If people think that puppets are only entertaining when accompanied by “The Muppets” franchise, they need to turn their attention to the fantasy-rich universe of “The Dark Crystal”.
“The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” is a 10-episode Netflix original series, released Aug. 30, that serves as a prequel to Jim Henson’s 1982 film “The Dark Crystal.” The series is produced by Henson’s daughter, Lisa Henson, and has an all-star cast including the likes of Taron Egerton, Helena Bonham Carter, Simon Pegg, Mark Hamill and Sigourney Weaver.
The show takes place in a world called Thra and follows the story of three elf-like creatures called Gelflings from three different clans. Rian (Egerton), a castle guard from the Stonewood Clan, Brea (Anya Taylor-Joy), a princess of the Vapra Clan, and Deet (Nathalie Emmanuel), an animal caretaker of the Grottan Clan, unite to fight against horrible bird-like creatures known as the Skeksis. At first, the Gelflings honor the Skeksis as lords because they watch over the crystal of truth — the heart of Thra. Little do the Gelflings know, the Skeksis are abusing the crystal’s power and using it to remain immortal. Their desire for everlasting life causes the creatures and plants of Thra to become sick and violent, resulting in the creatures’ appetite for attacking anything that comes near them.
Overall, the series is visually gorgeous. The many castles and forests the series takes place in are all beautifully sculpted. Each castle helps viewers distinguish one clan’s home from the other. The show balances between light and dark settings — like when visuals of Grot’s dim caves, coated in glowing moss, are juxtaposed with scenes filled with the light blues and yellows in the kingdom of Ha’rar.
The puppeteering of the show is truly phenomenal, and the 83 puppeteers on the crew made the creatures look amazingly lifelike through their movements. With assistance from CGI, the puppets achieve more human-like expressions, and it is used in a way that doesn’t take the audience away from the characters. Even in scenes that appear to only use CGI, such as the scene where Rian falls from a castle balcony into the sea, it was mostly puppeteering with little computer animation. The use of puppets shows that practical effects can still tell a story just as well as telling it through computer animation.
From a story standpoint, the series keeps the audience interested and threads the three perspectives together very well. It is not for the faint of heart, however, as eyeball eating creatures and murder are featured throughout the episodes. And the Skeksis, old looking bird-like creatures, are truly terrifying and horrible villains.
The series concludes on an ambiguous note and leaves the audience wanting more. While it is unknown if the show will be renewed for a second season, considering the intense work that the crew put into the show, it might be a while before any news surfaces.
With amazing voice talent, and passionate work by the crew, “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” is something everyone should see at least once. The show puts its audience in a cinematic atmosphere that is entrancing and frightening at the same time. So hopefully, viewers will soon get to experience the beautiful world of Thra once again.