I was obsessed with The Dark Crystal as a kid. I loved it. I loved that it was imaginative, that it was so far removed from anything I’d ever seen before, I loved its fantastical settings, the dark tone, and the fact that there were multiple moments in the film that scarred 8 year-old me for life. The essence-draining scene is still something I see in my nightmares.
Fast-forward a few dozen years and adult me comes across The Dark Crystal in a $7 blu-ray bin at Walmart and I thing, hey… I can relive my childhood with this movie! There’s no possible way it’s not as good as I remembered!
The Dark Crystal is not as good as I remembered.
As a matter of fact, I would posit that this cornerstone of my childhood, this movie that I remembered so fondly as one of my favorites is actually… bad.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a treasure trove of imagination and visual amazement and you have to admire the movie’s audacity to tell a serious fantasy story using nothing but puppets, but it is very boring… the dialogue isn’t that great, and there are multiple plot points that go completely unexplained.
I was disappointed so so terribly. A feature length movie wasn’t enough to delve into this mythology that Jim Henson had created.
Here we are, just shy of forty years later, and Netflix has finally brought The Dark Crystal to a medium where this world and mythology can be explored in depth in a way is hasn’t been explored before besides the books and comics that I have never seen.
Age of Resistance takes place some time before the movie – I’m assuming hundreds of years, maybe? I don’t know. Through various characters, some old and some new, we’re told the story of how the Gelflings discovered that the Skeksis were evil and how they rose against them.
If you have seen the movie, you know this doesn’t end well.
You may laugh, but Age of Resistance has got a very Game of Thrones feel only with less sex and slightly less nudity. It covers multiple locations, multiple characters, shifting loyalties, and an ever-expanding mythos.
This could be one of those rare and precious prequels that actually enhances the movie by providing characterization and backstory and simple world-rules that didn’t exist before. Who knows, I may go back and re-watch The Dark Crystal with all of these new tidbits in my skull… or I might just wait a couple of more seasons or until this series is finished.
And, my gosh, I do hope Netflix gives this series a chance to finish because it is quite an accomplishment. The puppets look almost identical to the puppets used in the movie, the voice cast is outstanding, and the magic and visual splendor of The Dark Crystal is recaptured perfectly.
If I had a complaint, it would be one of my primary complaints against The Dark Crystal – not counting its vague rules and boring story – and that would be the facial expressions of the Gelflings… they are still too blank and do not emote as well as they should. Sadness, anger, joy… none of them are efficiently communicated through the Gelfling puppets and, given the improvement in puppetry and CGI over the last 40 years, there is really no reason these faces cannot be more expressive than they are. Augra, the Mystics, and the Skeksis are accepted as living, breathing creatures… The Gelflings are still just puppets and that almost removed me from the story.
A more minor complaint, but still relevant, is that the Gelflings look too much alike, especially the female characters. Too often, I had to ask, “Which one is that?” when one of them showed up and did something. Different hairstyles, facial features, or even something as simple as another shade of hair coloring other than black and white would have gone a long way.
Despite the cosmetic nitpicking, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is an infections and mesmerizing effort. I started watching this less than 24 hours ago and I have binged the entire series because I just had to know what was going to happen next. Here I am at the end of the season… and I still need to know what happens next!
This is rehab for a childhood classic that has been dirtied by the more discerning adult eye. This is a wonder chance for this apparently exhaustive mythology to finally see the light of day and my inner child could not be happier.