The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – Review

Capping off our week of Jim Henson coverage is our look at The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

When single shines the triple sun,
What was sundered and undone
Shall be whole, the two made one
By Gelfling hand, or else by none.

After waiting (very impatiently) for months after the voice cast was announced, I finally got to watch the spectacle that is The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. Within minutes of the first episode, I felt that I had been cast into the world of Thra. It felt familiar (as I’ve seen The Dark Crystal numerous times), but it also felt revitalized. The series is directed by Louis Leterrier (Transporter and Transporter 2, The Incredible Hulk) and features the voice talents of Taron Egerton (Rian), Anya Taylor-Joy (Brea), Nathalie Emmanuel (Deet), Lena Heady (Maudra Fara), Jason Isaacs (The Emperor), Mark Hamill (The Scientist), and many other notable actors. Great care was taken to remain faithful to the lore of The Dark Crystal, but the complexity of Age of Rsistance’s story has helped to expand this universe beyond what Jim Henson and Frank Oz initially imagined.

Dark Crystal
Image via Jim Henson Company

The Plot (Loosely)

  • UrSkeks came to Thra.
  • The UrSkeks build Mother Aughra an observatory. She entrusts the Crystal to the UrSkeks while she turns her inner eye away from Thra and towards the Universe.
  • The UrSkeks misused the Crystal and it “ripped them asunder”, dividing them into the UrRu (Mystics) and the Skeksis. The intention behind using the Crystal isn’t super clear.
  • The Skeksis establish and expand their influence and control over the inhabitants of Thra. They call themselves Lords of the Crystal, and the Gelflings serve the Skeksis, acknowledging them as lords and protectors.
  • Skeksis realize that they can corrupt the Crystal’s purpose–to give life to all beings on Thra–by reversing its powers. They use it to drain the life, or essence, of one of the castle guards: a Gelfling named Mira. The Darkening begins.
  • Rian (castle guard, member of the Stonewood clan) witnesses this murder and vows to tell the world what the Skeksis have done. The Skeksis’ influence runs deep, however, and they run countermeasures to make Rian seem mad.
  • Brea (princess, youngest daughter of the All Maudra, member of the Vapra clan) has a vision of a mysterious symbol in the library at the palace in Har’ar.
  • Deet (animal caretaker, member of the Grottan clan) sees that the normally gentle animals she cares for are starting to turn aggressive. She receives a vision from the Sanctuary Tree warning her that the Darkening is going to spread to all living creatures.

From here, the storylines of Rian, Brea, and Deet converge as the three young Gelflings fight to unite the Gelfling clans against the Skeksis. They want to expose the truth: the Skeksis are cruel and twisted overlords who only have their own best interests at heart. They must travel across the realm, face many dangers, befriend various creatures, and help the segregated Gelfling clans shed their stubborness and biases in favor of unity and truth.

BTS Dark Crystal
Image via Netflix and The Jim Henson Company

The Experience

The design of the puppets, the outfits, the scenery—everything is stunning to behold. In this world, there are seven different clans of Gelfling, and each one has a distinctive look. Not only do they have distinguishing facial features and hair, but each clan has their own unique style of clothing, mannerisms, history, and culture. The distinguished aesthetic of each clan helps to establish that there is a clear segregation between each clan, with some having prejudices about the others.

In addition to the look of Gelflings, each Skeksis has a unique look and a role or “title” to distinguish one from the other. The costuming and the general look of each Skeksis is intense. One of the Skeksis even has pustules that ooze continuously, and it’s absolutely disgusting. The distinguishing features makes it easier to keep track of each character and to remember what role they play in the overall war against the Gelflings.

The use of music, dreamfasting, bizarre-looking plants and creatures, etc. is another way that the show is loyal to the source material, but it explores them even further than The Dark Crystal had time to do. The beauty of a television series is that there is more time to highlight certain elements or expand on certain concepts that a movie can’t always do without feeling cumbersome. Music and dreamfasting are the common threads throughout each Gelfling clan; every Gelfling has the innate ability to share memories with another, and music is used to express thoughts and emotions that can’t necessarily be put into words.

THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE
Image via Jim Henson Company

Plot Holes or More to Come?

While Age of Resistance gives us SO much, there is still so much ground left to cover in order to fill in the gap between Age and The Dark Crystal. The prophecy that Jen and Kira discover on a ruin in The Dark Crystal, for example:

When single shines the triple sun,
What was sundered and undone
Shall be whole, the two made one
By Gelfling hand, or else by none.

This is a very important plot point of The Dark Crystal because it explains not only why the Skeksis used the Garthim to slaughter (nearly) all of the Gelflings, but it references the fact that the Skeksis are one half of another creature.

Speaking of the Skeksis being one half of another creature, whatever happens to one half of the creature happens to the other. So when one of the UrRus decides to sacrifice himself, his Skeksis counterpart dies along with him. This happens with one of the Skeksis that isn’t referenced in The Dark Crystal. HOWEVER, another one of the Skeksis, General skekVar, is killed during the battle at Stone-in-the-Wood which also kills his Mystic counterpart. As the General is a major antagonistic character in The Dark Crystal (seeing as he replaces the emperor once he passes), how does it make sense that he dies in Age of Resistance? There could be more to come that will either explain the continuity error or edit the story established in The Dark Crystal, and I hope that is the case. Apart from a few holes, the show was beautifully done, and it would be a shame for it not to hold up against the legacy of Jim Henson.

Watching Age of Resistance felt exactly the same as watching Rogue One. You’re aware of the fact that you’re watching a prequel, and you know exactly where that prequel leads. You are choosing to set yourself up for heartbreak by emotionally investing in characters that are all going to die before the main story begins. It’s beautiful, tragic, and cathartic.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is currently streaming on Netflix.

P.S.

BonusXP and En Masse Entertainment are developing a turn-based strategy video game based on the series called The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics. The game does not have a specific release date, but it is set to be available some time in 2019.

DC Age of Resistance Poster 2
Image via Jim Henson Company
Written by Alix Teague
(Alix is a fan of memes, puns, and unironically using words like “yeet.” She also has an MA in literature, so she’s clearly putting it to good use. She likes to refer to herself as the Millennial Bard. Follow Alix on anything at @alixplainlater)
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