On August 30, 2019, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance will premiere on Netflix with a star-studded voice cast and a return to the amazing Jim Henson Company puppetry that made the original film an instant classic when it debuted in 1982.
The dark fairy tale-like series is made up of ten episodes, each nearly an hour long, packed with enough action, adventure, intrigue, and fantastic landscapes and characters to transport the willing viewer from our humdrum lives to the mystical world of Thra.
Set many years before the events of 1982’s The Dark Crystal, the new series focuses on the growing strife between the varied clans of Gelfling and the Skeksis who have assumed control of the Crystal of Truth.
The Crystal’s power has darkened under the Skeksis stewardship and that darkness is seeping out into the world of Thra. Rian (Taron Egerton), Deet (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Brea (Anya Taylor-Joy), three Gelfling from different clans, have discovered a new insidious plot by the Skeksis and they set out to unite the Gelfling to fight this new threat.
Director Louis Leterrier worked in tandem with The Jim Henson Company to recreate the world of Thra much as we knew it in that original film with intricate, lifelike puppetry, textured hand-sculpted sets, and a bare minimum of CGI effects to give it the feel of a classic production.
What’s most incredible about the series is that, after only an episode or two, one begins to forget that these are puppets at all. Certainly they are completely unearthly beings, but they seem alive and the more alive they become, the more immersive Thra becomes.
Beyond the physical spectacle of the series, the writing is stellar. Jeffrey Addis (Life in a Year) and the writers have expanded upon the mythology of The Dark Crystal, creating a story that is compelling and answering questions that have lingered for 37 years about the Gelfling, Mother Aughra, and the Skeksis and Mystics.
Likewise, music for the series composed by Daniel Pemberton (Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse) and Samuel Sim (The Spanish Princess) is nothing short of glorious. Together they created an evocative soundscape that ranges from symphonic swells to deceptively simple folk songs.
For their part, the talented voice cast is more than up to the challenge of embodying the denizens of Thra.
It would be a daunting task to point out the pitch-perfect performances of all the actors in the series. Egerton, Emmanuel, and Taylor-Joy are joined by the likes of Lena Headey, Harvey Fierstein, Eddie Izzard, Helena Bonham Carter, Toby Jones, Simon Pegg, Jason Isaacs, and Gugu Mbatha Raw to name just a few.
Each brings their own dynamic talents to their roles, breathing life into these characters with seeming ease, but there are two performances that must be pointed out.
Mark Hamill is deliciously evil in the role of the Skeksis Scientist. The actor has proven his talent as a voice actor time and again and this role is no different. Whether he’s feeling petulant, vindictive, or power-hungry, there is never any doubt that he is a dangerous enemy to have.
Likewise, puppeteer and voice actress Donna Kimball proves she was more than up for the task of bringing Aughra to life. In fact, the similarity between her performance and Billie Whitelaw’s in the original film is downright uncanny. She fully embodies the ancient, powerful mistress of Thra at every turn.
And then there’s Thra, a mystical world with a life all its own.
Thra breathes; Thra sings. Thra can nurture; Thra can kill. Thra mourns, and Thra can die which leads us to the heart of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. It is a reminder to all of us that those in power are not always right and those who rebel are sometimes the true heroes.
If I had one complaint about the series as a whole, it is that I found the pacing a bit uneven at times. Certainly exposition and character development are fundamental to any story, but there are ways of doing that while maintaining momentum, and there were one or two episodes where that forward-movement slowed quite a bit.
Fortunately, these issues are not enough to detract from the series as a whole.
In fact, by the end of the series, audiences will almost assuredly find that they have been on an epic journey that is both nostalgic and new. It also leaves you with the feeling that there are more stories that Netflix could tell within this world, and all eyes will surely be on the streaming platform to find out if this adventure will continue.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance premieres August 30, 2019 on Netflix.