I was eight years old when the feature film The Dark Crystal was released in theatres way back in 1982 (and from there you can calculate how old I am, if you must). Easily one of the movies that defined my childhood. Certain aspects of the premise were confusing as all shit, and it was both criticized and praised for being noticeably darker than the rest of Jim Henson’s body of work up until that point. But the movie’s visuals were striking for the time and continue to be so, especially considering it came out well before Tinseltown began its love affair with CGI.
For those of you who haven’t seen The Dark Crystal, the story is set on another planet. One whose name is curiously never mentioned in the screenplay or credits of the film itself; we only know what the planet is called from the derivative works that were released after the movie. Thra orbits a triple star system, and is home to a host of delightfully strange creatures. Among them are jet-black murderous crabs the size of rhinoceroses. A Lhasa Apso-like mammal that curls itself into a ball and rolls along like tumbleweed as its primary means of locomotion. An old woman with bighorn sheep-like protrusions growing out of her head who has the ability to pull her own eye out of its socket and use it like a periscope. A beast that looks like a cross between a colossal moth (sans wings and compound eyes) and one of the elephants depicted in Salvador Dalí’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony which is astonishingly easy to tame and can be ridden on like a horse. This doesn’t even touch upon the plant life, which is interesting in itself. It’s a world that has stuck with me over the years since I first visited it as a wee lad. But I couldn’t stay on that planet for long. No sequel was ever made. The movie only pulled in modest returns at the box office during its initial theatrical run.
Thirty-seven years later (gadzooks, has it been that long?!), just when I had all but forgotten about the planet Thra, it aligns with Earth once again. This time on a medium whose very existence was unimaginable to the common folk of 1982 – Netflix.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is not a sequel to the original movie, but a prequel. In the feature film, the heroic Gelfling race were portrayed as a hair’s breadth away from extinction, having been all but wiped out in a genocidal campaign embarked upon by Thra’s villainous ruling class, the Skeksis. Age of Resistance takes place at a time well before that, when Gelfling society was thriving. Across the ten episodes, we get a slew of insights into Gelfling politics and social customs that were largely absent from the movie. A living goddess by the name of Sigourney Weaver narrates their history to us, which by itself adds several layers of kickass to the whole production.
Filmmaking technology has obviously advanced considerably since the day Mr. Henson drew his last breath – a factoid that has not gone unacknowledged in the series. The Skeksis dining scene in the original film struck a prepubescent version of yours truly as amusingly disgusting. But Age of Resistance takes the disgusting to a whole new level, to such an extent that it makes the Skeksis of the movie look like proper gentlemen with impeccable table manners. The striking and fantastic of the movie is also taken to new levels as well as the disgusting. Hypothetical life forms that would be next to impossible to capture on celluloid with even the most sophisticated Hensonian puppetry are very possible with 3-D modelling software. We see quite a few digitally rendered creations in the series. Impressive ones, too. Ones that would come pretty damn close to making James Cameron blush.
Even more impressive if you watch the entire series after a couple of bong rips. Which I did. Twice.
Riding that enchanted canoe through the innards of outer space, I elected to live-tweet my first impressions of Age of Resistance, as a nostalgic throwback to that quainter period of human history when people regularly used Twitter for something other than douchey political ranting.