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.
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.
The puppeteering work in this series is incredible, as is the voice cast. The Skeksis are brought to life by the likes of Mark Hamill, Jason Isaacs, Benedict Wong, Simon Pegg, Keegan-Michael Key, Awkwafina, Harvey Fierstein, and more, whose voice work accompanies impeccable puppeteering by Clash, Dave Chapman, Warrick Brownlow-Pike, Olly Taylor, Victor Yerrid, Helena Smee, Louise 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.
But of course, though the series does spend a significant amount of time with the Skeksis, the stars are the Gelfling. Nathalie Emmanuel, Anya Taylor-Joy, Taron 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.
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.