The challenge of creating an updated world of one such as “The Dark Crystal” is a specific challenge. The balance reflects in two aspects: can the puppetry be held up in such a way that it doesn’t take away from the original but also does it take into play the world building and mythology that Jim Henson created so many years ago. Granted nothing can be quite like what was done in 1982 considering the restrictions. But what Louis Letterier and the Jim Henson Workshop have done with “The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance” is quite effective in living up to the original while also taking it much darker which was always underlying beneath the surface in the initial film. Leterrier seemed an odd choice initially after Genndy Tartakovsky, known for “Samurai Jack” and the initial “Clone Wars” shorts left the project seemingly over creative differences. What might be said is that there might have been a structure that Henson had initially left which painted the backstory. It is hard to say.
Nevertheless, the story told over 10 episodes takes into fact many eventual outcomes seen in the movie. But it also reflects an immigration story in reverse that is very prevalent to our times while also being universal and older. Watching this iteration, especially in the plight of The Gelfings, the parallel to Native Americans both in the look and mysticism of the characters becomes much more defined especially with Deet, an exceptionally connected Gelfing from underground. Another clan from what is called The Crystal Desert plays into this myth as well. The key aspect in this series that it shows Thra as bigger than what was imagined (or likely planned). The eventual genocide of the Gelfing as indicated in the movie is a great underlying theme even as battles are fought. Rian, as played by Taron Egerton of “Kingman” and “Rocketman” fame, anchors the cast as the would be hero.
However the grand balance relates in the Skeksis, both in the voices and the abject cruelty that begins to seep in. The most intrinsic simply because he is the most dynamic in terms of chess moves is The Chamberlain, as voiced by Simon Pegg. He is almost the Judas in a way who belies his own loyalty for a texture of power. Pegg gets enough of the voice without overplaying say, the whimpering. The General as always is his adversary for power as voiced by Benedict Wong. The overarching Emperor is voiced by Jason Isaacs and Mark Hamill plays The Scientist. The driving force of essence at a certain point becomes all encompassing. This could be a balance to the progressive nature of the current opiod crisis or simply reflect back the essence of the opium trade in the 1800s. Point being that the story works on many different levels.
Augra is the unifying and yet destructuring force. It is she who is blame but also she who is ultimately a deliverer. It is almost as if she is the ID within everyone. The larger reasoning of who the Skeksis are and why the Mystics function as they do is hinted at but left for later deduction. The politics though especially within the clans of the Gelfling are really what propel the story but it is the ideas influenced through Augra that anchor it. While the aspects of transcendence and new age thinking still play into the actions of the characters, the introduction of The Archer and more specifically The Hunter as well as two other characters co-existing with each other at the end of the world create a different dynamic and add even more to the proceedings.
Ultimately though the elements of the betrayal of trust by the Lords Of Crystal and their ultimate greed is what defines the path. Technically, the show does what is needed to do. Practical effects and puppetry are used heavily with only slight digital enhancements while landscape and certain creature elements that just would not have been possible before without CGI add that degree of scope without forgetting the true nature of Thra. “The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance” is an apt, entertaining and visionary extension of Jim Henson’s universe. Seeing the possibility of it coming back in this way, which would not have happened in the current TV and filmmaking climate without Netflix, shows the importance of certain Ips being given a chance to reach a new generation while still reflecting the old.
By Tim Wassberg
The realization of “Flash Forward”, as it was screened at the ABC TCA Press Tour, was the fact that the essence of what has been discussed: a successor to “Lost” in intention of the mythology is there on a basic level. Unlike that earlier incarnation which had the ability of coming out from nowhere, this series has to deal with the criticism of being compared, notwithstanding the fact that two of its actors, most specifically Dominic Monaghan, were or are characters on the aforementioned show (Sonya Walger plays Penny).
This show begins with a bang in actuality and very nicely sets up the premise much like the plane crash but in a much broader sense. Most people don’t remember that when “Lost” started, there was a lot of exposition that took some people time to integrate. There was a bit of impatience and catch up involved in that for some of the audience.
This series has the ability and maybe the weakness to become much more dense because of the breathe of the event portrayed in the pilot. The question is the balance between intimate and epic. From the beginning moments when Joseph Fiennes’ character Mark is running through traffic in the aftermath of said event, you get that feeling of confusion and the immediate influx of questions.
The key to the pilot and the cause of discussions is the “flash forwards” which have the date of April 29, 2010. Everybody sees this specific time part of the future and the key is how do they get to that point, and more importantly can it be changed or do they want it to change. Like “Lost” the beauty here works in the inherent flaws of the characters where they don’t want to give away or even say the real truth and, in addition, neither do the writers. It is great because (again like “Lost”) it places the audience in the know slightly more than the characters. This gives the ability to keep the material really fresh but a balance needs to maintained.
There is definitely a cinematic element as the moment of this “blackout” happens. The mythology does play as the epilogue alludes to with a reveal that is much more mystery than answer. There are multiple characters throughout (including a cameo by uber-animator Seth McFarlane) although the focus revolves around Mark, an FBI agent (Fiennes), and his wife Olivia, a ssurgeon, played by Walger. In all, the pilot teases enough and keys into that sense of wonder and darkness that makes the show it will be undeniably compared to a valid companion.
While it is always hard to take away the aspect of one episode, much less one told in one hour as compared to the two hour running time of the premiere of “Lost”, “Flash Forward” does possess many of the great qualities needed for a show like this to succeed. The only drawback in some of the episode was the lead back nature of some of the matter-of-fact dialogue. However when the aspects of witholding information begin to take place (again like most of the characters eventually on “Lost”), the feeling of the show takes on a subversive but ultimately emotional (but not saccarine undertone).
“Flash Forward” is a cinematic possibility that shows ABC recognizes the ability of this range of show as evidenced in many parts of this pilot. When the moment of the blackout jump cuts you into oblivion, you are there for the ride. It is just a matter of being kept strapped in.