In 1982, Jim Henson thought up the fantastical world of Thra. Thra is powered by a dark crystal and it is home to imaginative creatures such as the Gelflings, Podlings, and the Skeksis. Henson did not use animation or CGI to bring his creatures to life. He used puppets.
Almost 40 years later, Netflix has reimagined the world of Thra for a TV series. The prequel series sees Henson’s magical creatures return and tells new stories of new characters. These stories are far more intricate than Henson’s ever were. Individual Gelflings are followed on their journey to protect the Dark Crystal when they discover that the Skesis are draining its life for their own personal gain. There is character development, disequilibrium, and a well-paced plot.
What is most impressive about the series is that it successfully retains the charm of the original. It may have been tempting for Netflix to correct the Gelfings’ faces with the help of CGI but they only used it where necessary. Instead, they deliver stunning puppetry which takes the viewer out of this world and into a uniquely reimagined fantasy land.
Performances from the cast are impressive across the board. The Gelfling puppet faces do not move much and so it is up to the actors to animate their emotions. Game of Thrones’ Nathalie Emanuel and Natalie Dormer gave particularly lively performances and Eddie Izzard as a scheming Skesis may be one of his most wonderful roles yet.
What’s more, the series succeeds in being not just visually beautiful but emotionally precious too. Any time a Gelfling is mistreated, our protective reflexes kick in. Even the ridiculous Podlings warm our heartstrings and we become emotionally invested in all of the creatures of Thra who are threatened by the Skeksis’ selfishness. The dreamfasting scapes and Gelfling innocence never fail to delight.
The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance thus beautifully reimagines Jim Henson’s world and builds on it with wonderful story writing and character performances. The series is a triumph for TV which doesn’t build on reality but rather takes you out of it entirely.