What good is having a global streaming service if you can’t go all out with a lavish, no-expenses-spared fantasy that transcends borders and speaks to the child within us all?
Netflix does just that with The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.
Now a sprawling series bursting with colour, humour, fear and awe, this stands a wondrous tribute to the genius of the late Jim Henson.
Delivered as a prequel to the 1982 film, this holds true to the original’s live-action puppetry. Whilst there is no doubt some CGI magic in the production, this looks authentic and with a depth of field that can’t be cheated.
The Crystal is a life-force at the centre of the world of Thra, which the vulture-like Skeksis use to rule over the elf-like Gelflings. Amid mountains, caves, rivers and waterfalls, these two communities subsist, but while the eye-candy landscapes are fore-runners to Lord of the Rings or Avatar, the tyranny and oppression are another story.
Princess Brea (Anya Taylor-Joy) is the rebellious daughter of the Gelfling queen (Helena Bonham Carter) who questions the sacrifices and gifts her people must make to the Skeksis.
Deet (Nathalie Emmanuel) embarks on a quest to discover the meaning behind symbols revealed to her by The Sanctuary Tree. While Rian (Taron Egerton) is witness to a terrible incident which he must relay back to the Gelflings -if he can escape the wrath of the Skeksis. In true storybook fashion, he is also a young son considered unworthy by his own father (Mark Strong) -a hero on a mission…
But evil lurks at every turn, principally through the hideous k, whose grotesque features and ostentatious costumes are a show within a show (did evil really have to be given a purple hue?). Voicing these greedy, vain creatures are the likes of Harvey Fierstein, Jason Isaacs, Benedict Wong, Keegan-Michael Key, Simon Pegg and Mark Hamill…. one was so offensive as to sound like Joan Rivers on a bender, with snot constantly dripping like a tap -I loved it.
But the Skesis will also secretly tap into the life force from the Gelflings to further their own immortality. This is twisted stuff, folks.
Also appearing from the original series in episodes to follow are the eccentric, one-eyed Mother Aughra (Donna Kimball) and doglike Fizzgig (Dave Goelz) while further voices will include Lena Headey, Caitriona Balfe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Natalie Dormer, Andy Sambergand Sigourney Weaver as an occasional Myth-Speaker narrator (thankfully, very fleeting).
Aside from the puppeteers (led by Kevin Clash) it is the design that is the star of this show. And frankly you just wouldn’t attempt it if you couldn’t match the original. The Jim Henson Company have lit this up like a shimmering Myer’s Christmas window. While it’s sometimes tricky to discern between up to three blonde female Gelflings in concurrent storylines, things fall into place soon enough and the sense of wonder and imagination is a treat.
How a 90 minute movie gives rise to episodic television is something I’m curious to discover -will lead characters be bumped off like a Game of Thrones cliffhanger…. will there be twists to rival Westworld?
There are 10 one hour episodes ready to unwrap, bringing back your 80s youth, or opening up a Pandora’s Box of tales mystical and wonderful.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance screens from Friday 30 August on Netflix.