The original Dark Crystal, the Jim Henson fantasy epic, remains a beloved classic nearly four decades after its initial release. On paper, Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – the Netflix prequel series that takes place several years (or ‘trine’ if you’re on Thra) before the events of the 1982 movie – might cause some Aughra-like murmurs among the community.
Fellow Gefling, rest easy. The new series has won rave reviews, with GamesRadar calling it “even better” than the original. We recently sat down with some of the Age of Resistance cast, including Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones’ Missandei), Shazad Latif (Ash Tyler from Star Trek Discovery), and Hannah John-Kamen (Ant-Man and the Wasp) to discuss the challenge of balancing expectations of long-term fans and newcomers, as well as some of their favourite practical effects from the show.
“There’s nothing else like it out at the moment,” says John-Kamen, who plays headstrong Naia in Age of Resistance. “I think it’s going to be really exciting for people who haven’t seen the original movie and it 100% [also] gives a nod to the original.”
What about the dyed-in-the-wool Dark Crystal fans? Speaking as one herself, Nathalie Emmanuel is effusive about the chances of the prequel standing side-by-side with the original.
“My memory of the film and then seeing the show, it’s very much in the same vein,” Emmanuel tells us. “Rich colours, the textures of it. It’s still very much there. And obviously the creatures, the things, it’s very much a nod to the original film.”
“But then a lot of the themes and storylines are still very modern and relevant,” Emmanuel says of the Dark Crystal’s contemporary narrative. “They always have been, but especially now. I think you’re seeing that reflection which is much more relatable. And then the technology that also comes on top of the puppetry.”
The puppetry, and the myriad practical effects that make up the world of Thra, its seven Gelfling clans (each with distinctive homes), and the insomnia-inducing Skesis, are a breath of fresh air in the cinematic world wrapped in CGI. The team of puppeteers and designs behind the camera cannot be praised highly enough – each episode features several scenes where you’re constantly amazed by the work put in. You’re not alone in that regard – the cast are huge fans, too.
While both Latif and John-Kamen agree that the podling Hup, who encounters Emmanuel’s literally wide-eyed Deet early on in her journey to stop the Darkening, serves as the gold standard in terms of character designs. Emmanuel points to a specific scene that caught her imagination.
“One of the characters jumped into water and was moving as if through water, but obviously they’re not submerged... Watching the puppeteers create that with movement… I was like ‘Wow’. It was four guys operating this one puppet to make him or her, I can’t remember who it was, look like they were falling through water and that is something you don’t even think about.”
“You just see the finished product and you think ‘Oh, that was obviously just underwater,’ but it’s not,” Emmanuel continues. “It’s a puppet and it’s being moved in such a way and that, for me, the brilliance and artistry of that, and the fact that that has to be thought about, just was really incredible to see.”
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance launches on Netflix on August 30.