The Dark Crystal – Anniversary Edition (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Thirty six years ago, two fantastic visionaries in the realm of puppeteering and one of the men responsible for the first two Star Wars films put their heads together for a a mystical fantasy film, The Dark Crystal. Those men were Jim Henson, Frank Oz and Gary Kurtz. I’m not sure kids today are so hot on The Dark Crystal, but when I was growing up in the 1980s, it seemed to be on TV quite a bit and at every VHS rental store. Maybe its popularity is nostalgic adults like myself. Regardless, its exciting to see this film get the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray upgrade and that the life and work of Jim Henson still is important and relevant to studios today. There is a fancy digibook version of this on standard Blu-ray, but the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ay is getting a standard case. Regardless, this new release, that has a new bonus feature, will be available March 6th. Pre-order below!


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 last 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?

The Dark Crystal is a film I’m glad many see to it that it should live on through theatrical rereleases and new home video upgrades as it means Jim Henson’s legacy has not been lost on people. The film features a decent story, but its the craft and masterwork that he and Frank Oz provide that is the true measure of how good it is. There is an iconic quality to the film that if you’ve grown up within the time of its release, you probably recognize things from the movie without even having seen it. Heck, I’ve seen people get it confused with other puppet movies too. Helping it out, too is that I think it played on TV a lot back in the 80s and 90s.

One thing that stands out for me in these Jim Henson works, and mostly the family/kids adventure films of the 1980s is this haunting aesthetic they all lean toward. While fun adventures may be had, and yes I recognize they take place during dark times with heinous evils in control, the world and creatures we must wade through were always dark and really scary. Stuff like this, Labyrinth and Neverending Story, no matter how “fun” or adventurous they may have sold or having feeling remembering them, I remember how creepy they looked and felt watching. And you know what, I’m glad for that, as I enjoyed it and maybe my love for horror owes early credit to those films, but its a weird choice to put on doing something “for the kids”. “Hey Jim, lets do something fun, but make them uneasy and scared while doing so!” I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt that way.

The Dark Crystal is a solid animated classic that I think I enjoyed more when I was younger, but its still fine now. Most of the enjoyment for me is when it finally gets rolling (This thing really drags for a good 20 minutes with dense material and a lot of lookalike puppets not doing much) and I just sit back and admire the craft of all the puppetry with the characters and movements, lively sets, props and cool effects it brings. Jim Henson and Frank Oz did something really special here, even if the story is merely just okay. And throw it into today’s pack of family adventure films for kids, it’ll surely still stand out as something they don’t really see at all and still impress them.


Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: As noted in a paper included with the release, this film went through a nice 4K restoration process for this Anniversary edition. And The Dark Crystal looks quite wonderful on 4K. I’d say it hangs right there with Labyrinth. Its more crisp and sharp than its Blu-ray counterpart (Which also looks pretty fantastic itself) and has much finer details than that. Colors are comparable, but this one has the ability to boost and saturated better during specific sequences. I also found the forest scenes here Jen first meets Kira to look much more fantastical and rich on the 4K than the standard Blu-ray. There are some rougher moments during some credit sequences, but that’s pretty typical with older films. Its hard to image Labyrinth looking much better than this.

Depth:  Here’s where I think most of the impact of the 4K upgrade is noted. Movements are a lot more fluid and the puppets certainly look more three dimensional and natural in this image. No image distortions during any rapid actions occur.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and do hold onto a lot of the details on characters, clothes and surfaces. Grain can get a little heavier in darker sequences. No crushing noticed during this review.

Color Reproduction: Colors are strong here with a great palette of worn or gritty colors in play here. Lots of the beams and skies produces some beautiful pop utilizing the HDR. Some of the standout difference from the standard Blu-ray is featured in a lot of the stronger filtered scenes.

Flesh Tones: No true skin seen in this film, but all the texture on the puppets keeps consistent color timing throughout. Details and textures on the creatures is pretty outstanding.

Noise/Artifacts: Some grain, but otherwise this is pretty clean.


Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), Czech 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, German 5.1 Dolby Digital, Hungarian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Polish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin America) 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin America), Swedish, Thai, Turkish

Dynamics: The Dark Crystal not only receives a visual upgrade, but sound boosts as well in this new Dolby Atmos track. Its pretty terrific too, having a lot of fun with its motion dynamics. Effects and such are more distinct here than they’ve ever been. The sound is also really crisp with good depth and clarity to it. Some of it still has a sort of dated feel to it, but otherwise its pretty remarkable what they’ve managed to accomplish here.

Height: We have a lot of fun and accurate attention paid to the ceiling speakers in the mix. Thunder hits from above, bugs in the forest, flying creatures crumbling things from above and more. Its always accurate material and never forced, but plenty distinct.

Low Frequency Extension: Some magical elements, flapping, music hits and more have the subwoofer bumping to a good degree.

Surround Sound Presentation: This new mix has ramped up the fun factor for sure as stuff not only distinctly places itself in spots around a room to bring it to life, but the travel of it is more fun too. No speaker is left untapped and they all craft great ambiance and know where everything is to bring some terrific life to the environments.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals have good clarity and are at a good volume, always audible in this mix.


The Dark Crystal – Anniversary Edition comes with the standard Blu-ray edition and a digital copy of the film. Bonus features are contained on the standard Blu-ray disc.  Aside from one new feature, all the rest are ported over from the previous release. It also comes with a letter from Lisa Henson regarding the restoration of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Brian Froud
  • Picture-In-Picture Storyboard Track 

The Myth, Magic and Henson Legacy (HD, 10:27) – Jim Henson’s daughter Lisa and Brian Froud’s son guide us a bit through the production and history of The Dark Crystal. There are fun factoids throughout like original character names as well as behind the scenes footage and shots as well as test footage.

The World Of The Dark Crystal (SD, 57:26)

Reflections of The Dark Crystal (SD, 36:41)

  • Light on the Path of Creation
  • Shard of Illusion

Deleted Scenes (SD, 3:48)

Original Skeksis Language Scenes with Introduction by Screenwriter David Odell (SD, 22:49)


Photo Galleries 

  • Character Illustrations
  • Character Drawings & Profiles: The Ur-ru
  • Character Drawings & Profiles: The Skesis

Teaser Trailer (HD, :37)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:19)


The Dark Crystal is a solid little family adventure film that is one of Jim Henson’s great opuses. And it lives on now through the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format. The video and audio quality on this upgrade are outstanding and the new extra combined with the older ones is a wealthy lot of material. If you’ve not owned the movie yet, this is the one to get, and if you only owned the prior version, toss it aside and pick this sucker up!


Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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