I have given my very essence to Thra.
Okay, perhaps not to the extent that many poor Gelfling did at the hands of the evil Skeksis throughout Netflix’s stunning new prequel series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. But at least in the sense that the world created by Jim Henson and Brian Froud over 30 years now occupies nearly every corner of my imagination.
To begin, I should probably fess up to the fact that I was never a die-hard fan of the original 1982 classic. I remember seeing it when I was very young (and being rightfully scared of the Skeksis). But it wasn’t exactly a staple of my childhood, and I didn’t revisit it until 10 years ago, when a Blu-ray edition of the film was released. My reaction at the time was one of admiration for the exquisite artistry on display, but I didn’t feel entirely sucked in by the story.
A similar reaction followed the film’s 4K debut last year. But I made the effort to see the film on the big screen when it was re-released in cinemas for the occasion. My admiration didn’t waver (in fact, it probably increased), but still the story didn’t have the pull for me of the fantasy stories that love so dearly (i.e. The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, etc.).
That said, I was very much aware of the forthcoming Netflix series on the horizon. Without a doubt, I can say my interest was piqued. Because a film running 90 minutes, trying to evoke a vast mythology and create a compelling story is one thing. But a 10 hour television series with the ability to dive deep into the world’s history and cultures, and exploring rich, developed characters, would be quite another. I was interested enough in the The Dark Crystal that I wanted a series that I could sink my teeth into. Something that evoked a passion to match my admiration for the on-screen artistry.
Well, it’s been nearly two months since the debut of Age of Resistance, and I am only now beginning to write anything on this site concerning my reaction to it. Why? Because I have been OVERWHELMED by it. I could have written how excited the series was making me after watching the very first episode, but it would have been a cluttered mess of words. Truth be told, it still may be. But I have to talk about it. This series is everything I wanted and more – and in the past months, I have been transformed into a Dark Crystal fanatic.
But because my thoughts have been scattered, I don’t think I can dissect it sufficiently in one post. I had planned to! But I’m now realizing that I want to do more than simply review the series. I want to really talk about it. I want to talk about the mythology of Thra. I want to talk about how Grottan gelfling Deet and her podling companion Hup stole my heart. I want to talk about Daniel Pemberton and Samuel Sim’s magical musical score. Simon Pegg’s bewitching vocal performace as the diabolical Chamberlain. How the series’ climax subverted my expectations – expectations that had cast a shadow over how I perceived the entire narrative of Age of Resistance.
As a way of previewing my thoughts on few of those things, let me gush a bit about the closing moments of episode one “End. Begin. All the Same.” Without delving too much into spoilers here, a tragic event propels the story forward at the end of the premiere. We are led through a montage of our characters taking their brave next steps in the story, set to the beautiful main theme composed by Pemberton, with Simon Pegg’s Chamberlain giving a terrifying voice-over monologue. A monologue which is punctured by the rays of hope we see on-screen (but only so much, as we know the ultimate fate of the Gelfling race from the 1982 film).
It’s an absolutely breathtaking moment that leads us into the end credits and leaves us desperate to continue the story. It encompasses everything we now know about the mythology of Thra, what we think probably awaits these characters, and what we hope they will overcome nonetheless. It’s both frightening and spirit-lifting. I’ll tackle this moment more in a future post, where I’ll be more comfortable talking spoilerific details.
Needless to say, I want you all to watch this amazing show, if you haven’t already. I was doubtful that a new series could so quickly fill the void left by the departure of my beloved Game of Thrones, but this is an incredible story that pulls you in and doesn’t let go. There’s incredible artistry on display. The puppeteering work is nothing short of astonishing. In a world these days where CGI seems to be dominating, it’s beyond gratifying to see so much practical effects work in a project like this (which is not to diminish the excellent CG work that is used throughout the series).
As I said, I hadn’t intended this to be a mere introductory post, but here we are. The next one will follow soon, in which I’ll discuss the vast and wonderful mythology of Thra, expanded from the original film, and set forth in this series. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I can’t wait to delve more into the world of The Dark Crystal (and many more topics that you all should hopefully find interesting). Talk to you soon.