Netflix’s ‘Dark Crystal’ series rewards your patience
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Netflix has carved a niche for itself by resurrecting many much-loved properties that have fallen by the wayside over the years. “Full House.” “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” “Invader Zim.” “Rocko’s Modern Life.” Now, Netflix has dropped a new “Dark Crystal” series on us, and although it takes its time getting rolling if you stick with it, it will hook you.
“The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” is a prequel to the classic 1982 fantasy film that was directed by puppet masters Jim Henson and Frank Oz.
Like the movie, the Netflix series takes place on the distant planet Thra. At this point, the alien Skeksis have taken control of the Crystal of Truth and positioned themselves as benevolent rulers of the planet. The other races on Thra, like the elf-like Gelflings and the jibberish-spouting Podlings, serve the Skeksis, and everything seems to be peachy.
Things, of course, are not peachy. Led by The Emperor (Jason Isaacs), The Chancellor (Simon Pegg) and The General (Benedict Wong), the Skeksis are pulling some shady stuff to prolong their own lives. When Gelfling castle guard Rian (Taron Egerton) witnesses Skeksis treachery, he launches himself into the wilds of Thra on a mission to bring this malfeasance to light.
At the same time, Deet (Nathalie Emmanuel), a Gelfling animal caretaker, discovers a dark infection spreading throughout the Thra ecosystem and a mysterious symbol sends princess Brea (Anya-Taylor Joy) on a journey to unearth its meaning. Their paths cross, and they soon realize they’re all on the same mission: overthrow the Skeksis.
I have to admit, “Age of Resistance” very nearly lost me. The show certainly takes its sweet time to get through all the world-building and exposition. An awful lot of characters wander through different wilderness and village settings, and lots of scenes feature Skeksis sitting in a room and squawking at one another.
In these early episodes, the visuals and the details of the world carry “Age of Resistance” and hold your interest. The Skeksis are all ornately designed, with visual cues that help you quickly discern one vulture-like Skeksis from another. The forests are filled with interesting flora and fauna. The landscapes are broad and feature everything from castles that look like they’ve been built of jagged shards of broken glass to majestic snow-capped mountains.
My favorite detail of the “Age of Resistance” world is the pillbugs that roll themselves into balls and serves as wheels for the carriage that ferries Skeksis dignitaries around. The show is full of clever, creative details like this.
And then there’s Lore, the stone creature that lives in a secret chamber under Brea’s mother’s throne and looks like a cross between a praying mantis and one of those stone head statues on Easter Island. Lore is pretty cool. I like Lore.
The cast of voice actors also keeps things from becoming too dry. Pegg really shines as The Chamberlain, a shifty, unscrupulous backstabber. Wong also impresses as The General voice suitably booming and intimidating. Mark Strong, Mark Hamill and Helena Bonham Carter also turn in memorable performances.
It’s a good thing there’s so much creative eye candy and good voice work because the story is so leisurely paced. Then, right around episode four or five, things get interesting. Our group of protagonists realizes what is going on and what must be done. The Skeksis realize the Gelflings are wise to them, so they start making counter moves. It took a few episodes to get there, but “Age of Resistance” FINALLY hooked me.
Unfortunately, that’s also where I stopped for the night. But I’m excited to finish, and there was a good stretch of time where I didn’t even want to do so. Who could’ve predicted that?
“The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” is visually stunning, and when it hooks you, it really does so. This story makes for good family entertainment, although there are some intense, scary scenes that may give younger kids nightmares. But this show is a good doorway into the “Dark Crystal” universe, and I can’t wait to finish up the series so I can revisit the original film.