Netflix’s ‘Dark Crystal’ prequel is a ‘huge epic saga’ full of star power and puppetry worthy of the Henson name
Netflix’s newest series is an out-of-this-world blast from the past — continuing the vision of Jim Henson nearly 30 years after his death.
“The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance,” which started streaming Friday, is the breathtakingly crafted prequel to Henson’s 1982 film “The Dark Crystal,” which he co-directed with Frank Oz — who voiced Yoda in the “Star Wars” films and Miss Piggy and Cookie Monster, among many characters, for Henson.
While Henson’s “Sesame Street” and “Muppets” characters are known by kids from 2 to 92, “The Dark Crystal” may be unchartered territory to some viewers. That’s where the new show’s executive producer — with a familiar last name — comes in.
“I think perhaps the bigger challenge was opening it up and making it relevant for today’s audiences that don’t know ‘Dark Crystal,'" the puppeteer’s daughter Lisa Henson, 59, told the Daily News. The series’ writers “found an exciting way, in the first episode, to introduce us to new, young, sympathetic characters who are discovering truths for themselves. And those characters become the eyes of the audience."
She is exceedingly candid though about “the easy part" of recapturing the vision of her father, who died in 1990 at age 53.
“The people at the Henson Company know the film very well,” said Lisa, who is also the company’s CEO. “Everybody we brought on board the show, they were all fans of ‘Dark Crystal’ and steeped in it."
Set in the deteriorating world of Thra, a trio of humanoids known as Gelflings — voiced by Nathalie Emmanuel, Taron Egerton, and Anya Taylor-Joy — rebel against the vulture-like Skeksis, led by Jason Isaacs’ Emperor, whose rule is fueled by a sinister secret.
The “cast list to die for," as Isaacs put it to The News, and includes franchise heavyweights (Helena Bonham Carter, Mark Hamill, Lena Headey), cinematic icons (Sigourney Weaver, Harvey Fierstein), and comedic gold (in the forms of Awkwafina, Keegan-Michael Key, Andy Samberg and Simon Pegg).
Issacs, 56, best known for playing villain Lucius Malfoy in the “Harry Potter” films, jokes that his “enormous baggage at playing ... repulsive characters” made him a “natural fit” for The Emperor.
Emmanuel, on the other hand, known for her role as Missandei on “Game of Thrones," plays the “sweet and innocent” Gelfling Deet, who she tells The News is a “powerful force of nature."
While Emmanuel, 30, felt this isolation could be “really difficult when it comes to playing the scene, because it’s so broken up," Isaacs felt it was sometimes "easier to be in character and in the story because you’re not distracted by any of the social elements.”
The 10-episode series called for “a different kind of puppeteering," Lisa said.
“It’s not the same as ‘Sesame Street’ or ‘The Muppets,’ because there is a lot of delicacy to these characters and to the way that they emote,” she explained. “You’re talking about an inanimate object and ... you have to be convinced that it has feelings, that it has desires and needs and unspoken thoughts."