I’ll be the first to admit it: Dark Crystal was a weird movie. A weird, weird, weird movie. It was one of two collaborations between Jim Henson and Brian Froud, and unlike Labyrinth, there was no codpieced David Bowie to distract you. It’s a beautiful, horrifying, sublime, dreamlike, strange piece of film, and worth a watch even without the nostalgia.
It’s also been very low on merchandise until this year, when Funko began the march of PoPs, ReAction figures, and so on – the ReAction pieces are actually kindasorta based on cancelled toys from way back when, too.
The movie is really worldbuilding, with a complex plot that nonetheless is secondary to the visuals and strangeness of the setting. For example, the Landstriders. They serve a purpose in the plot – moving Jen and Kira from Point A to Point B (and then dying) – but really, they are there to make the world seem a little more fleshed-out.
Strange, stilt-walking animals, Landstriders are docile, can run very fast, and attack the crablike Garthim monsters on sight. But they look so striking (even though it’s obvious that they were people in costumes) that a toy was inevitable once figures actually started to come. And, of course, because life is unfair, the Jen/Landstrider set was a San Diego Comic-Con exclusive.
But, since life actually is fair after all, the figures are also sold in Toys R Us, and can still be found on the shelves now. They come in an ornate box, looking almost like an old VHS case. You can see the figures really clearly, too, to help choose the best paint job available.
Jen, the ostensible hero of the film, is a Gelfling, an elfin near-human who lands squarely in the uncanny valley. The figure is shorter than many in its scale, though not super-tiny.
The figure’s paint and scupting work are pretty accurate to the source material, and thankfully dodge the prolems that hit some ReAction figures – it looks good, not cheap.
Jen comes with his little flute, though he can only hold it in one arm because of his limited articulation. Still, it’s better than nothing.
But the Landstrider is the main purpose for this set, especially considering that there will be a single-packed version of Jen available. The figure is tall, easily in the 8″-10″ range, and although their scale in the film was unclear, this seems exactly right for the Landstriders.
The Landstrider’s strangeness wouldn’t be out of place in a Lovecraftian movie, and yet it’s not inherently scary, just alien. The movie contained nothing from earth, not even plants – though there were similar analogues – and the Landstriders were a great part of that. They seem like they could exist, they just look nothing like anything from the earth.
Remember when I said that it was obviously played by an actor in costume? Looka t the shape – this is a person on four stilts, bent over to act like all four limbs are legs. You can see it clearly in the shape, though it works for these odd creatures.
The Landstrider is articulated in its head and limbs, and the legs seem sturdy enough to not go loose. It’s sufficient, considering the kind of creature this is.
Despite how tiny its stilt feet seem, the LAndstrider stands very easily on all four.
And in fact, if you want to make it into a strange ballet monster, you can balance it on just two! This looks weird, though.
So, what to say for these figures? As much as they cling to a retro aesthetic, they are really very good, with details matching the original costumes and puppets, and do a remarkable job of communicating the strangely surreal world of the Dark Crystal.