There's a feeling that while things are much better, they aren't as good as the time before all the strife began.