Drop What You’re Doing and Watch ‘The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance’

Enter the world of Jim Henson’s imagination with The Dark Crystal. The cult classic movie has been revived by Netflix into a 10-episode series titled The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, bringing audiences back to the world of Thra.

There is no dearth in fantasy series being developed for television after the wild success of Game of Thrones, and each one is trying to stand out from the pack with something different. This high fantasy series makes a case for itself because of the amazing puppetry by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Each creature feels alive with their detailed joints and facial features. Additionally, Age of Resistance has preserved the original film’s dark tone, making it terrifying for children and wildly entertaining for adults. It’s one of the best original series on Netflix this year.

In 1977, Muppets creator Henson and artist Brian Froud worked together on the world of The Dark Crystal. Together they developed the land of Thra, its inhabitants, and the struggle over a magical crystal. Released in theaters in 1982, the feature film was a moderate success despite its dark nature and the competition from such family fare as E.T. and The Last Unicorn. Over time, the movie grew in stature, gaining admirers hungry for more. Novels, comics, and even video games spawned as a result. As the first TV series, Age of Resistance allows audiences to go further into this inventive world than ever before.

Age of Resistance is a prequel to the Dark Crystal movie, occurring centuries earlier. Thra is the home of the Crystal of Truth, the heart of Thra, and the source of all life. Its guardian, Aughra (voiced by Donna Kimball), was to protect the crystal as it was connected to all creatures. Harmony and peace ruled over Thra until a race known as the ukSkeks arrived on the planet. They provided tools to advance the culture and technologies of Thra’s prominent species, the Gelflings, but those gifts came with a price. When it came time for the ukSkeks to return to their home, they separated into two different races; the evil Skeksis and the wise Mystics. The Skeksis took control of The Castle of the Crystal and used their power and influence to control the Gelfling while the infinite quest of knowledge distracted Aughra.

The series begins with three Gelfling that are vital to the resistance against the Skeksis: Rian (Taron Edgerton), Brea (Anya Taylor-Joy), and Deet (Nathalie Emmanuel). Each of these characters is part of one of the seven Gelfling clans that exist in Thra. Brea is part of the Vapra, the most cultured of the Gelfling and ruler over the seven clans, Rian is part of the Stonewood clan renowned for their skill in battle, and Deet is part of the Grottan clan, who live in perfect harmony with Thra and its creatures. Their clans and specialties play into how they plan to turn the tide against the Skeksis. The biggest problem lies in how they will convince the other Gelfling that the Skeksis are not the gracious and peaceful lords they’ve been worshipping.

The magic of Age of Resistance would not be possible without Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. They’ve created countless new creatures for Thra and continued their stellar work on the Gelfling and Skeksis. The series is a combination of the puppetry that Henson’s Creature Shop has been known for over the past few decades and CGI that exists to build out the world and assist with the puppets rather than distract. It’s fascinating to watch these characters move and interact with one another.

There is also some fine detail work going on differentiating each of the creatures. Although there are plenty more Gelfling in this series than appeared in the movie, each main and supporting character is distinct with their own subtle features. Gelfling of the same clan are more difficult to tell apart, but Brea, Rian, and Deet are easy to differentiate.

The designs of the Skeksis are still unsettling. For example, one of them has some major nasal congestion and its bulbous nose oozes out viscous mucus continuously. It’s disgusting and fascinating at the same time. The most well-known Skeksis from the movie, Chamberlain (Simon Pegg), returns with his signature red and black robe as well as his schemes. Creatures that will be familiar to fans of the film, like the Landstriders, Fizzgig, and Podlings make an appearance, too.

Age of Resistance earns its place next to the Dark Crystal movie as a series that will leave children horrified. Thra is a dangerous place to live, with countless threats in the wilderness and the power of the ruthless Skeksis. If you thought a Dark Crystal TV series would be tamer than the movie, you were mistaken. Deaths are plentiful and often swift, making it so that no one is safe. It’s shocking to see this in a series that features puppetry, as The Muppets are certainly not murdering each other.

There is also a melancholy feeling hanging over the entire series. Audiences familiar with The Dark Crystal can surmise how this series will end before watching it, making victories against the Skeksis feel hollower than they appear. If you haven’t seen the movie in a long time, you might be better off waiting until after you’ve finished the series to revisit it.

The series is one of the more pleasant surprises of the year, and I’m shocked at how gorgeous this world is. Even though the principal cast is made of intricate puppets, The world of Thra feels alive with its various settings and creatures delight at every turn.

Coming almost 40 years since the original movie hit theaters, Age of Resistance proves that it has been far too long since Thra has graced our screens. The mixture of high fantasy, magnificent creatures, riveting storytelling, and the wonderful world-building all combine to make Age of Resistance one of the best shows this year.

Max Covill: @mhcovill News Writer/Columnist for Film School Rejects. It’s the Pictures Co-host. Bylines Playboy, ZAM, Paste Magazine and more.