Note: This is a spoiler free review.
I am confident that everybody remembers a film or TV show that scared them when they were a kid. For me, that film is The Dark Crystal. I’ve never been scared of puppets, but I have always been unsettled by them with their jerking movements, slack jaws and lifeless eyes. Fortunately these issues don’t matter going into The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance on Netflix, as the wonders of technology during its production since 2017 have removed all janky and stiff movement from its characters, giving them fluid motion and speech that (mostly) lines up with their mouth.
Upon hearing the news that a prequel was in the works for my childhood trauma, I bought the 1982 film on Blu-ray last year, and found a lot of the fear from it (understandably) was based in my younger selves brain. I found watching it as a 27 year old predisposed towards oddities, that the film was just a solid ‘good’ and didn’t warrant much more of a description than that. Enjoyable enough as a one-off, but next to no replayability.
I didn’t give The Dark Crystal another chance until the positive reviews for Age of Resistance started flooding in, and I decided to watch it again before deciding if it was worth restarting my Netflix membership to check Age of Resistance out. Something I can’t quite describe was different during this watch, and I found myself in absolute adoration of it, and wasted no time in immediately renewing my Netflix subscription and getting stuck into the stunning prequel.
A major attraction to it is the stellar cast, with characters voices provided by the likes of Jason Isaacs, Mark Hamill, Nathalie Emmanuel, Lena Headey, Andy Samberg and Simon Pegg to name just a handful of the big names drafted in to bring life to this epic tale.
If you, like me, appreciate a good antagonist then you need look no further for best villains of 2019 than the Skeksis. Horrifying, yet also somehow comical in their appearance, everything about the Skeksis from their voices, movement and motives is incredible to watch. The Chamberlain (voiced by Simon Pegg), who was the main Skeksis from the 1982 film looks and sounds exactly as he did in the 37 year old feature, even down to the high-pitched ‘hmmmm’ he often makes that I struggle to not imitate for hours after watching. The leader of the Skeksis, the Emperor (Jason Isaacs), is also very enjoyable to watch, and definitely brings his A-game in the voice he uses to strike fear into Gelfling and human audience member alike.
The protagonists of the show are also memorable and heart warming, particularly Deet (Nathalie Emmanuel) who is completely charming in everything that she does, with a highly positive attitude I’d usually find irritating if found in other shows or films.
Interestingly, I discovered while researching this review that instead of wires to control the puppets for Age of Resistance, the Gelfling (protagonists’ race) were controlled by modified Nintendo Wii controllers! If that’s not an incredibly innovative adaptation of a dead technology then I don’t know what is!
This show definitely has its fair share of dark moments, with some in the later episodes being particularly chilling. I would advise caution to easily disturbed viewers, but want to assure anyone concerned that there is nothing here distressing enough to avoid watching altogether. One element of this is how well the Gelfling faces convey emotion, despite their obvious condition of being puppets. You can see the joy, sorrow and panic in their eyes, and with credit to the voice cast again, this really draws you into the story and makes you feel invested in the world of Thra.
The environments are also gorgeous to look at, particularly the underground caverns in the first episode, but the crystal deserts around the midpoint of the season also deserve a special mention.
There are frequent moments in the latter third where it looks like Age of Resistance is going to start leaning on good old Deus Ex Machina to help win the day. Whilst the show does construe ways for the protagonists to receive certain breaks, in my opinion this is not overused or implemented where the writers couldn’t think of anything better, so the enjoyment of the narrative does not suffer for it.
During the closing scene of the finale, in what feels like what would have been a post-credits scene if Netflix did them, there is an additional moment that anyone who has watched the original Dark Crystal first will be very excited to see, and I for one hope with all my essence that Netflix confirm a second season!
For its absorbing story, likeable characters, memorable villains and stunning sets, I give The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance a solid 10 out of 10.