Will the ‘Dark Crystal’ Netflix Show Finally Give Jim Henson’s Masterpiece the Attention it Deserves?

Matthew Loffhagen
Universal Pictures
(Photo: Universal Pictures)

Hey, remember The Dark Crystal?

If you don’t, that’s okay. Not many people do – Jim Henson is far better known for The Muppets than for his more serious puppet works.

Sure, we all remember Labyrinth, but the magic element there is probably David Bowie rather than the puppets. Yoda and other elements of the original Star Wars have always been popular, but for a full, long, epic fantasy experience, you can’t beat The Dark Crystal.

For fans of Henson’s work, the announcement of a Dark Crystal television series feels like the perfect Netflix project. Half of everything the streaming service creates is nostalgia-bait, but the beauty of a Dark Crystal show in particular is that not enough people have even experienced the original movie in the first place.

This show is in early days at the moment, as can be seen from the announcement trailer that lacks more than a few seconds of footage, but the message is clear: Jim Henson cared about The Dark Crystal more than anything else he got to make, and now it’s time to revisit that in a new format, for an audience of both newcomers and longtime fans.

This could well be the perfect opportunity to build up The Dark Crystal and introduce newcomers to a beautiful, creepy, heartbreaking film that doesn’t get its proper dues – so long, that is, that the Netflix show is up to snuff.

This new show is coming from the Jim Henson Creature Workshop itself, which means that the people making the puppets know their stuff, to say the least. Assuming that the quality of the show us up to snuff with what Netflix usually puts out, this should be a fairly faithful recreation of the original experience. It’s hard to know, though, whether the episodic experience will fit the world, or whether, thanks either to its dark tone or often horrifying visuals, audiences (especially younger viewers) will quickly become fatigued with trying to keep up with what’s going on in the film.

After all, Bowie really is the glue that holds Labyrinth together, alongside Jennifer Connolly. Perhaps the reason why that movie (initially a box office dud) has gained such a strong second life out of theaters is thanks to its human characters, where The Dark Crystal is all puppets, and therefore a little less accessible.

The big challenge that the new show will face is trying to convince audiences to care, to stick with the show when things get a bit weird, and to start initially caring about the characters. If the show is anything like the movie, once viewers get involved in the story, they’ll find it easy to get swept along with the narrative.

Dark Crystal Gelflings
Source: Universal Pictures

It’ll all come down to the first few minutes of the very first episode. If Netflix can quickly make a powerful connection to the audience through a sympathetic character, then this will be a hit, and The Dark Crystal will gain a brand lease of life with a rejuvenated fandom.

If it’s even a little hard to get behind the idea of a movie that’s entirely filled with slightly grotesque puppets (even the gelflings fall into Uncanny Valley with a notable thud), then viewers will exit the show and start bingewatching The Big Bang Theory or something similarly unchallenging instead.

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