I really don’t know how Netflix disperses its promotional funds. It would seem that “Dark Crystal” merch should be everywhere right now – think endless partnerships with Coca Cola and Target. Alas, I assume these things are just saved for shows like “Stranger Things” Season 3 – which needed all the promo it could get.
Regrettably, two weeks since its release and here we are. “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” must stand alone for itself. For this writer, it’s the only thing that has kept me paying $10.99 per month for the streaming service.
Visually, linguistically, musically – the 10-part series is a prequel to Jim Henson’s 1982 cult classic. Viewers who have yet to see the original won’t need to before watching, but will probably want to after. The original, when paired with the series, is a testament to the powers of the Henson crew. The prequel series sparkles a bit more in terms of incorporating CGI with mostly practical effects, namely puppets.
The ensemble cast is full of voices sword and sorcery fans may recognize from “Game of Thrones”. Lead role Rian is voiced by “Rocketman” star Taron Eggerton. Other voices include Sigourney Weaver, Andy Samberg, Keegan-Michael Key, and Awkwafina. But the real breakout star of the series is wide and dark-eyed Deet, voiced by Nathalie Emmanuel, who is known mostly for her work in the West End UK production of “The Lion King.”. Animal and nature lover Deet travails through the troubled darkening world with a positive resilience – she absolutely refuses to give in to despair or discrimination. Despite being from a tribe of gelflings shunned by all other clans, Deet makes her way through her mystical home, Thra tirelessly, most of the time triumphing with pure energy and enthusiasm. The other gelflings have to accept her, she’s that endearing.
The plot takes place in a land somewhere long ago and far away called Thra, where evil vulture-like creatures called Skeksis rule the roost and keep all things fluffy, innocent, and good under their thumbs. The mystical tale, full of mercurial creatures like the elfish gelflings, cuddly Fizzgigs (Pomeranian-like creatures with big mouths), and humble podlings is themed around resistance, something that is not lost on viewers in today’s political climate. We see in the production the strain of all good creatures doing their best to keep harmony. We even see some of the “good guys” confused along the way, and aligning with dark forces. Again, these plot points are not lost on anyone familiar with today’s political climate.
Of note, Deet has two fathers in a loving relationship. The Henson Workshop incorporates diversity and inclusion into the plot without so much as a beat. The fact that Deet has two fathers in a relationship in Thra is perfectly natural and raises not a single eyebrow.
If there is one thing “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” gives us, it’s a means to escape. (And who won’t agree that in today’s super dark times a little escapism is a blessing?) Daniel Pemberton’s score alone is enough to immediately transport the audience to the psychedelic amethyst and fuchsia-tinged world of Thra but the visuals are nothing short of breathtaking. Notably, the Skeksis in the first episode are quite gruesome, even for fans of horror. But if the viewer sticks with it, bright characters like Deet, Brea (voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy) and Gurjin (Harris Dickinson) will light the way for them in dark places when it seems as though all other lights have gone out.
The biggest critique about “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” is simply that you won’t want it to end.
Photo of original gelfling at Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts, courtesy of alwright1