The latest Netflix Original is a co-production with The Jim Henson Company, spearheaded by Henson’s daughter, Lisa Henson. This partnership seemed like a match made in heaven and I’m more than pleased to report that The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is phenomenal and quite unlike anything they’ve delivered so far.
The original Dark Crystal film follows Jen; a Gelfling who must return a lost shard to the titular crystal to bring balance to her world. The film was released in 1982 to not much fanfare due to its limited appeal and barely made it by at the box-office.
The film is an excellent piece of cinema and is puppetry at its finest but its also the show’s downfall because despite The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance being a prequel, you still cannot go into the show without watching the film because you will be completely bewildered.
Without giving away any spoilers, the series is relatively similar to the original film. It follows three Gelflings (elf-like creatures) who start a revolution against the evil Skeksis who have been corrupting the Crystal of Light which is, in turn, causing their world of Thra to die.
I went in very skeptical about this series due to my fear that it would lean too heavily on the original film, which I’ve only seen twice, once when I was very young and again last year. If it did, then the nostalgia would be wholly lost on me. But Age of Resistance is very much an extension of the movie as well as its own product. It re-introduces us to a very familiar yet brand-new take on the world we already know, and it expands it with a mixture of new and old lore from other extensions of the Dark Crystal universe, including the sequel novels.
From the get-go, you can see just how much time, effort and money this show has been given. The scripts have been meticulously written to the point where the dialogue has an air of Tolkien and the steady pacing allows the story to flow episode-to-episode like a breath of air. The only time I felt the show drag was in the first episode which reaches a runtime of one hour, but the show hooked me from episode two and I’ve been enjoying it since.
The sets and the costumes are as detailed as The Lord of the Rings, but they have a splash of style reminiscent of fantasy artwork from the nineteen-seventies, which further helps them bring the world to life.
Much time has been spent making Thra appear as a living-breathing ecosystem, its full of vibrant life from the Skeksis and the Gelflings to the creatures of the forest, almost all of which have been created using puppetry with CGI used only sparingly. There are even creatures you’ll see only once or twice that have been created via puppetry, which shows how dedicated The Jim Henson Company were when creating Age of Resistance.
And now, I would be a fool if I were to speak about a Jim Henson show without going into more details about the puppets. The puppets are outstanding, especially the Skeksis, who were impressive in the nineteen-eighties but are even more so now. They were well-crafted and performed but it was easy to be distracted at how out-of-sync the voices can be with the puppets mouth movements, especially during emotional scenes which mainly consists angry mouth flapping – speaking of emotion, the puppets seldom have any and are stuck with the same neutral expressions with only their eyes and mouths capable of emoting.
This problem is more consistent with the Gelfling, and Podling characters, who are the creatures that are most reminiscent to humans, which may be why their lack of emotional range seems so apparent. The Skeksis get away with it more as they are eccentric and use their whole bodies to reflect their emotions to the audience.
Age of Resistance relies heavily on the voice acting due to the set-backs the puppets cause with emoting, but that’s where the show picks itself back up. Age of Resistance features an all-star cast including Helena Bonham Carter, Natalie Dormer, Taron Edgerton, Nathalie Emmanuel, Harvey Fierstien, Mark Hamill and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and in my opinion, it was hard to pick a standout role because everyone is so equally-matched, but the actors portraying the Skeksis take the cake. Their throaty screeching may be enough to get on some people’s nerves, but their scenes are an absolute delight to watch.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is quite a thrilling journey for the whole family, but there are quite a few surprisingly close-up scenes depicting grotesque things happening to characters that sometimes border on disturbing so anyone under the age of ten may need to watch it with an adult.
By: Jordan Simmons