The Dark Crystal Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Making its debut on Ultra HD Blu-ray, this fantasy, from the brilliant imagination of Jim Henson, tells the tale of a young hero who must find a legendary relic in order restore harmony to the universe.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )



Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )



Studio and Year: Sony Pictures – 1982
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 93 minutes
Genre: Fantasy/Adventure

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC @ 4000 NITS
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Directed by: Jim Henson & Frank Oz
Music by: Trevor Jones
Written by: David Odell
Region Code: A,B,C

Release Date: March 6, 2018

” Another World, Another Time…in the Age of Wonder”

My Take:

I reviewed The Dark Crystal’s 2009 Blu-ray release, and have included my comments from that review here. New ratings/comments for the video, Ultra HD video, Dolby Atmos sound, and added bonus content are below.

In another time, The Dark Crystal was the Balance and Truth in the Universe, but it 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?

From the brilliant imagination of Jim Henson, this masterpiece of animation recounts the timeless tale of good vs. evil and has become a cult favorite of children and grown-ups alike. The story is straight forward with easily discernible lines drawn between good and evil in the soft spoken and inherently good Mystics and by contrast the violent, greedy and power hungry Skesis. Having been raised by the Mystics Jen believes that he is the last of his kind. On his death bed Jen’s Mystic master tells him that he must fulfill his destiny by recovering the lost shard of the dark crystal and venture to the crystal’s location to heal it by replacing the shard before the great conjunction of the three suns. Jen sets out on his quest and after locating the shard discovers that he is not the last of his kind. In the jungle he meets Kira, a female Gelfling, who also believed she was the last of her kind after being raised by the pod people after her family was killed by the Skesis.

The two join up and Kira agrees to help Jen. While he is clearly drawn as the story’s hero Kira is definitely the brains between the two. As things progress she firmly establishes herself as an equal ally with the ability to communicate with animals and other species as well as being able to think quickly on her feet. She proves her courage under dire circumstances during the climactic finale in the palace of the Skesis as she and Jen attempt to replace the missing shard, and heal the crystal which will restore balance and avoid giving eternal power to the evil and monstrous Skesis.

I never saw this film theatrically but watched it numerous times on cable TV when it aired back in the mid-eighties. I found the story and the characters enchanting and loved the expressive attributes that Jen and Kira exhibited. I love Fizzgigg, Kira’s pet (?) who adds a wonderfully integrated air of levity to the story. Having not seen it in years I think it holds up quite well. The special effects are pretty dated, but the elements have a timeless feel thanks to the great work by Jim Henson, Brian Froud (conceptual design) and screenwriter David Odell. The film has a charming appeal that those who remember it growing up can now share with their children. I watched it with my daughter, who shares my love for movies, and we both enjoyed it. I can’t imagine higher praise and I think that The Dark Crystal speaks volumes about the legacy of the great Jim Henson.

**This beloved fantasy comes to Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD (reviewed here), with the Blu-ray available within a gorgeous 24-page Digibook package that includes rare photos and a look behind the scenes.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for frightening images, peril and thematic material that may not be suitable for younger viewers.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation: 86
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights:
  • HDR: Bright Highlights:
  • HDR: Expanded Color:
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

Dolby Atmos Rating: 84
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Level of immersion: 
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  • Entertainment factor: 

The Dark Crystal comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible) sound.

Sony remastered The Dark Crystal from the original 35mm film elements, and its presentation in Ultra HD is derived from that 4K image and the results are quite good.

It’s important to note that the ultimate goal for any release on home video is to present a film in the highest possible quality based upon its original elements. A film like The Dark Crystal has an aesthetic that incorporates film grain, visual effects, and the use of optics that won’t result in the type of high gloss, tack-like sharpness of today’s big budget productions. This isn’t a problem and shouldn’t be seen as such.

Looking at the film’s opening sequence, the improvement in depth, definition and color rendering was immediately noticeable. I was struck by the finer details present in the Skesis castle. Later, once Jen begins his quest, and enters the forest, its world and the variety of colors represented in the backgrounds, characters and effects appeared vivid and pleasing to the eye. The addition of high dynamic range added a visual element that subtly enriched the presentation.

Dark highlights were rendered with excellent dimension especially when coupled with brighter visual elements, such as the scene where Aughra’s lair is destroyed. The sequence shot in the tunnels below the Skesis castle looked quite good, as the streaming light set against the shadow laden backgrounds looked natural with an enriching level of depth. The image isn’t consistently sharp, which appears innate, but detail rendering is very good overall. As I watched I felt as though I was rediscovering this film all over again.

Hands down, this is the best The Dark Crystal has looked on home video. Kudos to Sony for giving this the treatment it deserves. I am so pleased to see this type of attention given to catalog titles coming to Ultra HD Blu-ray.

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be a fairly entertaining listening experience that made steady use of the platform. Its use of audio objects placed above is a mix of atmospherics, discrete effects and music. This is done quite well, and where applied, creates a tangible level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. I noticed that the front overhead channels were used for adding depth to the soundstage while the rear overhead channels contained more discrete sound objects/effects. In addition to things like overhead pans where sounds move through the soundstage, there are several sequences that bring everything together. The aforementioned scene where Jen enters the forest, and the finale in the crystal’s chamber, are good examples. I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable this Dolby Atmos presentation was, adding a complimentary element that elevated the experience of watching the film.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: 
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail: 
  • Color Reproduction: 
  • Fleshtones: 
  • Compression: 

Audio: 78
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 

The Dark Crystal comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 29 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.5 Mbps.

According to the press documentation Sony remastered Th Dark Crystal from the original 35mm film elements, and that same 4K restoration was used for the 1080p rendering.

This is a pleasing, and apparently faithful restoration, that features clean, well depicted colors that offer a good mix of secondary hues that mate well with the source material. The earth tones appear very natural as the green grass, various shades of brown and blue look great. Resolution is solid, with varying degrees of refinement that can be scene dependent. Sharpness wavers, results in some scenes offering lucid clarity while others are lacking clearly defined edges and finely rendered detail. Again, fidelity appears intact as these issues are innate, and attributable to the use of visual effects, lighting, hazy environs, and the film stock used. Black and white levels are stable which gives a fair level of pop to colors and brighter exterior sequences while keeping darker or low-lit segments looking noticeably punchy with crisp, quiet blacks with visibly gradational detail in shadowy backgrounds. Grain is present with a prominent texture, and film like essence that occasionally takes on heavier emphasis, but it never bothered me. All in all, The Dark Crystal looks very good in high definition.

The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix has no trouble conveying the elements present in this soundtrack. Dialog sounds great as it has ample weight and clarity which give it good articulation and prominence within the front soundstage. The soundfield isn’t the broadest, and the dynamic range doesn’t provide impressive sonic impact, however this track sounds just fine. Trevor Jones’ music has appreciable warmth, and presence, that is viably rich amid the other elements contained in the mix. The surrounds are used exclusively for environmental ambience which helps extend the front channels reach. This is fine, offering a bit more atmospheric enhancement, while remaining faithful to the film’s original audio elements.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: The Dark Crystal Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: The Dark Crystal Blu-ray
    • ALL-NEW: The Myth, Magic and Henson Legacy: Go behind the scenes of this iconic film with stories from Lisa Henson and Toby Froud.
    • Deleted Scenes
    • Commentary with Brian Froud
    • Picture-in-Picture Storyboard Track
    • Original Skeksis Language Scenes with Introduction by Screenwriter David Odell
    • The World of The Dark Crystal Documentary
    • Reflections of The Dark Crystal: “Light on the Path of Creation” & “Shard of Illusion”
    • Photo Galleries
    • Theatrical Teaser & Trailer
  • Digital HD Copy

Final Thoughts:

The Dark Crystal is a wonderfully charming fantasy adventure film from the creative world of the great Jim Henson. It tells an age old and classic tale of good versus evil and does so using strong visuals in an elaborative style that can be enjoyed from one generation to the next. It’s making its debut on Ultra HD Blu-ray in this Combo Pack from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment that features beautifully restored video, a complimentary Dolby Atmos immersive sound mix, and new, and legacy bonus content. If you’re a fan, and the improvements in video quality, and immersive sound are important to you, this is a must have addition to your Blu-ray collection.


Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS SB-13 Ultra (Piano Gloss finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems 

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