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Somewhere out there in the ethers, Jim Henson is beaming with pride thanks to the gorgeous new Netflix series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, based on the classic 1982 film that Henson helmed with Frank Oz. For the past 37 years, The Dark Crystal has maintained its legacy of not only being a special effects masterpiece that also happened to scare the living daylights out of many younger viewers. (Watching the Skeksis eat is no joke.)
CinemaBlend had the pleasure of speaking with Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance co-creators Will Matthews and Jeff Addis, as well as writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach, and I had to ask how much the film's fright factor weighed on conversations when the show was coming together.
Though Will Matthews was joking while saying that, his point is perfectly sound. (And it's also possible he wasn't entirely kidding.) Because The Dark Crystal: Age of Innocence had such an expansive budget and a top-notch production team, the show is able to doing all kinds of things the film couldn't, with a massive scope that Age of Resistance takes full advantage of.
For all the swooping shots of sunny landscapes that there are, it's never easy to forget that this is a Dark Crystal project, given how every character is a puppet of some kind. In the original film, the lead Gelfling character Jen's vacant puppet face was part of the nightmare process for kids. The updates for the TV don't actually change TOO much, offering a more polished look to the dozens of Gelflings that are shown, but still keeping things slightly off-kilter.
Of course, the REAL source of Dark Crystal's nightmare fuel is the Skeksis, no longer willing to just be idle government heads. With their incredibly detailed heads and faces, the Skeksis are responsible for the Gelflings' downfall, and the way they go about killing off and/or torturing the Skeksis is legitimately horrifying to watch at times. Here's how Grillo-Marxuach described the show's approach to the scarier elements.
It sounds like Javi Grillo-Marxuuch knows exactly where this series is heading in the future. Which is smart, since they probably need to be overly prepared due to the immense challenges that come with making an epic fantasy series populated by puppets.
For Grillo-Marxauch, it's been extremely important to follow along in Jim Henson's footsteps by way of presenting scary and sometimes harsh realities for younger audiences. Henson created both The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth as a way to tap into the fantastical imaginations of older crowds, but in ways that still allowed younger viewers to follow along. I can't help but think that Henson would be more appreciative of Dark Crystal's lasting cult legacy than he would have been if it started off as a box office smash.
In Javi Grillo-Marxuach's words:
After watching a full season of the Skeksis' power-mad downfall, I think "sanitized" would be at the very bottom of the list of words I'd use to describe things. Spoiler: at one point, an unsightly character can be seen urinating, but he's got three streams going instead of just one...or two.
What The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance lacks in F-bombs and nudity, it makes up for with themes and struggles that will likely weigh heavily on the younger segment of the viewership. The show is a good lesson in "beings in power arbitrarily ruining others' lives because they're different," among other things concerning Skeksis dietary health.
I think co-creator Jeff Addiss summed it up best with this:
Not gonna lie, now I'm ready to learn what The Happy Crystal: Age Of Taking It Easy would look like as a TV show. Maybe in Season 4 or something.
All 10 episodes of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance are currently available to stream in full on Netflix, as is The Dark Crystal standalone film. Go ahead and throw them on, since nothing else that happens this weekend will involve this kind of large-scale puppet mayhem.