On August 30, fans can return to Jim Henson‘s world in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance on Netflix. The 10-episode prequel series explores the world of Thra and the seven Gelfling clans, approximately 100 years before the events of the 1982 movie. When a trio of Gelfling discover that the Skeksis are not the kind, generous lords they thought, a rebellion forms among the seven clans as the Gelfling fight to save their world.

In case you aren’t familiar with The Dark Crystal, the film follows two Gelfling — the very last of their kind — as they venture to the Skeksis’ castle and attempt to heal the Crystal of Truth. Since Age of Resistance is a prequel, there is an impending sense of dread hanging over the series; the Gelfling genocide at the hands of the Skeksis is an important plot point for the film, after all. However, the prequel still manages to imbue a sense of hope into the darkness — although it must be said, up front, that this series is dark and incredibly violent. It is not appropriate for kids.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
Netflix

Without revealing any spoilers, Age of Resistance hones in on the horror of the Skeksis and their thirst for power. These creatures are genuinely evil, concerned with preserving their own immortality, no matter the cost. There are more of them in this series than there are in the film, and they are truly nightmare-inducing; the way they move, speak, and otherwise behave is repulsive and scary. All of the puppets in Age of Resistance are incredibly detailed, which means the Skeksis’ worst features — from oozing, pustulous faces to sharp, crowded teeth — are intensely present in all of their scenes.

Luckily, that level of detail is also embedded in the non-evil aspects of the show. Age of Resistance depicts the beautiful diversity of the seven Gelfling clans, as well as other creatures of Thra — such as the dirt-loving Podlings, the sweet and rambunctious Fizzgigs, the fast-moving Landstriders, and of course, the great prophet and elder Mother Aughra (voiced by Donna Kimball, controlled by Kevin Clash). In this series, Thra is deep under Skeksis rule and the Darkening is descending upon the land — but in some areas, Thra is still thriving, and it hurts to realize how much changes between these episodes and the film they precede.

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The puppeteering work in this series is incredible, as is the voice cast. The Skeksis are brought to life by the likes of Mark HamillJason IsaacsBenedict WongSimon PeggKeegan-Michael KeyAwkwafinaHarvey Fierstein, and more, whose voice work accompanies impeccable puppeteering by Clash, Dave ChapmanWarrick Brownlow-PikeOlly TaylorVictor YerridHelena SmeeLouise Gold, and more. Most of the puppeteers pull double or even triple duty for the Skeksis, the Gelfling, the Podlings, and the other creatures of Thra, in addition to voicing some of them.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
Netflix

But of course, though the series does spend a significant amount of time with the Skeksis, the stars are the Gelfling. Nathalie EmmanuelAnya Taylor-JoyTaron Egerton, Lena Headey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Helena Bonham-Carter are just some of the actors who lend their voices to these strong, resilient creatures, who refuse to be held under the Skeksis’ thumb anymore. In addition to the puppeteers listed above, Emmanuel’s character, Deet, is controlled by Beccy Henderson, Taylor-Joy’s and Headey’s characters, Brea and Maudra Fara, are controlled by Alice Dinnean, and Egerton’s character, Rian, is controlled by Neil Sterenberg.

According to director Louis Leterrier, filming Age of Resistance took about a year, with hundreds of puppeteers putting in hours of work to make the series look the way it does. Seeing these puppets brought to life on screen with no more advanced technology than green screen (which Henson didn’t have in 1982) is honestly awe-inducing. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is visually stunning. The love and care put into its production shine, and it’s clear that everyone involved in the project was as into it as the lifelong fans of the classic film, which makes it all feel that much more real.

The writing, too, is superb, though the pacing suffers in the first half of the season. A quick-moving, Game of Thrones-esque introduction catches the viewer up on what’s happening in Thra using miniatures and narration in the first episode, and then a tragedy occurs that sets the rest of the series in motion. Unfortunately, though the first episode is super fast-paced, the next few are slower as they introduce characters and begin to bring their paths together from all corners of Thra. Until the characters meet, the show feels about as slow as the film.

Then, it rockets into the latter half of the story. As the violence increases, so do the stakes, as Deet, Brea, Rian, Hup (voiced and controlled by Victor Yerrid), and their friends race to defeat the Skeksis before it’s too late.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
Netflix

It’s fun to see Thra in an age when not everything is absolutely terrible. The characters introduced in this series are excellent and the hints at what’s to come are handled well, without detracting from the story being told. While it’s true that there is an inevitability to prequel series that can’t be avoided (think Rogue One), The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance manages to balance things out in a way that respects the original story and continues its continuity, without dumping audiences into a deep, dark pit of despair.

Despite some pacing issues, this series is phenomenal. It feels like The Dark Crystal throughout, even as it dives into elements that could never have been explored in the movie (though the 93-minute film still packs in an incredible amount of world-building). It’s approachable for old fans and new, though it should be reiterated that Age of Resistance is violent and often quite terrifying. This includes combat, torture, suicide and some body horror. It’s true that these things take place in a fantasy setting, but it may be best not to show the series to younger kids without screening it first.

Overall, I really loved this series and I think new fans and old will enjoy The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, too. Catch the entire series starting Friday, August 30 on Netflix. And if you need a refresher on the world of Thra before diving in, check out The Beat‘s series primer.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Oh, I do like Jim Henson. Such a social realist, and he’s got a massive social conscience. As for Dark Crystal being for kids or not, the original is one of those threshold movies, I think. Enough there to be scary and stimulating, to simultaneously push you away and draw you back in. The original Watership Down is another such movie, with all its death of rabbits, that simultaneously pushes attracts, in a similar way.

    Benefits to certain types of kids watching (I’m being tentative), and they might perhaps have nightmares. But the they’ll want to watch it again, and again. And again. Threshold.

  2. Posting separately, because it might not be suitable… To address this absence or presence of ‘despair’ as indicative of suitability for children or not, that various reviewers have focussed on…

    Whenever you see this binary opposition of particularly Light/Darkness, or Good/Evil, in a fuction, the text is engaging or using as its structure a Christian rationalism. I find this mildly amusing myself because so many people that dislike recoil against Christianity – people that identify as pagans, goths, fantasists, aethiests, whatever – actively consume and reinforce the basic Christian tenet of Light vs Dark (so stuff that in your postmodernism and smoke it). Plato created the binary opposition, and the Christians borrowed it remorsely. So, to sum up, consuming fiction with this basic tenet (which superheroes, LOTR, fantasty generally, etc, etc, operate in) is an active form of consuming a culturally Christian understanding of the world. As I said; faintly hilarious..

    The absence of Light does not induce or necessitate ‘despair’ – and I would object to that discernment, and ask you to self analyze. It just means the fiction is working beyond a Christian rationalism.

    That’s all regardless to The Dark Crystral, as it does operate within that Light/Dark dichotomy (which is kind of a point Henson makes, in the Skexis and the Old Ones being from the same unity; the division is false). I can consume fiction with that binary in place, but I am aware of it. There are still good things to be appreciated. And then there are texts that work beyond the binary. And they are not necessarily despairing just because of a so-called lack of Light.

  3. And I just have deep fondness for a fiction that has no difference between the singular and plural members of a species. Forgot to say that. ‘Gelfling’. Love it!

  4. I find it frustrating, this idea that kids can’t handle moments of darkness in entertainment. Relentless darkness, that’s one thing. I’m not crazy about that myself. But moments of darkness? A kid sometimes needs to be shown that the world isn’t always meant to be sunshine and rainbows. As someone of the generation of kids with ‘helicopter parents’, I feel that keenly. We’ve got to move past the binary we’ve adopted in our entertainment and have more respect toward the sensibilities of kids. They can handle a lot more than we often give them credit for.

  5. My eight year old daughter and three year old nephew LOVE it. It depends on the kid- watch it and decide whether it is right for your own kid. I know lots of kids who can’t even handle the wolf chase in Frozen, and then there are kids like ours who have always been drawn to darker material. There is no rule, parents should use their own judgement. I am enjoying sharing something that played a huge role in my own childhood!

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