Skip to main content

Netflix Goes ‘Dark’ on Update of 1982 Henson Movie

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, a series based on the Jim Henson fantasy film from 1982, premieres on Netflix Aug. 30. The series is set before the film, which Henson directed with Frank Oz. The Gelfling are heroes in the Dark Crystal world and the Skeksis are heels.

The series has a stunning 180 puppet characters, said the NY Times, and 90 sets. Executive producers include Lisa Henson, Louis Leterrier and Halle Stanford. Co-exec producers are Jeffrey Addiss & Will Matthews, Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Blanca Lista.

Grillo-Marxuach calls the series “phenomenally huge, and phenomenally expensive.”

The Times referred to the film as a “gloomy new-age fantasy saga.” Addiss said its themes are timeless, and timely. “The show is about finding hope even in the darkest times,” he said.

Grillo-Marxuach said the story is relevant “anywhere good people are oppressed by venal, greedy and callous people.”

The voice cast on the show has big names, including Taron Egerton, Caitriona Balfe, Helena Bonham-Carter, Keegan Michael-Key, Eddie Izzard, Andy Samberg and Mark Hamill. “As power-hungry overlords drain life from the planet Thra, a group of brave Gelfling unite on a quest to save their world and fight off the darkness,” is how Netflix describes the series.

One doesn’t need to be familiar with the movie, and its storylines, to appreciate the ten-episode series. The producers said the show will be released in 32 languages, making it feel unique to every country Netflix puts it out in. “Everyone feels the show is made for them,” said Matthews.

Series with puppets of course include Sesame Street and Jim Henson’s The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock. But there’s a paucity of puppet stuff for older viewers, with characters touching on darker themes. “There hasn’t been anything quite like The Dark Crystal since The Dark Crystal,” said Addiss. “That’s what’s unique about it, there’s not a lot of benchmarks.”

Grillo-Marxuach said a framed photo of Oz, Jim Henson and producer Gary Kurtz hung in the writers room, inspiring the writers and producers not to mess up the series.

The project has been a long time in the making. Matthews noted how his wife was not pregnant when he started on The Dark Crystal. As it premieres, he can watch it with his 2 ½-year-old child.

The producers hope for several seasons. “We have longer and more stories to tell,” said Addiss. “We hope we get to come back.”

The NY Times described the original film as Star Wars meets The Hobbit. Matthews said the movie scared the heck out of him when he was a kid. Addiss admitted he was fairly obsessed by it, drawing Gelfling in his textbooks.

The series was made by “true believers,” according to Grillo-Marxuach.

“We came here really to pay homage to something we truly adored,” he added.

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.