Dark Crystal, The 4K UltraHD

Featured In Issue 228, June 2018

WSR Score4.5
Basic Information on new release titles is posted as soon as titles are announced. Once reviewed, additional data is added to the database.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
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Single Side, Dual Layer (BD-66)
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Jim Henson & Frank Oz
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Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1
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In another time, "The Dark Crystal" was the Balance and Truth in the Universe but was destroyed dividing the world into two factions: the wicked Skeksis and the peaceful Mystics. Now as the convergence of the three suns approaches, the Crystal must be healed or darkness will reign forever. It is up to Jen, the leader of his race, to carry out the prophecy that a Gelfing will return the missing chard of crystal and destroy the Skeksis' evil Empire. But will Jen be up to the challenge of battling the unknown? (Gary Reber)

Special features include commentary with Brian Froud, a picture-in-picture storyboard track, the featurettes "The Myth, Magic And Henson Legacy" (HD 10:27) and "Reflections Of The Dark Crystal: Light On The Path Of Creation & Shard Of Illusion" (SD 36:41), "The World Of The Dark Crystal" documentary (SD 57:26), deleted scenes (SD 03:48), original Skeksis language scenes with an introduction by Screenwriter David Odell (SD 22:49), storyboards, a photo gallery, a teaser trailer, the theatrical trailer, and a Movies Anywhere digital copy.

The 2.39:1 2160p HEVC/H.265 Ultra HD HDR10 picture, reviewed on a Sony Bravia Z9D 4K Ultra HD HDR display, was photographed in anamorphic Panavision® on 35mm film stock using the Panaflex camera system and sourced from a new 4K restoration master Digital Intermediate. While photographed on film, grain is virtually absent. The 4K restoration was created from the original 35mm camera negative. The film features Jim Henson's amazing imagination and puppeteering. The production design is amazing, with an extraordinary diversity of texture, objects, environments, and colors. Everything on screen was created especially for the film—the sets, costumes, props and, of course, puppets and creatures were beautifully designed by Brian Froud and then built until they perfectly fit into the landscape that Jim Henson envisioned. The color palette exhibits warm and rich hues with bright intensities in daylight scenes and darker shades in interior scenes. The wider color gamut really enriches the diversity of hue shadings, yet the palette is natural in appearance. From scene to scene the production design is intricate in environments, as is the costume design. Resolution is superb. There is exceptional detail exhibited in the production sets from a vast array of objects, textures, facial features, hair, teeth and clothing, all extremely nuanced in fine detail. HDR contrast is excellent with deep blacks, revealing shadow delineation, and bright lighting accents, such as the bright intensity of The Crystal and the twinkling crystalline details throughout the set. The imagery really pops with a distinctive saturated intensity. WOW! segments are numerous with standouts from 15:10 to 19:00, 25:06 to 27:48, 31:28 to 35:10, 38:03 to 40:26, 01:03:45, 01:21:10 to 01:22:10, and 01:24:15 to 01:25:15. This is an incredible 4K Ultra HD visual experience that is mesmerizing to experience. (Gary Reber)

The Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD 7.1-channel soundtrack has been created from the original sound elements created for the 6-track blown-up 70-mm release. The sonics are wonderful with superb nuances in the atmospherics of exterior and interior scenes. Foley sound effects are excellent and enhance the sonic realism. Sound effects, which are often directionalized, also enhance the sense of a fantasy world. The surrounds are often active, with distinctive positioning of atmospherics and sound effects. Trevor Jones' orchestral score is wonderful as well. Deep bass extends to all channels, including the .1 LFE channel, which is deep, and provides added weight to the sound effects and the music. The music stretches wide and deep across the soundstage and extends with excellent weight in the four surrounds, combining for an effective holosonic® soundfield balance. The story is told through ADR dialogue and is amazingly well integrated spatially with perfectly forward narration by Joseph O'Conor.

The Immersive Sound element is nicely crafted overall due to the prominent presence of the orchestral score, which effectively extends to the height channels. Also present are sounds effects and atmospherics such as a piercing sound, thunder and lightening; flowing water, chirping birds, a choral voicing of characters; echoed dialogue; Skeksis dialogue, footsteps, metal swords slicing stone and falling to the floor, a clanking rotation of the planet contraption, forest sounds, dripping water in a cave, a cave collapse, and numerous other atmospheric sounds. It seems that in the re-mastering for the Immersive Sound element that most of the ear-level sonics have been extended to the height channels at, of course, lower levels, and effectively so to provide a satisfying spherical surround sound presence.

While fidelity is1982 dated, this is a magnificent soundtrack that breathes life into incredible imaginative worlds and characters with enchanting sonics, great dynamics, and nuanced diversity. This is an engaging soundtrack that will enthrall the entire family. (Gary Reber)