By Scott C.
In 1982, a fantasy, adventure film called The Dark Crystal, directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, was released by Universal. The movie was dubbed as a family film, yet its darker tone and look of some of the puppets made viewers wonder if that was so. During my first watch through as a child, I was totally freaked by The Dark Crystal‘s scary themes. But the older I got, the more I began to admire the look, story, and weirdness of this particular film, so I became a fan of the franchise a bit more, although I always wondered if fans would ever have the chance to revisit planet Thra? Fast forward to today, Netflix has decided that it is time for that revisit, with a ten-episode prequel series called The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, which is out now on the streaming service.
Set many years before the ’80s film, the prequel series dives into the Skeksis and their relationship with the Crystal of Truth, which holds untapped power, as well as being the heart of planet Thra. The crystal is being wrongly used by the series’ villains. To stop such a threat, audiences will be introduced to a new group of heroes (Gelflings), who spark the resistance to try save the planet from certain doom. At this year’s 50th San Diego Comic-Con, the blog had a chance to hear from three members of the show, including Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Rocketman), executive producer and CEO of The Jim Henson Company, Lisa Henson (High Crimes, The Happytime Murders); as well as series’ director, Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk, Now You See Me).
Egerton (Rian) was introduced to The Dark Crystal world after watching the movie with his dad as a child, and noted that the film’s strange themes did scare him, yet later, he found the film to be “enchanting”, which might have been partially because he is a horror lover. Egerton explained that this prequel will be faithful to the source material, which only made it easier for him to say yes in joining the series. He also noted that fans will hear him sing in the show, but do expect this series to be dark, to stay within the tone of The Dark Crystal universe.
Egerton stated that his role “Demanded a lot of Energy in the booth,” so he had to stay near the director to make sure that he got Rian’s voice right, how Leterrier wanted it to sound. Egerton also visited the set as much as possible to get a feel for the show. Simon Pegg (The Chamberlain) did the exact same thing.
Henson said that she doesn’t expect everyone to know the ending of the first movie as the fanbase does. Leterrier also echoed the same thought, as he wanted to make sure that everyone knows about the franchise, now that the series has been released. Henson explained that she also wanted the show to focus on heroism, and that anything becomes possible when everyone comes together, even when things are dire.
Leterrier stated that this franchise has been very important to him as a filmmaker since childhood, and after being approached by Henson, his goal was to “Re-explore the world the same way,” as Jim Henson and Frank Oz did back in the ‘80s. He wanted to make sure that everything looked real onscreen, with real props, camera tricks, and of course, the use of puppets. 85-90% of what viewers see in the series is “real”, according to the director. As for CGI, it was only used to polish the final product. Some of the puppets’ eyes couldn’t blink on their own, so effects such as these were added on using CGI.
The puppeteers (of which were twelve main ones, according to Henson) played an important role in making sure that the characters looked believable onscreen. Most of the voice work was done once filming was complete, to match each puppet’s actions, which wasn’t easy, according to Leterrier.
The original idea to explore planet Thra once again was to film a sequel, or to do an animated prequel show. Netflix, however, wanted something similar to the original movie, but as a television show and set before the movie. Fortunately, Henson had always envisioned going back to Thra, so everything Dark Crystal related were saved long ago after the Creature Shop in London closed, just in case. Overall, this franchise will always hold a special place in the hearts of the Henson family.
Speaking of the development, older puppet designs were used to help create the show’s new characters, yet the return of the movie’s original concept artist, Brian Froud, was what truly made it possible. Henson’s overall goal was to recapture the Dark Crystal spirit, as seen in the movie. “It’s really important that we had Brian Froud,” said Henson. Joining him was his son, Toby Froud, who was baby Toby in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth.
The show’s villains were based on Roman history, such as how conquering other tribes and races impacted their cultures. It also took a lot of hard work to get each puppet and everything else to look good, which was done by the show’s crew members at the Creature Shop. Overall, this prequel series needed everyone’s A-game to get it going.
Have something to say regarding The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance? If you do, then head on over to the FoCC forum to keep the resistance conversation going. The series itself is out now on Netflix.