Movies & Television

Netflix’s "Dark Crystal" Prequel Series Looks Pretty Much Perfect

Jim Hensen’s 1982 film The Dark Crystal has long been a favorite of kids who fell headfirst into fantasy in those most heady days of youth. Hensen has says of the series that, “of all my projects, it’s the one I’m most proud of.” And he has good reason to be—the series has been not only well-loved, but well-respected for its studio’s trademark high-quality puppetry, a rich tapestry of a darkened world, and a legitimately creepy villian cast that most adults still feel slightly unsettled by. The film has reveled in its status as a cult classic since soon after its release. The story is detailed and intriguing, and the puppet work on display in the film is expressive and technically impressive.

With an incredible voice cast already revealed, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is poised to become Netflix’s next big hit. The streaming giant has already shown a willingness to invest in complex, mature visual worlds with shows like Altered Carbon and Black Mirror. While the world of Thra exists in a very different universe, it’s one that’s just as visually and emotionally rich as the sci-fi dramas that Netflix has gained attention and accolades for producing. They have the financial resources and access to the talent required to create a truly stunning adaptation. But that doesn’t mean fans are universally excited.

Netflix Has Some Apologizing to Do, However

Netflix has rarely enjoyed the faith of the fandom’s attached to works it seeks to adapt. While they bring money and production know-how, they don’t always bring good taste. This has especially been true of anime adaptions, which often miss the mark both in tone and content. Take the recent live action Death Note adaptation. The critically-acclaimed anime that inspired the film was removed from the streaming platform and replaced with a feature-length live-action film featuring American actors and an American setting, replacing the uniquely Japanese mileau that underpinned both the anime and the manga. Sure, the series that spawned the devilish plot of secretly eating potato chips from a bag wasn’t always a gritty, mature thriller, but it was quite likely the best detective-based anime of modern times.

Based around the complex psychological move and countermove of the protagonist Light and the eccentric, reclusive detective L, the manga and the anime won legions of fans, not many of which were happy to see Netflix air such a pitiful imitation of the show’s depth in live-action form. The film floundered, and while Netflix doesn’t release viewership numbers, it’s easy to guess that they were less than anticpated. Drawing on shades of the ill-fated Dragon Ball and Avatar live-action films, fans had plenty to be nervous about, and Netflix proved them right. So it’s understandable that fans might approach news of the Dark Crystal adaptation with similar discomfort. You might have adopted a wait-and-see approach, which would be only fair, perhaps even charitable, considering how Netflix has lost the trust of many fans, spawning a legion of memes flavored with their bitter disapproval.

“It’s Puppets, Man, Puppets!”

However, given the news we’ve seen out of Netflix in regards to the Age of Resistance project, fans have reason to be excited, even if that excitement is tempered by past experience. The casting choices we’ve seen so far have been exceptionally exciting, and if nothing else, the vocal performances shoudl be compelling. And Netflix’s clear choice to go with puppets instead of CGI is seen in more ways than one. A number of puppetters are working on the voice cast, and the quality of the puppets we’ve seen in promo shots have been exceptionally well-crafted. While the series could have been redone with a CGI brush, we’ve got more than one good sign here to that creators are trying to stay as close to the spirit and execution of original as they can.

A Recognizable Cast

Below, we can take a look at the quality of the puppets Netflix is showing us now. The trustworthy brick building Taron Egerton (Kingsman) will voice Rian (first), joining astonishinly bad baby sitter Anya Taylor-Joy as Brea (second) and multiple gold medalist in “Best Hair” category Nathalie Emanuel as Deet (last). They’ll take the lead voicing the three Gelfling heroes staring in this prequel set thirty-five years before the events of the 1982 film.

We have a impressive list of additional talent voice the other Gelfling characters, including a number of well-known names: Queen of Edgy Teens Helena Bonham-Carter, the naturally regal Natalie Dormer, cross-dressing comedian Eddie Izzard, Divergent rugged boy Theo James, mad scientist parody Toby Jones, sci-fi prisoner of war Shazad Latif, and devious robot Alicia Vikander, among many other lower-billed talent.

The dark side of the force includes some respected voice talent of its own, including voice acting veterans of numerous projects like grumpy uncle Jedi Mark Hamil, rotundly warm Harvey Fierstein, charmingly effusive Keegan-Michael Key, hauntingly English Jason Isaacs, and the three children in a trenchcoat that comprise Andy Samberg, an Mission Impossible younger-brother tagalong Simon Pegg. And if it’s anything like the original film, they’ll all be doing the Halloween-witch-voices used by the nightmarishly screechy bird villians.

Here’s the official synopsis, which lays out the story of the Dark Crystal prequel series:

Based on The Dark Crystal, Jim Henson’s groundbreaking 1982 feature film, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance tells a new epic story, set many years before the events of the movie, and realized using classic puppetry with cutting edge visual effects. The world of Thra is dying. The Crystal of Truth is at the heart of Thra, a source of untold power. But it is damaged, corrupted by the evil Skeksis, and a sickness spreads across the land. When three Gelfling uncover the horrific truth behind the power of the Skeksis, an adventure unfolds as the fires of rebellion are lit and an epic battle for the planet begins.

The production stills we’ve seen have also displayed a loyal interpretation of both the Gelflings from the original film as well as the color palette and animation style seen in the 1982 film. All signs point to Netflix putting serious creative energy into getting the tone and characters right, which speaks highly of a production that could have very easily gone sideways. Here’s hoping for the best!

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