The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019-) Season 1
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019-) Season 1 review
A Netflix original series from creators Jeffrey Addiss and Will Matthews, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a prequel to the cult classic 1982 film The Dark Crystal, set on the distant world of Thra. This series follows three Gelfling as they begin to discover the truth behind the evil Skesis, setting out to start a rebellion against them before it is too late…
While the original Dark Crystal film is admittedly a mixed bag, offering a strong technical presence but a lack of a truly compelling story, the series embraces its fantasy roots, blasting into thick lore and rich characters that not only improve the viewing experience of the film, but easily surpass it.
Prior to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings adaptations, fantasy was not necessarily in the best shape, with popular hits like Harry Potter and Game of Thrones quickly following in the large footsteps left by possibly the most flawless movie trilogy of all time. So in the vein of inspiring and then taking inspiration from the things that improved upon it, The Dark Crystal feels incredibly familiar, but somehow new. This does mean that much of it feels cliché for fantasy at times, while also serving to remind us that in 1982, The Dark Crystal is responsible for setting a few of those standards in the first place. In other words: for being such an underseen gem, it gets a free pass for taking notes in order to create a truly rich lore.
Now something that makes Jim Henson’s films stand out is the quality in both the puppeteering and the worldbuilding, two things that Age of Resistance rightfully excels at. The vibrant world of Thra is delved into further, exploring and adding to much more of the fantastical setting and rules in which the world is set; something important in furthering the story also. And while Lord of the Rings paved the way for incorporating a fantasy world into your story, and Harry Potter showed how to focus on details without taking away from your characters, Dark Crystal surprisingly follows most in the footsteps of Game of Thrones with its approach to both introducing elements of the world to the audience and interconnecting those elements with the story, which I dare not give away for those of you who aren’t familiar with the equally eloquent and blunt fashion that show takes to its audience participation. (And when I say Game of Thrones in this review, I am referring to the better half of the writing.)
Now while the story is left in the excellent hands of strong writers, the pacing does take time to get used to. Easily the biggest problem I had with the series was that, early on, I didn’t know how to feel about it. Literally. Now I should have taken proper notes from the movie and had a series mindset with some levity sprinkled in, however the series features some odd moments that make me wonder if they were too light, or too silly, feeling like the first and last Harry Potter film thrown together when it came time to being serious. And serious this show is, embracing both the fun and entertaining side of fantasy with the darker nature of it by the end. However, it takes a few episodes to settle in.
I also found it worth noting that a few moments and additions to the world had me questioning something that the movie told us already, such as the intelligence level of Podlings, or the physical abilities of the Skesis. One aspect that does help set the tone early on is the score from Daniel Pemberton and Samuel Sim, which blends the best style from Pemberton’s King Arthur into a more graceful feel. And between the swelling themes that take on life for the Gelfling, Skeksis, and Thra itself, to the more subtle moments of instrumentation that capture the feel of the world’s own source music, they create possibly one of the best soundtracks this year has offered so far!
In the end though, the true show-stealers were the performances: both voicing the characters and animating them. And I cannot imagine the challenge the puppeteers had to go through to so perfectly bring this series to life, stepping up with the large challenge that comes with a more exciting and active world. So since I don’t know anything about that hard work, let me just say that the physical quality on display in this series is a true 10/10. The voice performances are icing on the cake, and darn good icing at that. From series leads Taron Egerton, Nathalie Emmanuel, and Anya Taylor-Joy, to the entire supporting cast which I just don’t have time to list off, everyone here was cast perfectly, and does a remarkable job with the voices. And like in the original, the Skeksis do kinda steal the show, with hilariously over-the-top performances from Jason Isaacs, Simon Pegg, Benedict Wong, Keegan-Michael Key, Awkwafina, Mark Hamill, and many more. They all sound like they are constantly arguing over a Thanksgiving dinner table with food in their mouths and a harsh cold going around, and it’s just perfect!
And since I dare not spoil the show any further by talking about the often hilarious, often compelling, and always deep and fleshed-out characters, I will leave you by simply saying, “Please check out this series!” I know that you have to watch the movie first, but even that is good! Just come for the top-notch puppeteering, and stay for the surprisingly in-depth fantasy that this series dives into head first. Everything from the visual effects to the talent behind both the movements and the voices to the characters is utterly fantastical, with only some minor moments in the tone and beats holding this series back. In the end, nothing keeps this show from being as exciting and unpredictable as it is, which in turn leads to one of the most overall engaging viewing experiences I have had for a series this year; but don’t take my word for it, give it a watch and see for yourself! 9/10
-review by Ryan Prince
So The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance? Did you see it? What did you think? And if you could pick one cult classic to get a prequel series, what would it be? Whatever your thoughts, be sure to leave a like and a comment below letting us know!