Last weekend the S.O. and I sat down to watch The Dark Crystal at his insistence, likely in response to Netflix’s recent announcement of a prequel series. This movie obviously has a special place in many hearts and mine is one of them – I watched this movie around the same time I was also first exposed to Lord of the Rings and The Labyrinth, as well as lesser-known titles like Wizards, which was a mess of a thing for a kid to watch but which nonetheless carried some of the same themes.
[Spoilers in this post for Dark Crystal if you haven’t had a chance to watch it.]
One of the things that is really fascinating about The Dark Crystal is the idea of connections, of good and evil in everyone, that plays through the whole movie. Despite being sort of simplistic in the plot (this movie follows a cut and dried hero’s journey narrative that at times takes away agency from the characters) this idea is one that has managed to stick, I think. The Skeksis and the Mystics being, in the end, the same beings, tied fundamentally to one another, is a piece of metaphysical twisting that has far-reaching implications towards ideas of good and evil, resistance, and change. The fact that the Mystics choose not to eliminate the Skeksis and therefore end themselves, but instead creep along through 10,000 years of darkness biding their time in hopes of a reunion, raises some very real ethical questions that still haunt me to this day. In the end, the creatures that originally shattered the crystal and became Skeksi and Mystic seem to be entirely morally gray, if not totally corrupt. Only Jen and Kira can be said to be ethical in this story.
Jen is billed as our main character, consistent with the hero’s journey narrative. Yet between the two of them, Kira has a far more developed moral compass. Jen is manipulated by the Mystics – he is set on a path that he personally has some stake in, yes, but he is set on that path. Even when he chooses to continue after throwing away the shard, it is only at Kira’s urging. Kira herself is not the so-called prophesied one here, but she makes a choice to bring Jen into her life, then a choice to push him to follow the prophecy to freedom. She loses her family, then breaks them out at great personal risk. She is tortured, breaks herself out, and keeps going. She is the one to make it possible for the crystal to be unified – when Jen drops the shard upon which all of their fates are hinged, Kira flies into certain death to retrieve it for him. Her hand may not drive the shard home, but it is the one that delivers both Jen and the shard to their final destination.
At some point in fantasy, I would really like for the prophecy to be about the person who envisions the work and drives their companions to do it, not the person who carries the torch over the finish line. But barring that, I would like for Kira’s contribution to this effort to be at least acknowledged in the dialogue of the movie. In the final scene, standing with Kira’s body in his arms, Jen listens to the beings the Mystics have become praise him for his bravery. The movie would have been far better if he had interrupted. If he had said, “It wasn’t my bravery that brought you here. It was hers.”
The Dark Crystal will always hold a special place in my heart, and I’ll hold these lessons to heart, too.
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