The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is the best show I have seen this year. I’d even go so far as to say its the best entertainment product I’ve experienced this year. I don’t say that lightly. I enjoyed the culmination of the Avengers saga with End Game and loved my time playing A Plague Tale Innocence with its gritty medieval supernatural setting, dark tone and excellent story. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance though has something about it I cannot get out of my head. A day after finishing it and I’m still thinking about the journey, the outcome and what the next series (if there is one) will bring. I’m also still humming the theme.
Growing up with the original movie The Dark Crystal, and other Jim Henson productions like Labyrinth and Monster Maker, I knew I’d want to watch this. Yet, I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d love it. I haven’t seen the film in years, maybe since my mid-20s. As a film from my youth, I didn’t have any trepidation about the series, no worry that it would spoil my memories. I’d watched a few trailers which set out the story and tone well and, as I’ve spoken about before, I try not to hold entertainment to dearly. I enjoyed Age of Resistance so much I watched all 10 episodes in three sittings.
Age of Resistance precedes the film by 50 years telling the story of the Gelflings rebellion against the Skeksis. It’s a time in the fiction I didn’t know, until now, that I wanted to see more of. I cannot remember whether I wanted extended fiction for this franchise or not as a kid but I definitely had questions when watching in my 20s. Age of Resistance might not cover everything but it does a fantastic job of tieing together the story they wanted to tell and the original film. The story starts off slow with an introduction to the new characters Deet, Rian, Brea, Hup and those who accompany them on their journey. I quickly found their individual stories interesting and the show does well at not bringing them altogether too quickly. I got a good understanding of each of the characters and connected with them and their plight. We are also reintroduced to the Skeksis and then to Aughra and understand their positions in the world without needing too much explanation. This is great for both newcomers and those with a knowledge of them. It’s something the writing does well on through the series, it doesn’t over-explain or dwells too long on scenes. The action moves quickly with even the slower, longer moments being cut in deftly to other characters stories. It flowed well both as a series and episodically. I never felt bored and I was glued to my screen from the first episode. I wanted to know what would happen next and this pace kept up through the season.
With the time difference, both in production and the story the makers of the show have done an amazing job of capturing the tone of the original world perfectly. It looks amazing, the practical effects being enhanced a little with CGI was absolutely the right way to do this. I’d much rather have waited this long for a series than had an animated show years ago. It isn’t just the look but the movement of the practical puppets and suits. In some cases, such as views of the Gelfling walking, you’re presented with the puppets and almost reminded of them but this just adds to the charm. There’s so much right about the show aesthetically. The colour pallets, the new creatures, the sweeping vistas. I instantly connected with it and as I was watching I kept remembering more of the original film. This is how to further story’s in an established world should be told. Occasionally the CGI didn’t look fantastic especially when something was moving quickly. I can forgive this though as it was only in short sequences and used sparingly.
There are some elements that really stand out both in the story and in how it’s filmed. Firstly the mix of real-world settings, practical puppets, worn suits and model environments is balanced well. A sweeping beautifully shot view of the mountains is scaled down so what would look expansive in a nature documentary is smaller here. The characters are visible moving across this vista giving a differently scaled perspective of the world. The different scales the production team have worked with and tried to link together is impressive. I think I’ve also found my favourite opening scene in a program ever. The start of episode 2 is simple, human and, again, is all about scale. This time showing the scale of the lives of the world’s inhabitants. It was endearing even for a character I knew nothing about and made me laugh out loud with the shake of a head.
I’m not sure I can fawn enough about Age of Resistance. The tone, the scale, the flowing story and the relatable characters all work so well and stand out above a lot of other shows. I kept watching with wonder, tension and excitement never wanting it to end. When it did, however, I was satisfied. Even with the fast-moving flow of the show the ending wasn’t rushed. It built up so well and gave all the characters adequate screen time wrapping up their individual journeys and the overarching story. As soon as it finished I started to tie as much as I could to what I remember of the film and cannot wait for this story to continue with another season.
There’s a lot right with Age of Resistance both as a companion series to the film and stand-alone. I’ll be watching the film this weekend and hope it’ll be a yearly ritual of watching a new season followed by a film rewatch. Probably even a series rewatch from episode 1 straight through. If you haven’t seen it yet this should be the next series you watch. Put down the gamepad, sell your cinema ticket and get on The Dark Crystal Age of Resistance.