'The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance' Spoiler Review: A Bonafide Fantasy Masterpiece

It's been 37 years since audiences first discovered the enchanting world of Thra, a mystical land filled with magic, evil, and hope. In Jim Henson's 1982 film, The Dark Crystal, Thra was a broken place, ravaged by genocide, drained nearly to the point of extinction by the greed of the Skeskis, vulture-like creatures who had misappropriated the power of the Crystal of Truth in their power-hungry quest for domination and immortality. In the film, the Skesis had wiped out the Gelflings, an elf-like species, by using the Crystal to drain the creatures of their very life force, or essence, in a bid to obtain eternal life. But the Skesis are dying, their emperor collapses into a heap of ash, and the Crystal has turned a dark purple, polluted by the Skesis, and in turn, polluting much of Thra. Outside of the dark and twisted husk of the Crystal Castle, where the Skesis reside, the land is blackened and cracked, pulsing with surges of electricity. But how did Thra really come to such a dark chapter in its history? That's where The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance comes in, coloring in the vast background and history that led to the events of the 1982 film. With Age of Resistance, Thra comes to exquisite life, expanding far beyond the confines of the Skesis' castle, introducing a lush and varied land akin to that of Westeros or Middle-Earth, populated by not just two Gelfling, but seven different clans: The Dousan, The Drenchen, The Grottan, The Sifa, The Spriton, The Stonewood, and the Vapra. 

Naturally, major spoilers are ahead.

As the Myth-Speaker (Sigourney Weaver) explains in the show's opening, Thra is controlled by the Skesis, who tricked Aughra (voiced by Donna Kimball) into giving them the Crystal of Truth, which is already corrupted as the Skesis have been feeding off of the crystal to rejuvenate themselves. It's not working, however, and in a bid to ensure their immortality Scientist (voiced by Mark Hamill) figures out a way to utilize the crystal's power to drain essence out of creatures. But what creatures to use? Well, that's of course where the Gelfling come in.At this point, Gelfling willingly serve the Skesis. Each of the seven clans have their own matriarchal leader, a Maudra, with the Vapra Clan's Maudra Mayrin (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter) serving as the All-Maudra, who reports directly to the Skesis. Living in the castle with the Skesis are Gelfling who serve as a sort of Royal Guard, sworn to protect and serve the Lords of the Crystal. Rian (voiced by Taron Egerton) serves as a castle guard alongside his girlfriend, Mira (voiced by Alicia Vikander) and his best friend, Gurjin (voiced by Harris Dickinson). After chasing a into the forbidden catacombs, Mira is captured by Scientist who decides she is the perfect test subject for his new machine. As Rian watches in horror, Mira life is sucked out of her until she evaporates. The Skesis greedily gobble up most of her essence and are overjoyed when it works. They have found a way to beat death, but it will take many Gelfling.And there's one other problem: Rian has seen everything and is now on the run. And that's where the slippery Chamberlain (voiced by Simon Pegg, who nails the character's signature whine perfectly) comes in. Chamberlain spreads the rumor that Rian is Mira's true murderer, and that he's lost his mind. It's a clever if insidious ploy to ensure that a creature with the capability of dreamfasting, which would show any other Gelfling the truth about what happened, is deemed dangerous and unstable. His mind is infected, and it could be contagious. Rian isn't just on the run now, he's Public Enemy Number One.Mira's death is both brutal and shocking, and it serves not only to kick off the events of Age of Resistance, but it also establishes the tone of the series. Unlike the film, Age of Resistance pulls no punches when it comes to how brutal the Skesis can be. There will be many deaths, some quite vicious, because ultimately, we know the Gelfling uprising to come won't be a successful one, at least not in the long run. But Mira's death (and the resulting consequences) is just one third of the story. Deep inside the Caves of Grot lives Deet (voiced by Nathalie Emmanuel), a lovable animal caregiver who discovers a dark truth: Thra is dying, infected by The Darkening, a purple stream of corruption created by the Dark Crystal, which turns the creatures of Thra mad before killing them. Deet seeks the advice of the Sanctuary Tree, an all-wise, living organism, which shares a vision with Deet, showing her some of the events to come. Deet now has a quest, she must leave her home and head to Ha'rar, the home of the Vapra, in order to find a way to stop The Darkening. Living in Ha'rar is Brea (voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy), princess and daughter to the All-Maudra, who loves learning and, like the very best fictional princesses, is not only rebellious, but also has a strict sense of right and wrong. Although she is initially fascinated by the Skesis, Brea comes to distrust their greed, defying even her own mother to do what she feels is right. Shortly after their visit, Brea is shown a mysterious symbol in the library, one which Deet was also shown in her own vision.From here, the paths of Brea, Rian, and Deet slowly begin to intertwine, and the story being told in Age of Resistance grows increasingly more complex and engrossing. As Deet journeys to Ha'rar, she befriends a podling, Hup (voiced by Victor Yerrid), who helps her avoid trouble on their journey. The pair cross paths with Rian, who has returned home to Stone-in-the-Wood to warn his clan of the Skesis' true motives, but he is rebuffed by his Maudra Fara (voiced by Lena Headey) and betrayed by his own father (voiced by Mark Strong) who has come to turn him in.Just when all hope seems lost, the fires of rebellion finally begin to spark. Rian flees from his father but eventually he is discovered by Tavra (voiced by Caitriona Balfe), Brea's sister, as well as Gurjin's twin sister, Naia (voiced by Hannah John-Kaman), who have shown up to bring Rian back to the Skesis. But Rian convinces them to dreamfast with him and he shows them the truth about Mira's death. Unbeknownst to him, Rian's father also joined the dreamfast and discovers the truth, finally believing his son. Back at the castle, after being cast out of favor with the emperor, Chamberlain calls upon The Hunter (voiced by Ralph Ineson), a terrifying and brutal Skesis warrior who immediately goes after Rian, catching up with him and his father as the pair are on the run. Deet and Hup watch in horror as Rian's father sacrifices his life for his son. It's a heartbreaking moment, and one that at first seems successful, but The Hunter's luck hasn't run out just yet. He emerges unscathed and snatches Rian away, while Deet and Hup, just as gut punched as the audience at this point, reluctantly continue on to Ha'rar. Brea, meanwhile, has been investigating the mysterious symbol she discovered in the library. With the help of Onica (voiced by Natalie Dormer), a member of the Sifa clan, and discovers a secret chamber hidden beneath her mother's throne. Once inside, Brea unlocks a puzzle that points to the heart of the show's message: All of the Gelfling clans are equal and important. As the Gelfling will all come to realize soon enough, their unity is their only chance at defeating the Skesis. It's a timely message, and perhaps one not sorely needed as the political landscape in America continues to fracture. Like much of the best fantasy and science fiction that precedes it, Age of Resistance successfully creates a lush and immersive world, one filled with high stakes and heroic characters that audiences will fall in love with, cheer on, and mourn as they battle against reprehensible and dark evil. And like much that came before, as history continues to be a cyclical and punishing beast that we haven't quite learned a definitive lesson from, it is also a rallying cry, a reminder that hope and unity remain the greatest weapons we can wield. the dark crystal age of resistance production designThe show's three heroes are finally united when Mother Aughra, who has awakened from an epic slumber to discover the Skesis' deception, pulls the Gelflings into the Dream Space, where she rallies them into rebellion, with one minor hitch. Seladon (voiced by Gugu Mbatha-Raw), Brea's older sister, sees Aughra and the others as traitors, and promptly betrays them to the Skesis. Her mother, the All-Maudra, valiantly stands up to the Skesis and is promptly and viciously slain in front of her daughters. Seladon, while shaken, sees this as just punishment, and crowns herself the new All-Maudra, pledging her fealty to the Skesis and driving a wedge in the plans for Gelfling unity.Now on the run, but with a game plan in place, Brea unites with Deet, Hup and Rian, and the group travel to the Circle of the Suns, where Lore leads them to its creator, a bizarre Skesis known as The Heretic (voiced by Andy Samberg). The Heretic introduces them to his other half, a Mystic, and explains, through (what else) a puppet show that the Skesis and Mystics were once united beings known as the urSkeks, something fans of the film will have known already. Unlike his fellow Skesis, The Heretic understands that unity, not only for the Gelflings but also for his own kind, is needed to keep Thra in balance.The Heretic urges the group on to Deet's home, the Caves of Grot, where an ancient weapon has been hidden, one that will help the Gelfling defeat the Skesis. Before they can leave, they are ambushed by The Hunter, but he is promptly stopped by his own counterpart, The Archer, who shoots him full of arrows, despite this meaning his own demise as well. The Hunter returns to the Castle of the Crystal, on the brink of death and with Brea in captivity, and not even The Scientist's stores of essence are enough to bring him back. The Skesis are desperate to revive their compatriot, not only because he is one of them, but also because his demise would expose the harsh truth that they're not immortal after all. Because of this and because they are increasingly aware of The Darkening's growing hold on Thra, they reluctantly agree to two bargains. The first is with the Ascendancy, a group of giant spider-like, hive-minded creatures that are the sworn enemy of the Skesis. In return for fighting for The Emperor and delivering all Gelfling clans to him, he will give them back their ancestral home, the Caves of Grot. Unbeknownst to them, their home is overrun with The Darkening, which will kill them all.Secondly, the Skesis agree to allow Aughra to exchange her life in return for several Gelflings, including Brea and a humiliated Seladon, who learned the hard way that the Skesis could care less about her loyalty. But Aughra's sacrifice (which could have easily been pre-empted by her muttering "Fly, you fools!" since her eventual return is inevitable) doesn't seem to take. The Hunter isn't revived, Aughra is gone, and the Gelfling are freed thanks to another bargain. This time, it's one struck by Deet with the members of the Ascendancy in the Caves of Grot. Deet reveals the Skesis betrayal and offers to help them, since her home was originally their own. In return, the Ascendancy, who have been manipulating the Gelfling via a small mind-controlling organism that attaches to their faces, turn against the Skesis, releasing the Gelfling and joining the uprising. The Skesis have lost their army, but the Gelfling have gained a large one. But the alliance comes at a cost, as The Darkening has spread throughout the Caves of Grot, threatening to consume it at any moment. The Sanctuary Tree, which initially set Deet upon her mission, is able to help all of the Gelfling and Ascendancy escape, but it is slowly being consumed. Before dying, it infuses Deet with its power, giving her the power to heal and consume The Darkening from other beings. But it comes at a cost, as we see Deet's veins pulsing with dark energy.   It's a lot to take in, but to the writers' credit, Age of Resistance weaves these complex storylines seamlessly, expertly executing each betrayal, full explaining Thra's mythology and lore, and still managing quite a few surprises in the process. The build-up to the final showdown between the Gelfling and the Skesis is breathtaking if not bittersweet, the heroes might triumph for a day, but they do ultimately lose the battle until Jen and Kira come along. Still, it is impossible not to become fully invested in the Gelfling uprising no matter what the final outcome.The big showdown comes in Stone-in-the-Wood, Rian's home and the place where he finds the other half of the Dual Glaive, the magical weapon that The Heretic inferred would defeat the Skesis for good. Rian learns his own father once wielded the blade and armed with this, and several Gelflings by his side, he charges the Skesis in battle. As his blade pierces The General (voiced by Benedict Wong), we see essence seeping out of the wound. This is no ordinary blade, but Rian stops short of killing his foe. That would be done out of sight shortly thereafter by Chamberlain, who enacts his final revenge in brutal fashion, watching his political rival crumble into ash. Just when the battle seems lost, and several Gelfling have fallen, including Rian's Maudra Fara and Tavra (who received a fatal blow from the Skesis while escaping the Castle of the Crystal), the remaining Gelfling clans show up ready to do battle, having heard Rian's battle cry when he initially uncovered the Dual Glaive, which projected the truth about the Skesis across Thra. Desperate, outnumbered, and now losing the battle, The Emperor unleashes his ultimate weapon: The Darkening that he has consumed in his staff, which has corrupted and decayed his body. The surge spreads quickly towards the Gelflings, threatening to become to extinction the audience has been anticipating from the start — that is until Deet steps forward and consumes it all, saving her friends and all seven clans. the dark crystal age of resistance featuretteThe big battle, as well so many of the scenes throughout Age of Resistance is breathtaking to behold. The puppetry, while remaining true to Brian Froud's concept design from The Dark Crystal, has evolved in spectacular ways. The Skesis, with their mottled and twisted bodies, leak gooey puss, shake arthritic claws with razor sharp talons, and remain impressively terrifying sights to behold. The Gelfling are each imbued with their own personalities; they blink, they cry, they feel, they love. Thanks in part to the incredible voiceover work by the A-list cast, as well as the superb talents of the puppeteers bringing each Gelfling to life, it is impossible not to feel every They hit every single beat, and at times one can almost forget these are puppets and not mythical creatures dreamed into life by Tolkein.  By the end of Age of Resistance, Aughra has been reborn (in her familiar red dress), the Skesis have retreated their numbers slightly depleted, and, most importantly, although the Dual Glaive is destroyed, a vital weapon emerges from the handle: The missing shard of the Crystal of Truth, the very shard Jen will later uncover and use to end the Skesis' rule of Thra once and for all.The Dark Crystal Age of ResistanceThe Gelfling and the Ascendancy have emerged triumphant, if only temporarily. But the victory comes at a cost, as Rian searches for Deet, he sees her stumbling away from the celebration, her body being consumed by The Darkening. She's survived, for now, but only time will tell if she becomes another sacrifice or if her infection turns her into an enemy of Thra.Age of Resistance ends on a satisfying if incomplete note, which, especially when paired with the exceptional storytelling and the stunning visuals, begs for a second season. As the series is a prequel, there are tantalizing nods to the original film that spark a myriad of questions that future seasons might explore, such as Deet briefly seeing what appears to be Kira's mother hiding her from the Skesis. Have we met Jen and Kira's parents already? Moreover, do all of the Gelfling really die? The world of Thra has been greatly expanded, not only introducing several different types of Gelfling and new creatures, but a slew of places they might hide and secretly thrive. That is, if Thra's lush and varied landscapes don't succumb to The Darkening. Adding to the series' prescient political overtones is an urgent and much-needed environmental call-to-arms, making the series, like so many enduring and beloved fantasy properties, both timely and still otherworldly and fully emersive.The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a visual delight and its rapturous, yet accessible, storyline will be satisfying for fans of the film as well as newcomers who don't know a Fizzgig from a Landstrider. For those looking to fill the void left behind by Game of Thrones, your new addiction has arrived. /Film Rating: 9.5 out of 10