The new Netflix series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance dropped on August 30 with ten episodes and a (roughly) 90 minute making-of documentary. Fans of the 1982 film have no doubt already binge-watched it in its entirety (we haven’t finished the doc yet), but those unfamiliar might be wondering if it’s worth the watch. I can tell you as someone very late to the Dark Crystal game, it is utterly fantastic.
My wife has been a fan of the now cult-favorite film since her childhood, along with Jim Henson’s other film Labyrinth starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly. The Dark Crystal, however, stars only puppets designed by Brian Froud and created by the Henson Workshop. The film shows its age these days, and, according to the documentary, Henson never really felt they got the puppets right back in ‘82. However, Netflix and the Henson Company pulled out all the stops with this prequel series and it is absolutely – and literally at times – breathtaking.
On the planet Thra, there are beings called Skeksis who rule the land inhabited by Gelfing. Skesis are alien to Thra, having been entrusted the Crystal of Truth by Mother Aughra for more than a millennium while she mentally explores the cosmos. In that time, they have proclaimed themselves rulers of Thra and have begun to siphon energy and life force from the crystal. Once the Dark Crystal is corrupted, they can no longer draw energy from it, and the Emperor (voiced by Jason Isaacs) orders his Scientist (voiced by Mark Hamill) to find other methods for maintaining their seeming immortality. When the Scientist finds he can draw essence from creatures of Thra, he captures and drains a Crystal Guard Gelfling named Mira, killing her in a terrifying burst of light. Witnessing this act is Rian (voiced by Taron Egerton), fellow guard and boyfriend of Mira, who must flee and is branded a murderer. Elsewhere, another Gelfing named Deet (voiced by Nathalie Emmanuel of Game of Thrones) has discovered a Darkening consuming Thra and embarks on a quest to find answers and save all life from the growing corruption of the Crystal.
Whew, right? That’s not even everything in the first episode! Highlights worth noting: the Gelfling are a matriarchal society because even in the past, the future is female. All the creatures are puppets. All of them. The detail and subtlety of these creations is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. They emote. They cry. You feel what they feel. It’s pure magic.
One of the themes of the series thus far is misinformation and the spreading of lies to keep the ruling Skeksis above all other creatures on Thra. Slowly, those lies become exposed and what everyone thought they knew is revealed to be lies – for centuries. But how can creatures as small as Gelfing ever hope to stand up against the Skeksis? Well, you’ll have to watch.
I was surprised by so much of this show. First was the advancements in the puppetry. Second was the incredible writing. So much of this would work perfectly well live-action or even animated, as was their first idea for a series, but there’s something indescribable about seeing it with puppets. Third, the action and violence is intense! The show is rated TV-PG for a reason, I tell you what! There were several moments where I reacted audibly to what was on screen, either in fear or in disgust at what the Skeksis were doing. But then there were moments of awe and, honestly, frustration at how good some of the ideas and creations are because I don’t think I’ll ever be that good of a writer!
But to compare it to another fantasy series of note, Game of Thrones, there is one major stand-out compared to the HBO behemoth. This series understands how to develop complex characters with deep, personal crises in such a way that events can transpire in as few as two episodes and EVERY action feels motivated and grounded in truth, rather than “Well, this is what needs to happen, so here it goes” like my cat’s namesake in the final season of GoT. And the best part is the guys who created the show had pitched a Labyrinth sequel to the Hensons and when they turned it down, they offered them to run this show instead. How cool is that?
I’m on a fantasy kick lately thanks for playing Dungeons & Dragons and writing my TV pilot script, so this was exactly what I wanted from a new series. And like any good sequel/prequel should, it made me want to watch the original film as soon as it was finished. Can’t wait for season 2!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Snack Packs
Lincoln L. Hayes is an actor and writer in NYC. He recently published a short story on Medium.com entitled “‘Til Death” that his mom loved and thinks you would too.