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The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Is as Good as It Gets | The Big Picture


Okay so… when I want to do one of these
about something that’s brand new I’m supposed to try to not just “review” the new thing
because it’s not really technically a review show (that’s the other show) and frame it around some other aspect but I… can’t really think of a better reason to do a Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
episode right now than to tell everyone that they need to absolutely go and watch The Dark
Crystal: Age of Resistance right the hell now so I guess this basically counts as a
review if you want to get technical about it it and also the “supposed to” rules
on this mainly come from… well, me so fuck it. Anyway… Movies! Are! Weird! …but 1982’s The Dark Crystal is
probably one of the weirdest – at least one of the weirdest ever released by major studios
into theaters with serious money behind it. It was a passion project for Muppets creator
Jim Henson, essentially he and his company’s equivalent to Walt Disney’s Fantasia – a
big bold swipe at taking the unique art form they’d elevated to massive commercial success
and leveraging it to push not only themselves but mainstream cinema and audiences out of
their comfort zone into a more sophisticated, artistically daring space. …and unfortunately, just as with every part
of the original release of Fantasia that wasn’t “The Sorceror’s Apprentice;” the audience’s
reaction was mostly to go “…huh?” and stay far away – leading to a major box-office
failure and eventual cult-classic status of VHS and TV. Which is why when they went for a follow-up
they said “Okay, maybe let’s try putting some famous humans and song numbers into this
one!” and got Labyrinth. Now, I’m on the team that loved The Dark
Crystal as a kid and thinks it’s a legit great film, one of my favorites… but it’s not hard to see why it was a hard sell at the time: A 100% straight-faced, no-illusion-breaks dark fantasy saga set on
an alien world of entirely unearthly geography, architecture, flora and fauna where every
character and animal is played by some combination of puppet, animatronic or suitmation actor
inhabiting an inhuman creature designed by fantasy artist Brian Froud – there are no
humans, and even the human-ish looking characters don’t look that human. Plus, while there is a story… it’s not
necessarily a page-turner: The alien world of Thra is ruled by a coven of evil aristocratic
humanoid vulture-monsters called The Skeksis who’ve corrupted the planet’s balance
by using it’s power-source, “The Dark Crystal” of the tile, to drain the life-essence
from other living things to prolong their own lives. The last two surviving members of a once-prosperous
race called Gelflings are charged by the wisewoman Ograh and the sage-like Mystics to end The
Skeksis power by treking to their castle and restoring a broken shard of The Crystal in
order to make it “not dark” again; unravel a secret twist to the origins of the Skeksis
themselves and save the world. So… a fetch quest, basically. The thing of it is, the plot and characterizations
were somewhat straightforward and arch in part because Henson’s original concept for
The Dark Crystal to immerse audiences so completely into an alien world that the characters would
all speak alien languages with subtitles, so it had to be fairly easy to follow – and
it is: Particularly since the final version dispensed with the fake language gimmick and
essentially provides a nonstop “sit bank, sink in and let the world of this wash over
you” effect that you’re either into or…not. The point is, even people who loved this movie
never really expected to get more of it because even if it had been successful or widely remembered
(of which it was neither) it wasn’t really built to be expanded on: It’s “lore”
was designed to feel similar to a lot of other lore so you could kind of pick it up right
away and groove on the immediate feel of the events playing out in front of you, the characters
are meant to be recognized as what they are in entirely visual terms (I mean, the Skeksis
are disgusting humanoid buzzards wearing the rags of decrepit Old World baroque aristocrats
– the metaphor isn’t subtle) and what actual story there is… ends, definitively, in the
film proper. So while the constant talk of sequels, prequels,
reboots, whatever came and went over the years it was always vaguely disappointing but not…
unexpected. But then Netflix – who simultaneously always
seem to have all the money and not enough of the money – picked up the check and suddenly
poof! Now The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance suddenly isn’t
just a one-off prequel but a 10-episode series that feels set up to launch much more in its wake,
executed in a style to preserve as much of the puppets-on-puppets action of the original
and… holy shit – in defiance of every obstacle you could throw in front of it, it’s one
of the most incredible things I’ve seen on film or television all year: A marvel of
production design, a miracle of technical filmmaking, a triumph of tone-blurring, genre-defying
dark fantasy storytelling and maybe the best “nostalgia revival” work Generation X
has yet been gifted. To the degree that anything can be, it’s
as close to perfect as something like this can get. My big worry with this, harking back to a
moment ago, was that a full series was going to have to try and impose dense storytelling
on something that was only ever designed to work in broad strokes; which Age of Resistance
handily solves by simply making the canvas a lot bigger in the storytelling sense but
keeping committed to the arch, broad, “in the end, this is fairytale for children”
(albeit an old-fashioned scary one) format of the original. It takes place well before the movie, in a
context where the planet is still in pretty good shape, there are hundreds of thousands
of Gelflings divided up into different clans around a der-rigeur caste system of
geography and elements that don’t get along because impending moral lesson about racism
and nobody has managed to figure out that The Skeksis are evil because they keep
their evil-ness out of sight. Mostly. But because they’ve turned The Crystal “dark”
by doing evil experiments on it to gain power things have started to go wrong in the environment,
and when their head scientist discovers they can also use it to siphon the Essence (i.e.
souls) out of Gelflings to make themselves functionally immortal they take the whole
“cartoon caricatures of the rapacious upper-class” thing from about 8 to Dracula in like a weekend;
and Age of Resistance ultimately reveals itself as the story of how the genocide described
as preceding the movie began and who… “resisted” it (presumably we’re meant to not think
too hard about the fact that we already know the good guys are eventually going to lose.) There are a lot of balls for this show to
keep in the air just in that premise alone, and the series adds to it by also opting to
give answers to exactly how things from the first movie like The Garthim, The
Crystal Shard and The Skeksis overall attitude came from; along with tweaking the backstories
of their relationship to Mother Aughra and the The Mystics. That they manage to pull it all off is pretty
stunning, and I’ll admit I was concerned that it felt like the first half of the series
was dedicated to the no less than five main character good guys from various different
parts of the world trying to catch each other up on the full plot using a psychic-sharing
plot device… …but it works, and once it all clicks into
place it turns out to have been a really good move to have given everyone so much time to
establish themselves. And despite how tremendously grim this eventually
gets (there’s really no beating around the bush that this is a show about a bunch of elf-muppets
very gradually figuring out that their gods have decided to kill them and they are pretty
much screwed) I appreciate the amount of levity that it throws in – like a very distinct pause
in the “regrouping” where it seems to dawn on the ostensible main hero guy for the
first time that there are, in fact, two lead female characters on his team; as if he’s
processing: “Wait… is this one of those? Am I that guy? Ah, geez – I mean, I already got a lot on my plate as it is…” punctuated by a quick cut to one of the women’s trusty sidekicks
giving a mild reaction like “Ah shit – am I the Krillin???” But the secret sauce… turns out to be The
Skeksis themselves: These things scared the shit out of a whole generation who saw the
first movie, and seeing more of them here only serves to cement them as the nastiest
things the Henson folks ever conjured up. They already look like the stuff on nightmares,
and seeing them flail around onscreen for ten full episodes as effectively an entire
family of monster-shaped Ramsey Bolton’s who only exist to torture, maim
and torment smaller and more adorable characters and have fun dong it is some of the most disturbing shit you’ve seen on kids or regular TV in years – I’m dancing around spoilers here, but there’s
a “person who should’ve known better gets their comeuppance” beat near the back end of this
that’s going to traumatize the shit out of younger viewers (in the good way) and…
man, it’s been awhile since something like this went there. Anyway, I’m sure there’ll be more to say
on this as there’s… more to this, but as it stands this is a hell of a thing and
if you haven’t seen it yet – you should be seeing it. I’m Bob and that’s The Big Picture.

100 Comments

  1. Chaosmage42 Author

    Its good, he is right, go watch it, its that simple. And if you haven't seen the dark crystal go see that too. Its one of my favorites when i found out it was on dvd i bought it right away because finding a vhs back then was harder than you would think. The only way i could relive the movie was with a copy of the making of the dark crystal book my parents bought me that has some amazing production art.

    Reply
  2. Voltairine Kropotkin Author

    I had no idea the show was going to be as SPECTACULAR as it ended up being.

    Seriously, it’s up there with Game of Thrones and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood in terms of magnificent epic fantasy television.

    I just started watching the first episode on Saturday morning after thinking "Oh yeah. Dark Crystal. I vaguely remember that from when I was a kid. I love fantasy and animation so I’ll check it out". I ended up binging the whole season in one day. I just couldn’t get enough.

    The puppetry, the designs, the world, the characters, and the timely political and ecological themes. It’s the kind of show that makes me feel jealous for the kids of today, because I didn’t get to grow up with it like they will – being equal parts terrified and amazed. This is one of those once-in-a-generation pieces of entertainment that people will become legendary in both kids and fantasy television.

    Reply
  3. julianarwen Author

    I’d argue that the existence of this series makes the movie better, since it in a way reframes the Movie not as sequel, but as a series finale. And in that light, it’s already LIGHTYEARS better than GOT by virtue of just having a proper conclusion, rather than trying to deviate from an expected one.

    Reply
  4. Reece Qwerty Author

    Its good (apart from the shaky cam during action scenes) but watch the original movie afterwards and it will seem SO slow in comparison, I'd like them to remake the movie in this way, fortunately the show ends with the option of it being a single series or leaving it open to a second series.. there was some talk of 'alternative futures' and I hope that isnt the case

    Reply
  5. Happy Birthday Roboto Author

    I saw the movie many years ago and completely forgot the story, the show took it's time to get going but when it did I was pretty drawn in. Imagine my surprise when I decided to revisit the movie after watching the show and realised that these people and almost all traces of their history and culture will be wiped out… 🙁

    Reply
  6. spurguVITUNhuora Author

    After the first episode my reaction was as follows: This series shoudnt exist! Theres no way this will turn into profit. Im so happy to be alive during this tiny point in time when netflix knows they will never become profitable and just said Fuck it! Just greenlight everything that sounds cool. Who cares if were 15 or 17 billion in dept when we eventually declare bankrupcy.

    Reply
  7. sean kuhn Author

    thnx for the review i had been waiting for 1 b4 viewing… but why did they have to make it so much darker than the first one ever could be simply by placing it b4 a genocide… knowing how it ends you didnt give me enough of a reason to go view it … did you mean to try and get viewers to set precedent for a great movie genre thats not often allowed? becuase im dark crystals biggest fan and only the hope of fixing the crystal got me to the end of that movie… Nothing will get me to the end of this…

    Reply
  8. David Ferber Author

    This looks great for nostalgia and fans of the Dark Crystal in general, but how good of a watch is it for a complete newcomer?
    To be completely honest, I haven't watched the first movie and was really only vaguely aware of its existence. Is Age of Resistance still a good watch?
    Should I watch the original movie first and then start the series? Or is it not worth getting into at this point?

    Reply
  9. Daniel Ramsey Author

    Now I wonder if we should look forward to a remake of the first film? Sure, I get that the original will probably remain without a remake, but I also know that it isn't perfect. The story and pacing need some fixing, especially so in the beginning of the story since it is riddled with "Telling instead of showing".

    But who knows, we'll probably get a spin-off or something. Probably a story set on some other world in relation to the Dark Crystal universe.

    Reply
  10. ArcaneAzmadi Author

    Well this is definitely going to the top of my "Watch ASAP" list. It was already pretty close to there, but now I'm going to have to make the time.

    Reply
  11. mark lee Author

    I could only listen to a minute of your review your voice is incredibly annoying especially at that speed. Age of resistance is okay at best and with the two Heretics becomes completely ridiculous. I don't think any fan of Dark Crystal is missing anything if they don't see it

    Reply
  12. SIZ Modig Author

    Ironically I just finished watching the season yesterday! Only negative comment I have about it is that the good-guy mouths look horribly muppety in the trailers, but as you watch an episode you mostly ignore it, thankfully.
    Also, for ages 7+? Man, I don't think so in the second half of the season…!

    So when is season 2 coming out?!

    Reply
  13. Deioth Author

    Watching The Dark Crystal easily two decades since the last time I'd seen it has proven that child me did not always watch good movies. It is objectively terrible.

    And then Netflix shits out Age of Resistance and I've legitimately not enjoyed a TV series this much since Game of Thrones (you know, the good seasons). My only hope is that they effectively retcon the original movie and redo it as a miniseries spinoff because this prequel series has redeemed something I never realized needed redeeming better than if HBO announced, "We're redoing seasons 7 and 8 (except maybe Aria getting her stab on)."

    Plus, can't go wrong with Mark Hamill as a fucking Skeksis.

    Reply
  14. Selale Z Author

    I was on the fence about watching this because as a prequel we kind of knew how it was going to end (spoiler…badly). Now that I saw your take I might actually give it a shot. Thanks for peaking my interest.

    Reply
  15. Rin Liddel Author

    I actually got to meet Mike Quinn this past weekend (one of the puppeteers who worked with Henson A LOT) and we talked each other's ears off for almost an hour about puppetry and working on the Henson films. In The Dark Crystal he was half of the Slave Master Skesis and he was really happy about the show when I brought it up

    Reply
  16. butchdeadlift10 Author

    I VAGUELY remember a show on Kids WB back in the late 90s or early 2000s where the Jim Henson studios basically tried to make an action show for 12 year olds. It was 5 kids running away from a space empire on a "mother planetoid" (a living meteor if I remember right), but even at my geekiest, I never got into it because……..well……….muppets were always waste high behind a desk. I am glad with modern tech you can have falls and runs and leaps so you know you won't be stuck on one stage behind one desk. Keeps things fresh.

    Does anyone remember that show? Was it on kids WB or was it Fox Kids (before anime Sonic the Hedge Hog was a thing. I am damn sure of that).

    Reply
  17. chewface Author

    Did anyone else think Deet was the absolute cutest character ever made ever in any form of entertainment ever? Good lord, I just wanted to hug that adorable-little-cave-fungus-princess every time I saw her on screen! Those big pupils. That lil' face. She was precious.

    Reply
  18. Mese Ktet Author

    Bob, please use that clip of the Emperor’ response of “- Ugh… No.” as one of your response clips.
    Isn’t the hate for Batman V Superman a little much? Ugh… No.
    So is Green Book better than Black Panther? Ugh…No.
    Was Donald Trump right, Are Videogames the reason for America is flooded with mass shootings? Ugh… No!

    Reply
  19. SgtKaneGunlock Author

    the only thing i could remeber about the original when my grand mother showed it to me when i was a kid was how gross the Skesis are the show pretty much takes that ball and runs with it its kind of amazing to see

    Reply
  20. Bill Stickers Author

    The disturbing scene mentioned (I'm not spoiling) was predictable however it's still horrible and seeing it coming didn't relief any discomfort.

    Reply
  21. blahthebiste Author

    Netflix showed me an ad for this, and I was put off by how intensely "uncanny valley" the Gelflings looked. If your main characters are terrifying to look at, a generic feel-good fantasy plot is a hard sell.

    Reply
  22. EdwardHowton Author

    I've always loved Dark Crystal. It's not like I'm its biggest fan or anything; I've watched it through once, caught it in pieces on TV, probably had nightmares about the Skeksis (since apparently I can spell the name correctly even without looking it up), and was terrified of that mouthdog freak thing. It was just a shining gem in my memory. A beautiful, unique trinket sitting on a shelf, gathering dust, occasionally glanced at fondly but… that was it. To hear someone made more of it is a bit of a shock. To hear that it's any sort of good at all is a bigger shock. Not at all what I've come to expect. From anything. Ever. Let alone "reboots" or "revisits" or whatever you'd call this.

    I'm glad. Don't have Netflix, don't plan on getting it, but I'm glad. I'm prone to fits of nostalgia about how kids growing up right now have missed out on all the great things from my own childhood. This is a sweet little note. Thanks for recommending it, and thank you Netflix.

    Oh, and can't forget: Thank you Jim. We miss you, buddy.

    Reply
  23. Erik Larsen Author

    I haven’t been this passionate about an intellectual property since I was a kid. It’s so rare that something incites such childish enthusiasm from grown people, and I’m glad that Henson’s successors are showing Disney what artistic integrity means.

    Reply
  24. Anonymous Freak Author

    The Dark Crystal (the original) WRECKED me as a kid. I saw it in the theater at age 7 with a couple cousins. No parents in the theater. My cousins were firmly "meh" on it, but me? That movie is singlehandedly responsible for a lifetime love of: Fantasy, The Occult, "Dark" kids media, and made-up languages. (I didn't know at the time of watching it it was supposed to have a made-up language, other than the podlings, but quickly devoured every piece of media about the movie, and discovered that it was supposed to be in other languages.)

    That turned me on to Tolkien, Dungeons and Dragons, Lovecraft, Stephen King, Hellboy, and a lot more. My first child almost got a name from it (other alternatives were from Tolkien and Lovecraft, in the end went with a Greek god, and no, not one of the main ones.)

    Reply
  25. Boar of the north Author

    When I saw the original I was so confused on what was going on so I stopped halfway. I then watched the series and I get it now. And its really bittersweet.

    Reply
  26. Fish in a Barrel Author

    The characters and puppetry was legitimately so well done that I sometimes found myself forgetting that I was watching puppets. I know it was just the materials used, but I found myself in wonderment at seeing what appeared to be pores on one character's face. PORES. Such attention to detail was fantastic.

    Reply
  27. Evilbones76 Author

    I first watched this as a young boy, with both my parents who are now dead, I got emotional watching this. One of the best things I have ever experienced. I will watch this many times, I hope they make a second series.

    Reply
  28. notafangirl Author

    I've only seen the original Dark Crystal much ealier this year so I didn't have the rose tinted view on it as others, but man did I appreciate what Henson was trying to do and what he accomplished with it. So when this newer version came out I watched it and immediately started reccommending it to everyone I think would find it just as wonderful as I do. I couldn't believe we got such dark moments in the show too! I had to freaking PROCESS certain moments like, "frick, they actually went that far, hot damn!"

    Reply
  29. Francis Author

    As a 24 year old who's never heard of the original film, let alone watched it, would I still get this series, or would I have no clue what's going on?

    Reply
  30. David Milano Author

    Everyone I talk to about this show misses the part where mother aughra outright says that the events of the original movie this series precedes are not the only path the story can take and even the events in this series might not be the same as those that actually precede the movie. They've given themselves permission to change the story as they see fit, even the outcome that is the original movie is in question.

    Reply
  31. Cross the Multiverse Author

    This show is "late stage capitalist, puppet fantasy edition", and executes on the concept perfectly.
    It was particularly interesting to follow the narrative arc of a particular Gelfling princess as her impressions of the circumstances clashed with the reality of the situation, in parallel with the interactions within the Seksis and Gelfling groups and their politics.
    Maybe it sounds boring to present it like this, but to me the strength of the show is in how it presents its villains by giving us some insight into what afflicts them and their infighting, almost to the point of empathy, but never shows away from showing the harm their doing and the impact on their victims, on whom it spends just as much if not even more time.
    The failure to show off the consequences of a villain's deeds is what usually leads to the risk of glorifying them (think Scarface or Wall Street), but Age of Resistance gives itself the time to explore everyone's circumstances inflinchingly (also preventing the villains from being generically threatning figures; the conversation between the Chamberlain and the Gelfling in a chariot provides a good example of this), and for that it has my respect.

    Reply
  32. Xecryo Author

    I'll say this Henson has always been good about puppetry but the way they can get some of those things to move is downright impressive. Naturally some things are impossible with puppets so there are bits of CGI in there but it's always down in service to the art they are presenting and I have to give that full credit.

    Reply
  33. John Boyd Author

    Never thought about it especially having grown up with the Dark Crystal, but TES3 Morrowind really owes a LOT to the Dark Crystal. Not many worlds embrace being wholly alien, with the only trappings of familiarity basically being grass (and humans in Morrowind's case)

    Reply
  34. tarrker Author

    I loved the world, the races, the animals and, the characters of The Dark Crystal. The story itself was fucking atrocious, however. Back then I had no idea why I didn't like it but I knew that I didn't. Because how could I hate this movie when everything I was seeing was simply amazing? Yeeeaaah….

    Reply
  35. telemarkaeology Author

    Ehh… this is almost certainly a side-effect of me not watching much tv anymore, but I couldn't even get through the Exposition Dump that opens the first episode. The film was always remarkable to my mind because it made the revelations about the setting and lore a part of the characters' journey. It paced itself. We learned about the history of this dying world along with our protagonist. The opening of the film has a slow, subtle voice-over that lays things out in the broadest, most legendary strokes possible. The series, meanwhile, has a dense-and-breathless Lore Dump right away that's tumbles out like a brand new Dungeon Master is excitedly reciting it at you over a crisp DM screen from a single-spaced, double-sided notebook.

    Still, maybe I was too quick to dismiss. I'll give it some more time eventually.

    Reply
  36. Matthew H Author

    Being nearly 40, you know full well that the original was a heavy part of my mind in the late 80s/early 90s. The movie is just magical and malevalent too. You can bet your insulin on me watching Age of Resistance very soon indeed.

    Reply
  37. Patrick D Author

    MmmmMMMMMMMMMHHHHHhhhhhhhmmmmmmm, yes, please watch this series, yeeeeeessssssss

    P.s. seriously give this show a chance! Yes it’s puppets but no this is no PG kids show, this show is definitely in the ripper range of the PG-13 rating there’s some gnarly shit that goes down in this show

    Reply
  38. Johnlindsey289 Author

    WOW, what a show.

    Anyone who grew up with the 1982 Jim Henson fantasy classic who is either an 80s kid or a 90s kid (ones who saw it on video or on Disney Channel in the 90s) or even those who are 80s/90s kids hybrids like me (born 37 years ago and adored the movie for for 33 years since i was 4 when my parents bought me the movie on VHS at 4 then 25 years ago i rebought the movie on Disney's VHS when i was 12 in 94 then in 2000 i replaced the tape with DVD then in 2009 with blu-ray and last year i bought the ultraHD 4K BD which is my first UltraHD 4K BD purchase).

    What do you get when you cross Game of Thrones, Heavy Metal (1981), Robert E Howard, Frank Herbert, George Martin, JRR Tolkein, Demolition Man (themes of so-called benevolent leaders where rebels can see greed and deception), Avatar (both airbender and Cameron), Fire and Ice (1983), Star Wars, Legend of Zelda and Fraggle Rock? you get this epic prequel series.

    I love the world building, different gelfling tribes, the origin of how Skektek got his eye removed and all that. Maybe in season 2 we'll get a flashback of how the Urseks came and split into the two different races. All in 10 60 minute episodes in a miniseries kind of way. Even some rousing action in some episodes. It takes many years after the crystal cracked and two races were created and 23 years before the original movie.

    This is using practical effects, animatronics, people in suits, puppets, cgi, models and all balanced together with excellent writers, good cinematography great direction and is a passion project made by people who have an actual love of the original and honoring Henson's legacy and respecting the material just like Blade Runner 2049 was to Blade Runner as that was an excellent sequel.

    It and Blade Runner 2049 succeeded where lazy halfassed soulless passionless moneygrab insult attempts at reviving older properties like Ghostbusters, Robocop, Elm Street etc failed miserably. This looks like it's doing Jim proud! and nice cast too even Mark Hamil as the scientist. I'm also glad it respected some of the original characters like some of the Skeksis and Aughra with respect unlike Luke in Last Jedi.

    Good job Jim Henson Company! my favorite show of the year.

    Reply
  39. Idiotic Tirades Author

    Loved the film and now I'm loving Age of Resistance. Oh please let there be good enough numbers to allow for a season 2🤞
    Side Note: The theme song for the movie is amazing at setting the mood.

    Reply

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