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The Dark Crystal Reviews: 'A Triumph' That Honors Jim Henson's Original

The first reviews for Netflix's Certified Fresh puppet prequel call Age of Resistance gripping, epic, and a masterwork.

by | August 29, 2019 | Comments


Jim Henson released his fantastical puppet universe The Dark Crystal in theaters on December 17, 1982. It followed, by six months, a phenomenon called E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. No pressure. Henson’s passion project opened to an almost $4.7 million box office, less than half of E.T.’s $11.8 million. The Steven Spielberg film went on to make over $435 million, compared to The Dark Crystal’s $41.6 million. And while the alien film boasts a 98% Certified Fresh Tomatometer score on 128 reviews, Henson’s tale of noble Gelflings, a broken Crystal, and malevolent Skeksis has a 78% score — still Certified Fresh, but lagging with only 46 reviews.

Fast forward to the streaming era, in which Netflix has joined forces with The Jim Henson Company to advance the vision of the Muppet company’s founder. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a 10-episode prequel series that explores the world of Thra, expounds on the origin of the Skeksis, and provides backstory to the power dynamic between the gentle Gelflings and their tormentors.

The series, which now boasts a Certified Fresh 88% Tomatometer score, hits  Netflix this weekend and boasts a star-studded voice cast, including Taron EgertonAnya Taylor-JoyNathalie EmmanuelJason IsaacsMark HamillKeegan-Michael KeySimon PeggCaitriona BalfeAlicia VikanderAndy SambergHelena Bonham Carter, and Awkwafina to name just a few. The series is directed by Louis Letterier (The Incredible Hulk).

Here’s what critics are saying about the new series’ first season in reviews.


THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE (Kevin Baker/Netflix)
(Photo by Kevin Baker/Netflix)

Is It for Kids?

“With its dynastic maneuvering and fantasy society dealing with real problems, Age of Resistance feels like Game of Thrones with puppets. That Game of Thrones comparison feels apt during Dark Crystal’s darker moments. The original film is shot through with a deliciously sinister menace, and the new series maintains that atmosphere with the creepy Skeksis and various threatening creatures of the forest. It goes a bit further however, including some intense scenes that might be a bit much for younger viewers.” – Richard Trenholm, CNET

“You also easily forget you are watching puppets as this story could rival anything from Game of Thrones to Lord of the Rings … There is also a darkness to this story that echoes the feature film, making this Dark Crystal a risky watch for very young viewers.” – Alex Maidy, JoBlo’s Movie Emporium

“It’s a gripping fantasy that expands Jim Henson’s iconic world, challenging viewers of all ages with complex themes, horrifying imagery, and an environmental message we may need now more than ever. Also, it’s a technological masterpiece.” – Beth Elderkin, io9.com


Does It Honor Jim Henson and His Original Film?

“With gorgeous puppets and sometimes harrowing contrasts between innocence and evil, this new prequel series is poignantly faithful to the spirit of Jim Henson’s 1982 fantasy The Dark Crystal.” – Brad Newsome, Sydney Morning Herald

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a technical marvel, a vividly alive place that shows evidence of the heart and soul the writers, production designers and puppeteers poured into ensuring Jim Henson’s vision is realized correctly and honorably.” – Melanie McFarland, Salon.com

Age of Resistance is like an immense, ten-hour magic show, engrossing down to the very last wondrous detail. This is an altogether staggering artistic achievement, and a joyful continuation of the Henson tradition.” – Matt Zoller Seitz, New York Magazine/Vulture

“One of the all-time great fantasy epics, as well as the masterwork of puppetry most closely aligned with Jim Henson’s humanistic philosophy.” – Matt Fagerholm, RogerEbert.com

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance expands and improves upon its predecessor. This is a high-fantasy masterclass that’s richer and more satisfying than we could have anticipated, an experiment on a grand scale that paid off.” – Samuel R. Murrian, Parade Magazine


How’s the Artistry?

“Much of the series is beautiful to look at conceptually, but there’s no getting around the sameness of the character design, the lack of expression in those big, soulless American-doll-style eyes, and the lifeless storytelling.” – Brian Lowry, CNN.com

“Telling the puppet characters apart sometimes proves a daunting challenge, and it’s difficult to mount much enthusiasm for the task given the first episode’s plodding pace.” – Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Like the original, it’s an extraordinary technical achievement filled with stunning images and remarkable puppet work. And, also like the original, it won’t appeal to everyone.” – Keith Phipps, TV Guide

“You can liken it to Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones or any high fantasy series you like, but after ten magical hours it truly stands on its own as a gorgeous, innovative, emotional, joyous, and exceptional wonder.” – Allison Keene, Paste Magazine


THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE (Kevin Baker/Netflix)
(Photo by Kevin Baker/Netflix)

How’s the Storytelling?

“A beauty with a fully realized world which seems to know where it’s going and how to get there.” – Verne Gay, Newsday

“The thrilling, moving Age of Resistance marks an impressive pushback against the age of CGI.” – Sara Stewart, New York Post

“A good reminder that the fantasy genre is about taking a step toward something unfamiliar and then letting it take you away.” – Hank Stuever, Washington Post

“An astonishing achievement that will equally delight and disturb.” – Matt Fowler, IGN Movies

“The series (which has to fill five times as much screen time as the movie) is full of padding, especially in the tedious scenes of the vain, petty Skeksis squabbling with each other. The first episode opens with three and a half minutes of solid narration (Sigourney Weaver) to explain the fairly rudimentary set-up, and there are long, unnecessary detours that seem meant to expand the world of Thra, but are mostly just easily skippable filler.” – Josh Bell, CBR

“The film established a world that was strange and mysterious, but it barely skimmed the surface of its potential in its 90-minute runtime. The Age of Resistance writers are filling that blank space in a way that feels natural rather than superfluous. They’ve invented past conflicts, expanded the roles of characters from the film, and built a nuanced social order for the Gelflings that helps explain how the Skeksis came to power and maintained their grasp on Thra for a thousand years. The writers have also created numerous minor touches that add to the character of the world, like beautiful, somber rituals for the choosing of a new Gelfling leader, and a way of mourning that still embraces the show’s central philosophy that death is a necessary, important part of life.” – Samantha Nelson, The Verge


Anya Taylor-Joy voices Brea of The Dark Crystal (Kevin Baker/Netflix)
(Photo by Kevin Baker/Netflix)

How’s The Voice Work?

“A few standouts in the impressively deep cast are worth mentioning here, and none more than Simon Pegg’s incredible version of The Chamberlain. Fans will remember this devious opportunist from the original film, and Pegg is unrecognizably perfect taking over the role, becoming the most fascinating character in the series. Game of Thrones’ Nathalie Emmanuel also brings vibrancy and light to her unintentionally corpse-looking Gelfling, Deet, with her endlessly endearing voice work. Awkafina is a riot on the other end of the spectrum as The Collector, the pus-filled, whiny Skeksis along with Mark Hamill doing what he does best in a delightfully over-the-top performance as The Scientist.” – Kyle Wilson, The Lamplight Review

“Aside from the assurance of puppetry over CGI, the biggest draw to the series? Its incredibly stacked voice cast, which includes a who’s who of sci-fi/fantasy TV and film. They rise up to the challenge, with some of them clearly having a blast recording it. (On the Skeksis side, Mark Hamill, Jason Isaacs, and Simon Pegg are all highlights.) But in a season of television that has 180 speaking parts (many of them introduced at the same time), most of that celebrity voice cast gets a little lost in the shuffle.” – Michelle Jaworski, The Daily Dot


THE DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE (Kevin Baker/Netflix)
(Photo by Kevin Baker/Netflix)

Final Verdict?

“Simultaneously acts as a gift to fans packed with Easter eggs and a powerful primer for the uninitiated.” – Caroline Framke, Variety

“It’s a rare and beautiful beast that’s definitively an epic TV series, as well as feeling very easy to surrender to and bury oneself between luxuriously rich storytelling and gloriously beautiful pops of color.” – Kimberly Ricci, Uproxx

“One of the most remarkable productions in TV history, and one of the best modern fantasies ever made for the small screen.” – Erik Kain, Forbes

“Whether you’re watching for fulfilled nostalgia or current pleasure, this is a whimsical, fun and entertaining series.” – Dan Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter

“Ultimately, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance prequel is a more than worthy “successor” to Henson’s 1982 masterpiece while establishing itself as a master work in its own right. There is something for everyone in this exquisite offering.” – Nicole Drum, ComicBook.com

Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a triumph of creativity and entertainment.” – Chris Cummins, Den of Geek

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance season 2 launches Friday, August 30 on Netflix



The Dark Crystal Cast With Character Photos

The Gelfling:


The Skeksis & Mystics:


Additional characters:

Sigourney Weaver (Avatar) as The Myth-Speaker (no image, voice character only)

Donna Kimball (The Happytime Murders) as Aughra (Image)

Dave Goelz (The Dark Crystal) as Baffi, a Fizzgig (Image)

Other characters will be voiced by their puppeteers from the production, including:

Alice Dinnean as The Ornamentalist (Image)

Louise Gold as Maudra Argot (Image)

Neil Sterenberg as The Scroll-Keeper (Image)

Victor Yerrid as Hup (Image).


Puppeteers:

Dinnean, Beccy Henderson, and Sterenberg are the puppeteers for lead characters Brea, Deet, and Rian, respectively. Core puppeteers for the production also include Warrick Brownlow-Pike, Dave Chapman, Kevin Clash, Damian Farrell, Helena Smee, Kat Smee, and Olly Taylor.


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