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Nearly 40 years after the original film, the saga of The Dark Crystal is continuing on our screens once again this weekend in the form of Age of Resistance, a 10-episode prequel series from The Jim Henson Company and Netflix. Fans of the original film have been eagerly awaiting this continuation ever since it was announced, and now the reviews are pouring in with just days to go before the premiere. So, how does Age of Resistance stack up against the original film? Well, the consensus so far is that we're in for an epic ride that combines dazzling visuals with a level of heart and character depth that even the original didn't have.
We've known ever since the stunning trailers arrived that we could expect the Jim Henson Creature Shop to be in top form for the new series, which follows a trio of Gelflings as they launch a rebellion against the Skeksis in the years before the first film, and the early reviews definitely back that up. Under director Louis Leterrier, the series merges the Henson Company's classic puppet-driven visuals with some modern upgrades to create a dazzling fantasy world, and critics say that sense of wonder extends well beyond the promotional footage. What we didn't know until now was whether that same spellbinding sensibility would translate to the characters and the new story, but apparently Age of Resistance also succeeds in that respect. In fact, some critics argue the series goes beyond the realm of mere success and into the realm of masterpiece.
Here's what critics had to say:
"Augmented by some new digital technology, but still executed by Jim Henson's Creature Shop, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is visually breathtaking — building on the wonderment of the movie, not bettering it — and when it comes to story and character, it's in all ways a smarter, funnier and more narratively thrilling enterprise. Whether you're watching for fulfilled nostalgia or current pleasure, this is a whimsical, fun and entertaining series," Daniel Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter said.
"The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance may be perfect nostalgia ... because it never acts nostalgic. It’s a gripping fantasy that expands Jim Henson’s iconic world, challenging viewers of all ages with complex themes, horrifying imagery, and an environmental message we may need now more than ever. Also, it’s a technological masterpiece," Beth Elderkin of io9 said.
"Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance achieves the impossible task of making viewers forget they aren’t watching flesh-and-blood actors on screen. The characters created by the Jim Henson Workshop feel familiar yet exotic, light years away from the sort of Uncanny Valley issues that would have plagued this show were it done strictly by computer imagery. But more than that, the series elevates puppetry to the next level by daringly pushing the artform to its very limits (as well as having fun deconstructing it, such as in a memorable sequence where characters put on their own puppet show to fill in narrative gaps bridging the series and the film)," Chris Cummins of Den of Geek noted.
"Executive-produced by Lisa Henson, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is, quite simply, one of the all-time great fantasy epics, as well as the masterwork of puppetry most closely aligned with Jim Henson’s humanistic philosophy since his son Brian helmed 1992’s holiday perennial, The Muppet Christmas Carol," Matt Fagerholm of RogerEbert.com wrote.
"A prequel to the cult-classic feature film animated with puppets, Netflix’s sprawling The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance series expands and improves upon its predecessor. This is a high-fantasy masterclass that’s richer and more satisfying than we could have anticipated, an experiment on a grand scale that paid off," Samuel R. Murrian of Parade said.
While most reviews so far have ranged from commending the series to outright gushing over it, not all critics felt so positively. Some reviewers who loved the series compared it to the Star Wars prequels by noting it succeeds where they failed, while others felt the comparison should head in a different direction.
"Age of Resistance is like the Star Wars prequels of the Dark Crystal universe, filling in gaps that didn't need to be filled in, and focusing heavily on political machinations among rival factions. There's even a subplot about tariffs," Josh Bell of CBR said.
Still other critics praised the series' visual style, but found no real connection to the story.
"The puppetry, as might be expected of the Jim Henson Company, is exquisite and, in this era of oppressive CGI, wonderfully tactile. Alas, the story and dialogue are convoluted with a vengeance," Ed Power of The Telegraph said.
You'll be able to decide for yourself how good the show is soon. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance arrives August 30 on Netflix.