As I write this, Jen the Gelfling’s Funko Pop! figure stands before my keyboard.
The franchise of The Dark Crystal has been in the hearts of millions of 80s-90s babies for decades now, me included. A genius 1982 dark fantasy feature of Muppet master, Jim Henson, at his artistic best. Thirty seven years later, the Gelfling, Skekis, Crystal and all, return in prequel series for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.
All ten Age of Resistance episodes dropped on August 30th, and are now available for streaming on Netflix.
A slower Crystal than expected
As I said, 80s fantasy like The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Never Ending Story, hugely special place in my heart. I haven’t watched the latter two recently, but from adult memory, Labyrinth holds up pretty well story wise. But, recently, I went back for a Dark Crystal rewatch in anticipation of the new show, and sadly, the film didn’t play as well as I remembered it. All the visual and emotional boxes were ticked, and not just ’cause of the nostalgia. Quality and excellence of the original all remain for a modern audience. There’s the true emotion and expression that the Henson company invariably achieves for their puppeted creatures. As they put it in the Age of Resistance behind the scenes trailer, you forget you’re watching puppets. I just feel the movie is a bit slow. With all of the incredible puppet work, The Dark Crystal could be a bit more exciting and fun to watch if editing was stronger.
“The Dark Crystal” (1982)
So, as the new Age of Resistance crept closer on Netflix, I was hoping that Crystal in episodic form would be tighter, better edited, perhaps more adventurous. This is the advantage you have with serialized storytelling, the unbridled writing and editing freedom to break up your story and pace it how you seem fit. Namely, at Netflix, there’s no network standard for episode running times, advertisers, nothing restrictive. But, I feel that the new Age series still suffers the same problems as the 1982 original. Episodes are too long, they drag out, not as much plot development and action/adventure as I’d hope for in an 80s fantasy live action puppet series from the legendary Jim Henson Company.
And, it’s not as if Henson’s guys don’t know TV; which also confuses me. Henson brought us The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, uh, a little show called Sesame Street. Granted, those series are much lighter in tone than The Dark Crystal. I was nonetheless hoping for an opportunity for the strength of Henson TV to meet its own Dark Crystal for the first time.
Slow but Beautiful
Slow aside, Age of Resistance looks just as good as the original film. It’s updated for sure, but all of the original standards are met. Quality, detail, detail, detail. The painstaking, tedious artistry behind the new series is all still there, don’t get me wrong. Production design, backgrounds, environments, lighting, not forgetting the unbelievable puppetry and creature work. My love remains for the franchise and the series. Then again, I’m 6 1/2 episodes in and haven’t rushed back to the couch for further binging the past few days. I’m looking forward to finishing it this week, but I would’ve expected myself to be glued to the TV stand ’till a new Crystal series was over.
The second I saw each episode was over a half hour, I was skeptical. Again, this is a ten episode season of Dark Crystal. Most of the episodes in Age of Resistance are forty five minutes to an hour. I’m sorry, but hour-long episodes? About puppets journeying to a crystal?Deet, a main protagonist from “Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance”
Again, I am ALL about the project of The Dark Crystal. I’m all about a series for The Dark Crystal. But, do a five hour Crystal movie, broken into ten. Hell, do the same episode length you’re doing, but do five episodes. Do it anthology style! I don’t know, I don’t have all the answers to a series adaptation of Dark Crystal. And, I don’t want to take anything away from the stellar work that was done bringing the Crystal back to life. I’m just expressing my gripes for a franchise that I think has potential to be much stronger, especially with the Jim Henson quality, nostalgic fan base, and now, Netflix co-producing and distributing. Hopefully, a second season can bring home all the things, I, Benjamin David, want out of a Dark Crystal series. That’s a fair world, right?
Despite my criticism of slow, I definitely recommend The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. Again, slow but beautiful. Age is masterful. The fact that in 2019, major production companies like Henson and Netflix are keeping big budget puppetry alive. Almost no one does this stuff anymore. And, this all goes back to the nostalgia side of things. Puppets were part of the 70s and 80s, because that was the technology of the time. Age of Resistance continues honoring Henson’s original Crystal work and methodology, nearly forty years later. For Netflix and for the Jim Henson Company, the new series is a modern day patronage of arts that should not go unrecognized.
Now, whenever I think about The Dark Crystal as a project, I think of the first teaser trailer two years ago for Age of Resistance. I learned something from the teaser I never knew prior, and now it makes the Crystal that much more special to me.
The teaser is an interview with Jim Henson himself talking about 1982’s Dark Crystal:
It’s probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever worked on… It was the most work. It was the most difficult. But, it was the most fun, it was the most rewarding, and of all projects, it’s the one I’m most proud of.
All ten episodes of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance are now streaming on Netflix.
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