Usually when a TV show or movie is going to get rebooted, prequeled or sequeled, there’s a large collective groan. However, when The Dark Crystal was announced, there was a distinct lack of groan.
This was mostly because the original people were going to be involved, despite it being on Netflix, The Jim Henson Creature Shop still created all the puppets and provided the puppeteers. This may also have been because the film is a cult classic, not a mainstream hit at the time.
Writers Jeffrey Addiss (“The Winners (Short)”, “Both Thumbs (Short)”) and Will Matthews (“Hard Sell (Short)”, “Manos Partidas (Short)”) originally approached the powers that be with a script for a sequel to Labyrinth. This was refused, but they were invited to work on The Dark Crystal instead.
Age Of Resistance is a prequel to the original film, telling the story of the seven clans that, in the original film, we see cave-type drawings about.
We are on Thra again and the Skeksis are ruling over the Gelfling’s and looking after the Truth Crystal for Aughra, Donna Kimball (“The Happytime Murders“, “Catch Me If You Can”), who has left her body and is floating around the universe thanks to a gift from the Skeksis.
We meet Deet, Nathalie Emmanuel (“Fast & Furious 7“, “Game Of Thrones (TV)”), a Grottan Clan Gelfling (they’re the ones from the caves), who is sent on a quest by a tree.
Along the way Deet meets Rian, Taron Egerton (“Rocketman“, “Sing“), of the Stonewood Clan who works in the castle where the Skeksis live. Then there’s Brea, Anya Taylor-Joy (“Split“, “Playmobil: The Movie“), who is a Princes from the Vapra Clan and Hup, Victor Yerrid (” The Happytime Murders “, “Robot Chicken (TV)”), a Podling.
There is a whole heap of other characters across the ten, one hour episodes, and the voice cast is as expansive as it is impressive. You have Sigourney Weaver (“A Monster Calls“, “Ghostbuster”) as The Myth-Speaker, Benedict Wong (“The Martian“, “Doctor Strange“) as The General, Simon Pegg (“Slaughterhouse Rulez“, “Ready Player One“) as The Chamberlain, Awkwafina (“Crazy Rich Asians“, “Ocean’s Eight”) as The Collector, Mark Hamill (“Child’s Play“, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi“) as The Scientist, Jason Isaacs (“The Death Of Stalin“, “A Cure For Wellness“) as The Emperor, Alicia Vikander (“Tomb Raider“, “Submergence“) as Mira, on and on the list goes.
The expansive, and long, story sees Deet, Rian, Brea and Hup learn about where the Skeksis are getting their power and immortality from. This coincides with a Darkening that is spreading across the land, turning once placid creatures into angry and violent ones.
The foursome travel across Thra, trying to convince others of what they’ve learnt, solving puzzles and looking for elusive items to help them with their quest.
When Aughra wakes and sees what the Skeksis have done to the Truth Crystal she left in their care, she is horrified and does all she can to help the Gelfling’s turn things around.
The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance is still based on drawings from Brian Froud who also drew all the characters and costumes for the original film. It also leans on the young adult books that J. M. Lee has been writing and the whole world he has created for them.
The puppets are brilliant, augmented with CGI but not so’s it gets in the way. There are still some elements that will remind you of Thunderbirds but that’s part of the charm in my opinion.
As someone who loved the original film, Age Of Resistance is a welcome addition. It doesn’t feel like it runs roughshod over the original or make such a leap as to be unrecognisable either.
However, it is long. Ten hours is a hell of a time to sit through and you feel like some elements could have been cut to bring it in around eight episodes instead.
But what has been created is nothing short of magical and you have to applaud Netflix for wanting the show to be done with puppets when filling it full of CGI, or even doing it as an animated series as was originally proposed, would have been quicker and cheaper.
The puppeteers should also take a bow, holding a puppet over your head for hours at a time can’t be easy, as I’m sure putting a convincing voice to the movements (unlike animation, the voices come after the filming) isn’t either.
But it all comes together for what is an expansive adventure. It’s good to be back in the world of Dark Crystal and I hope that the teaser we get at the end will lead to another one. Perhaps a touch shorter next time though.