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Monday, September 16, 2019

Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance Review by Nicholas Napoli

The worlds of Jim Henson are visually very different from anything else, it includes puppets, as a child this is what hooked me, to all things Henson. The Muppets living amongst humans in the real world, Fraggles exploring the Gorgs garden and that Street we’re all familiar with. Growing up, everything Henson related gave me goosebumps and although at the time I was just a child, that didn’t exclude Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. The first time I watch The Dark Crystal I was very confused, not the Muppets I was expecting, to be honest at the time I much preferred Labyrinth. Probably because I was used to having humans surrounded by any kind of Muppets in my entertainment. I remember as a child, I was fascinated by the world of Thra, the visuals were very appealing to my young mind, however I had no idea what the story was about, Labyrinth was easier to follow. As I’ve grown older, that preference has switched, in my opinion The Dark Crystal is far superior to Labyrinth within the story it is trying to tell. 

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is one of the few triumphs, that manages in succeeding to change your whole perspective of the original, making it far superior to what it originally was, without it’s back story. The Dark Crystal is a beloved film, with a very passionate fan base, and an ever-growing cult following, making it more beloved as the years go by. Imagine if this new show had failed, imagine if it were solely treated as a cash grab? Luckily, The Dark Crystal was left in safe hands and because of that, love, respect and a lot of passion was put into furthering this particular story. I have watched the whole series twice, and plan to watch it all over again, this is truly a masterpiece. This show brings back feelings in me, I thought I had lost, thanks to maturity. It has been a long time, that I have not felt those goosebumps I felt as a child, when watching a Jim Henson production, this felt like the imagination of Jim Henson was still alive.

The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, Dinosaurs, Farscape, Turkey Hollow and Doozers, these productions to me at least, have the Henson feeling I always hope to find. Nothing against The Happytime Murders, I really enjoyed it, could have added it to the list had they removed the R Rated content. I watched the original The Dark Crystal, right after watching Age of Resistance the first time around, and it was as if I were watching it all over again, that is how much of an impact this new show has been able to achieve onto the original. As I grew up, I always wondered how the world of Thra would look, updated for today’s modern audience, the visuals, I knew they would be breath-taking, and I’m glad to say I was not wrong. Gelfling sitting around a camp fire, Deet rising through the tree of life, Rian jumping out of the castle, the flying Crystal Skimmer and everything else found between episode 1 and episode 10. This new-modernized version of Thra is very welcome, each and every character stand out on their own, this was well worth the wait. 

The attention to detail is incredible, in my opinion Aughra shared similar mannerisms to Miss Piggy in the original, it’s difficult for me to describe, in this new series I still get the same vibe. The Chamberlain was brought back to life perfectly, spot on, the dedication to these characters is clear. Aughra and The Chamberlain were in my opinion probably the two most well fleshed out characters from the original being brought back to life for this series, they both returned in perfect form. The Skeksis each have their own different personality, I can easily tell them apart now, compared to the original. Seven clans, hundreds of Gelfling, with Poddlings, Landstriders and many other creatures inhabiting Thra. The importance of healing the Crystal and how much was at stake is now far clearer. I like the fact that Hup speaks his own language, reminiscent of how Jim Henson first intended on releasing his film. The duo of skekGra the Conqueror and urGoh the Wanderer performing their puppet show, brilliant. 

There are many stories that should not be expanded on but The Dark Crystal, at least to me, has always felt like the ending of a much longer narrative, one that is finally being told. There have been many books, giving us background on the world of Thra before Jen healed the Crystal. Aughra has been on Thra for many conjunctions, she is Thra and luckily because of this, there are still many stories to tell. Thanks to the books, a lot of the mythology is answered and thanks to the show, we can now visually see this world brought to life again. The doors have now been open for so many more different possibilities, thanks to all the new concepts introduced in this series. Having Aughra being reborn from the Crystal after her essence is returned to Thra cleverly opens the possibility for giving the World of Thra the happy ending, we always hoped it would have. Once the Crystal is healed, the urSkeks returned to their world, could all the Gelfling essence stored in the crystal be returned to Thra? Imagine what could now happen if the original movie lasted a few minutes longer? 

Age of Resistance expands on the world of Thra, but most importantly it gives a whole new appreciation for not only the original movie, but also the original message Jim Henson hoped to share, when creating the original The Dark Crystal. It is so clever, how it handles its story lines, how it connects to the original movie, how it expands on it in so many positive ways. The writing on this show is at another level, being able to give a whole new life to a story that is 37 years old is an incredible achievement. The writers, the crew, everybody involved have been so loyal in respecting what they are working with and it is clearly visible on screen. This makes me remember that Jim Henson had a message to share with The Dark Crystal, he was very passionate about this project, in telling his story. This show makes that message much clearer, Jim Henson is a genius, and happily so is everyone else who came together to revive the world of Thra, therefor Jim Henson’s message. The same one Fraggle Rock taught many of us years ago, except this time aimed at a more mature audience. 

by Nicholas Napoli 

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