Synopsis: In this stunning new prequel, three Gelfling discover the horrifying secret behind the Skeksis’ power, and set out on an epic journey to ignite the fires of rebellion and save their world.
Review: One of the biggest surprises of San Diego Comic Con this year was the debut of the first full episode of Netflix and Jim Henson‘s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. Long in development, this labor of love comes thirty-seven years after Henson’s passion project feature flm THE DARK CRYSTAL. A prequel, Age of Resistance arrives in the form of 10 hour-long episodes that show how the planet Thra and the titular crystal fell under the control of the Skeksis as well as how the Gelflings learned of the horrible acts by their overlords. Directed by Louis Leterrier (THE INCREDIBLE HULK, CLASH OF THE TITANS) and under the guidance of Lisa Henson, I am happy to say that this is what fans of THE DARK CRYSTAL have been waiting for almost four decades to see.
With a cast of virtually all new characters, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance delves into elements of the vast mythology created by Jim Henson while maintaining the visual style and feel of the feature film. While there is a far more epic scale to this series, which seems odd since this is a small screen production, the bigger budget and running time for this story does not mean we are inundated with CGI and changes to the character designs. In fact, the puppets, Gelfling and Skeksis alike, look straight out of 1982. Age of Resistance looks like it could have been filmed at the same time as THE DARK CRYSTAL and it is that attention to detail that makes this series so impressive.
As I watched the first episode in Hall H, I was given more than enough backstory in the form of Sigourney Weaver‘s narration that helped return me to the world of Thra and how the Crystal of Truth fell under the control of the alien Skeksis. Over the sixty minute first episode, I felt like I had already journeyed as far as a feature film could have taken me which means that nine more chapters will be something truly special to experience. It is also clearly a labor of love as the high definition footage shows every detail on the puppet faces and every tiny detail etched into the props and sets. From the underground Grottan clan to the Stonewood Clan at the Crystal Castle, every unique tribe has their own distinct look that helps you keep track of where the story takes you.
The ease in which you can suspend your disbelief and fall into the story goes doubly for the excellent voice work. Of the entire cast, I only recognized the voice of Taron Egerton who sounds pretty much like himself. While Mark Hamill‘s panel appearance gave away his role, every other famous voice disappears into the organic nature of the story. Whether it be Anya Taylor-Joy, Nathalie Emmanuel, Andy Samberg, Mark Strong, Catriona Balfe, Helena Bonham-Carter, Toby Jones, Jason Isaacs, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Lena Headey, Alicia Vikander, Hannah John-Kamen, Natalie Dormer, Simon Pegg, Awkwafina, or Keegan Michael-Key, every single actor is unrecongizable in their performance. You also easily forget you are watching puppets as this story could rival anything from Game of Thrones to LORD OF THE RINGS.
What is so exceptional about The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is how close it hews to Jim Henson‘s vision. Lisa Henson and Louis Leterrier could have gone with a more realistic look to the characters or even embraced CGI, but the intentional choice to keep the puppets gives the movie a timeless quality. There is also a darkness to this story that echoes the feature film, making this Dark Crystal a risky watch for very young viewers. But, as someone who loved the original as a child, this took me right back to my youth. How many prequels or sequels made decades after the original can do that? Louis Leterrier has handled big budget spectacles before but his faithfullness to making the story that Henson would have wanted to see is admirable.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a triumph of special effects, design, and execution. It is amazing that it even exists. If this first episode is any indicator, we could be in store for one of the most epic seasons of television ever made. And yes, I know I am saying that about a series starring puppets. The passion and creativity that went into making this series is very evident in every second of this series and I find it impossible to believe anyone will be disappointed with this show. If you are not a fantasy fan, you probably won’t be converted by The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, but if any series could do it, it would be this one. All I know is that August cannot come sooner so I can find out just how the rest of this tale unfolds.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance premieres August 30th on Netflix..