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THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE gets 8.5/10 Heed the call of the Crystal


Season One

Created by Jeffery Addiss and Will Matthews
Directed by Louis Leterrier
Starring Taron Egerton, Nathalie Emmanuel, Anya Taylor-Joy, Simon Pegg

8.5/10

“Another world. Another time.”

Finally, after decades and numerous attempts (both Genndy Tartakovsky and the Spierig Brothers were associated with projects that were stuck in development hell), we are able to return to the magical world of Thra. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a 10 episode Jim Henson Company/Netflix series that acts as a prequel to Henson’s fantasy film.

Set before the events in The Dark Crystal (1982), this saga looks at three Gelflings that between them uncover a threat to all Thra. Rian (Taron Egerton), a Crystal Palace guard, who discovers that the Lords of the Crystal have been abusing their power to seek immortality. Deet (Nathalie Emmanuel), a subterranean druid who discovers a mystical blight that’s corrupting animals. Brea (Anya Taylor-Joy), a bookish princess who is visited by a strange and ominous vision. Together they must mobilise their clans to rebel against the skeletal and bird-like Skeksis, and find a way to repair the Crystal of Truth.

Like Legolas on a snow drift, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance manages to faultlessly walk a fine line. This Netflix prequel is both respectful to the 1982 film, immaculately recreating it in terms of Brian Froud’s design and tone, but it also manages to forge its own path, imbuing its collection of characters with life and purpose. In many ways, the extended format of the series allows it to give even more sense of character to these creations than Jen ever had. Henson’s masterpiece was an epic work of world building, but the central character was given little agency beyond accepting the call of adventure in the standard hero’s journey. By contrast the three main characters of Age of Resistance undergo genuine growth, are sorely tested, and will surely sacrifice more as the show continues.

In terms of world building, Age of Resistance manages to fill out much of the background of Thra, and the Gelflings, as well as expanding on the Skeksis. Again, here it feels like an evolution of the events from the 1982 original, and great care has been taken to meld it into that film, both in terms of the setting, and in terms of the story. That’s not to say that this will necessarily end in the way that we expect it to, as this season has shown that it is capable of producing surprises and shocks. “Many endings” and “diverging paths” is a reprise throughout, and may suggest that the prophecy doesn’t necessarily play out in a way we’re familiar with. If it does (which is admittedly the most likely scenario), then that leaves the way open for an incredibly downbeat ending, but given that the show has not pulled any punches so far, either in terms of its portrayal of horror or it’s willingness to kill characters… well… we shall see.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance also drills down into Henson’s humanist themes. Here again they are expanded and codified, centering on the Skeksis indulgent exploitation, both of their political power, and the resources of the natural world. Almost 40 years on, and it seems to have even more real world resonance, increasing both the terror and the wonder that this show can inflict on it’s audience.

The result is something that should satisfy fans of the original, as well as win over new audiences. Thra is brought to life, as a High Fantasy world full of horrors and delights. A phenomenal achievement, and that bodes well for the future of the series.

DAVID O’CONNELL

This review was originally published by chaospopculture.com.

 

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