I never saw The Dark Crystal as a kid. There’s two reasons for this: the first being that this movie was never very popular, usually ending up on the bottom of the stacks of movies we’d pick out at Blockbuster to watch on a Friday night. The second reason is that The Neverending Story and Labrynth weirded me out enough, and even though I loved both movies, they were all I needed for creepy and disturbing Muppet adventure. However, after Netflix dropped their surprising trailer for their prequel series, Age of Resistance, I was immediately captivated by the scope and scale of artistry. It seemed like the show would be a fun silly time, and maybe even a nostalgic callback to these 80’s Jim Henson movies. I was pleasantly surprised: The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is an absolute powerhouse of creativity, and dare I say, completely psychotic in the best ways possible.
I was almost too distracted by the sheer artistry of every scene that I had trouble following the story. What these puppeteers, art directors, and cinematographers have achieved here is outstanding. I think the last time I was this impressed with production quality was with Mad Max: Fury Road, and even so, the minimal use of CGI while demonstrating fast-paced “Muppeteering” in a dynamic set seems revolutionary. It almost makes me feel bad for ignoring Jim Henson’s original film, since much of that movie’s quality is comparable. Beyond the visuals, the story is more or less a classic Medieval fantasy. Age of Resistance portrays a deep mythological backdrop, setting the stage of conflict on the planet Thra as the malevolent and gross Skeksis (who possess the corrupted Crystal of Life), take on a band of benevolent young Gelflings, as they set on a quest to prevent a “Darkening” from encompassing the planet.
Through their bizarre adventures, the audience is given what turns out to be a far more violent storyline than I expected, even for a series based on 80’s fantasy. There’s genocide here, with Skeksis stabbing Gelflings and violently draining their life forces from their bodies. There’s gruesome murders, with characters being bloodily beaten to a pulp. The body count stacks fairly high by the end, and frankly, calls into question what age range this show is meant for. But for every moment of violence is a charming moment that is truly joyful. Much of this comes from the constantly optimistic Gelfling Deet, or the brave but lovable Podling “warrior” Hup. A heavy dose of comedy comes from the Yoda-esque Aughra, the primary “Keeper of Thra” of sorts. The majority of characters are portrayed in memorable and distinct ways, largely in part to an impressive amount A-List talent (Including Taron Egerton, Eddie Izzard, Helena Bonham Carter, Simon Pegg, Jason Isaacs, Mark Hamill, Keegan-Michael Kelly, Andy Samberg, and countless others). Connecting these characters is a surprising amount of decent drama that celebrates heroism and fighting for universal virtues. With many shows trying to push the bounds of their protagonist’s moral compasses, its almost refreshing to see classic heroic values in this fun setting.
This show is an absolute wild ride. There’s so much happening in every second and its so bizarre or surprising or ridiculous that you never get the chance to question whats going on. But amid the insanity is a fun plot and a cast of unique characters and mind boggling creativity to keep your interest. Is Age of Resistance for kids? Highly questionable. Is it for adults? Doubtful. I feel like the show’s creators don’t really know or care who its for, and neither did Jim Henson, which is what makes it as fun as it is. 8.6/10