Netflix The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Review: The Muppets Meet 'Game of Thrones'

Jim Henson has one of the most storied legacies of any 20th Century creative. After creating The Muppets, Fraggle Rock and Sesame Street, changing the landscape of modern television, Henson hoped to create something grander. In 1982, alongside his longtime partner Frank Oz and illustrator Brian Froud, Henson created The Dark Crystal. With beautiful imagery created through innovations in puppetry, the movie was a marvel to behold.

the dark crystal: age of resistance podlings
Washing the Podlings in one of the stranger scenes in the show Netflix

But, being a 90-minute art piece does not often make for box office success. In its original theatrical release, The Dark Crystal was considered a failure, with children failing to connect with the vision Henson was trying to share. Now, over 30 years later, the movie has become a cult icon, with people of all ages coming to understand the magic that Henson had envisioned all those decades ago.

Netflix has just released The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, a television show prequel to the film. Bringing back Brian Froud with the help of his son Toby (who played the baby in Jim Henson's The Labyrinth movie), this series builds on the existing lore without complicating it. The Skeksi are the "lords of the crystal," which had been gifted to them by the witch/earth mother Aughra. Seven Gelfling tribes live under Skeksi rule, and, over the course of 10 episodes, viewers learn the horrifying truth that the Skeksi are as evil as it gets.

For fans of puppetry or solid fantasy tales, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is worth a view. In its associated making-of documentary, head of the Henson company and daughter of Jim, Lisa Henson, says the show "might be the biggest puppet production ever," and it shows. With star voice actors like Nathalie Emmanuel, Helena Bonham Carter and Mark Hamill, Netflix spares no expense on this reimagined reboot. Simon Pegg plays the trickster The Chamberlain and really captures the soul of the original character. His , maniacal plans are perfected through the puppet's motion and demeanor.

The Age of Resistance uses puppets for most of its shots, capturing the grief and turmoil of the Gelfling struggle through latex and rubber. Top-tier puppeteers were brought onto the project including YouTuber Barnaby Dixon, known for his Dabchick character, as well as Kevin Clash, the controversial former voice of Elmo. The camera work is also exceptional, with rotating and sweeping shots of these characters sprinkled throughout the story.

the dark crystal: age of resistance skeksi
The scientist, one of the evil Skeksi Netflix

This series is extremely violent for a PG-rated show. There's death by stabbing, mutilation, blood loss and bludgeoning; nothing I'd allow near a young child. The show pulls no punches and has no problem destroying the characters you've grown attached to. It's obvious that Netflix was trying to shove a bit of Game of Thrones inside the puppets of Henson, which I never would have assumed could blend so well. Sometimes you forget that you are looking at the hands of puppeteers covered in rubber and felt, which is the sign of a good story.

There are some problems with this reboot, however. While the puppets interacting with each other look great, there's also a heavy reliance on CGI for backgrounds and character animations. When a Gelfling puppet has to fly or run up stairs it has to be done through computer animation, which doesn't look very convincing. I understand the vision for this reboot was grander than what only puppets could allow, but the lack of practical effects is still kind of a disappointment.

Overall, The Age of Resistance is worth watching if you are a fan of Henson's work or the fantasy genre. The tale of the Gelflings attempting to overthrow the Skeksi leaves room for potential sequels, which Henson would approve of.