80’s fantasy classic gets a prequel on Netflix
Review: The Dark Crystal – Age of Resistance
Starring: Taron Egerton, Mark Hamill, Nathalie Emmanuel,
Eddie Izzard, Helena Bonham-Carter, Jason Issacs, Awkwafina, Benedict Wong, Andy Samberg, Sigourney Weaver
The world of Thra is dying. The Darkening has taken hold and is slowly destroying crops and corrupting the living beings, driving them mad to the point of death. The Crystal of Truth has been damaged as its obsessed masters pursue eternal life, throwing the entire ecosystem out of balance.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance has more to teach us than simply that puppets make for great story tellers.
Set 50 years ahead of the timeline set in Jim Henson’s ground-breaking 1982 film The Dark Crystal this 10-episode series finds the Skeksis, Gelfing and Podling living in harmony on Thra. It is a simpler time; one where harmony has reigned many a trine. The seven Gelfling clans respect the position of the Skeksis lords and give them offerings as they have been blessed… though they are blissfully unaware that the Skeksis seek only a better future for themselves.
The keeper of the secrets of Thra – Mother Aughra (Donna Kimball) – is in a long sleep, discovering new corners of the universe, and as tension rises around diminishing offerings due to the blight the Skeksis are getting more and more reliant on the Crystal to keep them alive. The Scientist (Mark Hamill) has developed a way to harvest the essence of the Gelfing and it is mother’s milk to the Skeksis, though the process further corrupts the Crystal and allows the all-consuming Darkening to further destroy Thra.
Three Gelfing – Rian (Taron Egerton), Brea (Anya Taylor-Joy), and Deet (Nathalie Emmanuel) – separately learn of the Skeksis’ real intentions and are set on a path to unite the clans and save their world before the planet’s three suns align and Thra is lost forever.
“Hope is fragile. Precious. Hope catches the light, splitting the darkness, revealing your destiny.” — Mother Aughra.
The Henson company have been at the forefront of some of the most creative performance and art for decades. The vision of founder Jim Henson to develop his own fantasy feature film using only muppet/puppet characters was met with praise for the depth of character and story, and concern as it was a decidedly dark turn for a man who normally brought a talking frog to life on Sesame Street and TV variety show The Muppets.
His 1982 film that established this world earned its place in movie folklore, and accelerated the transformation of movie special effects that saw an exponential improvement in the use of animatronics and practical effects within the industry. This legacy now benefits this new beginning story by the same company, headed by the creator’s adult children.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance continues this vision by further developing a lavish, rich world and inserting the puppet characters at the centre of it. It’s deeply immersive and overwhelms you with colour, creation and sound.
The voice cast is full of Hollywood A-listers to boot. Along with the aforementioned Egerton and Hamill (Luke Skywalker himself) the characters are given vocal life through a rare partnership of puppeteer and voice actor. Eddie Izzard, Helena Bonham-Carter, Jason Issacs, Awkwafina, Benedict Wong, Andy Samberg, Sigourney Weaver and more lend their pipes to this epic fantasy tale. Simon Pegg is given the ominous task of bringing The Chamberlin, a key character in the original film, to life and does so with eerie poise and spine-chilling ease.
The series develops incredible themes of identity, an environment in and out of balance, self-sacrifice, power and corruption that all too easily reveal this fable’s intention, and it does so without being heavy handed or overly-confronting. Viewing and conversation with Tweens and older will centre around the three protagonists and their quest, and offer opportunity to discuss their personal or community real-life experiences.
Fans of fantasy series will fall under the spell of TDK: AOR all too easily, and those looking for something different and family friendly will be pleased this series fits the bill, though there are moments that could be scary for younger viewers.
Keep a special eye out for the Podling Hup (Victor Yerrid), who befriends and protects a vulnerable Deet early in the series. It’s a partnership for the ages and nobody wields a spoon better or more bravely.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a deeply immersive television experience from some of the best in the business. As large as the world of Thra might be it is the detail that sets this story and its characters apart from myriad other offerings, and you won’t be disappointed.
THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE (10 episodes) launches 30 August on Netflix
Steve Molkentin (Molk), Mission Officer, Queensland Synod and Advocate for the Discipling the Next Generations Circle for Assembly. This article first appeared on TV Black Box and is reprinted with permission.