Don’t Resist the New “Dark Crystal” Series

Prequel series honors the original film

By Brandon Labecki, Current Staff

Netflix recently released “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance,” a series that expands the creative world of 1982’s “The Dark Crystal.” That begs the question, how does the new show compare to the original film?

Jim Henson’s “The Dark Crystal” begins on a dim note and describes how creatures called the Skeksis are responsible for the decline of the fantastical world of Thra. The Skeksis have control over a powerful crystal that aids their rule but also causes the dying of the planet. At the story’s center is Jen, who must search for a broken shard from the crystal and place it back in order to heal the crystal and stop the rule of the Skeksis.

The film was released on December 17, 1982 and fans were instantly interested in its artistic wonder and style. After 37 years, the film has been remembered for its well-constructed storytelling, artistic originality and innovative puppetry. 

In the summer of 2019, Netflix released an unexpected teaser for a prequel series that would further explore the world of “The Dark Crystal.” Fans of the 1982 film were ecstatic, but also intimidated. 

Many individuals were excited about the prospect of a deep dive into the world of Thra, but just as many were afraid that the new series may undermine or ruin the artistic and fantastical elements of the original film.

Expectations were high for the series and several goals needed to be accomplished. Fans wanted to see an original, defined story that connected well to the original story, practical effects that would portray the unique, handmade style and wonder of the original, and a thoughtful mythos that extended the world of “The Dark Crystal.”

The opening to the new show produces an effect of adventure and wonder, in contrast to the ominous and darkened establishing aspects of the film. Using both practical and digital effects, the show goes on to explain the history of the world as well as important locations, showcasing grand landmarks and important characters.

Throughout the series, the introduction of characters is well-accomplished and each character is created using practical effects, which stays true to the original film. Each character’s appearances, practical designs and personalities are unique and easily recognizable. Characters from the original film that reappear have a consistent design and personality. 

In the 1982 film, the artistic style was effectively unique and Netflix tries to incorporate the style as much as possible into the show and it is very well executed.

As in the original film, the practical effects are used to the fullest extent, such as painted backgrounds, large-scale puppetry such as the Skeksis and elaborate set designs. When digital effects are incorporated into scenes or designs, they are typically used for a background aesthetic and are not usually used as a focus point in scenes, but when they are the focus, they blend in reasonably well.

In the original film, character dialogue and interactions were decently done but heavy characterization was not emphasized. In the show, there is somewhat better dialogue but the interactions between characters feels much more developed.

Throughout the 1982 film, danger for the characters was present and it created feelings of suspense and uncertainty because at any moment, the characters may be in a precarious situation. The series attempts this as well but is effective mostly during standalone scenes; the suspense is not weaved throughout the show.

Coinciding with the film, the soundtrack is very well done and each score fits the scene well. However, the series differs from the film in the tone of the music, as the film created foreboding and ominous sounds while the series mostly uses tones of adventure and wonder. The differences, however, can also serve as a creative contrasts to each other to make the other stand alone in its own way while still being connected in other aspects.

A unique aspect of “The Dark Crystal” is the lore and mysteries behind the world of Thra. Relaying certain expositional pieces of information in a creative and original way can be an important part for the new Netflix series.

The show decently gives well-constructed information in the same way that the film did. However, one scene in particular stands out for its creativity in relaying information to the audience and the characters and it uses extremely elaborate hand puppetry and lighting effects to give the information.

The overall presentation of the show maintains the creativity and wonder of the original while also creating and adding characters with interesting, fresh designs while also elaborating on their personalities and interactions with other characters.

Individuals who found themselves captivated by the fantastical elements of Jim Henson’s “The Dark Crystal” should re-immerse themselves in the world of Thra by enjoying Netflix’s “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.”

(Image is official publicity material from Netflix.)

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