The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Review. MMMMMMM!!!

4 and a half stars
Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal pretty much traumatized me as a child.
I remember seeing a Skeksis crumble to dust in the opening minutes of the film and being absolutely terrified.
Now, years later, the Jim Henson Company and Netflix have released a prequel series to the original creepy, puppet, fantasy movie, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.
Directed by Louis Leterrier, I came into this series with a vague sense of the original movie, since I think I was 12 the last time I watched it.
Well, Age of Resistance made me want to go back and watch that film because the Netflix series is fantastic, delivering a riveting story with great characters, music and puppetry.

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The puppetry in Age of Resistance is often top notch, with very few moments of an uncanny valley.

The Dark Crystal movie came out in 1982 so a lot of time has passed and this has given the creators the chance to improve on the puppetry and CGI.
The way the practical effects merge with computer generated effects is perfect, giving Age of Resistance a grand sense of scope.
The story follows three Gelflings; castle guard Rian (Taron Edgerton), the cave dwelling Deet (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Princess Brea (Anya Taylor Joy), learning that their lords, the Skeksis, are not so benevolent as they thought.
Realizing the threat the Skeksis pose to the world of Thra, the three Gelflings set out on their own individual journeys to stop the Skeksis and the Darkening they have caused by abusing the Dark Crystal.

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Rian, Deet and Brea’s journey to stop the Skesis results in numerous moments of high tension, fear, and sometimes laughter.

I came to care about all three of these Gelfling, who are all magnificently voice acted, with my favourite probably being Deet.
I liked her arc from beginning to end and also really enjoyed her friendship with the Podling Hup (Victor Yerrid).
Another thing I surprisingly enjoyed was the Skeksis themselves, who are over the top evil in the best of ways.
The Emperor (Jason Isaacs) is a commanding overlord, and The Scientist (Mark Hamill) uses his genius in cruelly malevolent ways.
By far the most investing Skeksis is Simon Pegg’s backstabbing Chamberlain.
With his constant “MMMMMMMs!”, he is as delightfully two-faced as I remember him being in the original movie.

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Describing The Chamberlain as a weasel is probably the most accurate way to describe his backstabbing nature.

As for the music, it further highlights the majesty of the world of Thra, and the danger whenever the characters’ lives are at risk.
Speaking of, there are a lot of deaths.
I have heard some describe this series as Game of Thrones with puppets and that is fairly accurate; although this should have been expected, given where the original movie starts off.
However, there are a few things that stop Age of Resistance from being perfect.
One is the fact that it is sometimes hard to take certain dramatic scenes seriously because, well, the characters are puppets.
Granted, these moments are few and bar between but they still happen.
By far the biggest problem, though, is that many of the characters seem to have changes in motivation at the drop of a hat.
Seladon (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a prime example of this; but easily the biggest instance of this is in episode four where at least four characters’ motivations seem to change almost instantaneously with no buildup.
Still, these issues do not ruin the experience as The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a well made show with a great story and characters, and brilliant effects, both practical and computer generated.
I highly recommend it, especially for fans of The Dark Crystal movie.

 

Game of Thrones Season Eight, Episode Four, The Last of the Starks Review: The Beginning of the Mad Queen.

3 and a half stars
After the disappointing episode of “The Long Night”, the final season of Game of Thrones follows it up with a decent episode in “The Last of the Starks”, which is hopefully a sign that the show can present two fantastic final episodes.
I do have my doubts, but hopefully the writers can pull it off.
In any case, “The Last of the Starks”, like the first two episodes of the season, is mostly build-up for an inevitable battle between Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Cersei (Lena Headey).
Before all of this though, we are given the aftermath of the battle with the Night King where we see all of those who were lost given a funeral.
Sam lights Edd’s pyre, Jon lights Lyanna’s, Arya lights Beric’s, Sansa lights Theon’s, and Dany lights Jorah.
The loss of these characters is palpable with all of the cast doing a great job at showing their grief, especially Dany who is the highlight of the episode with the series seeming to begin her transition into the Mad Queen.

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Dany’s journey towards becoming more ruthless is great in “The Last of the Starks” with Emilia Clarke doing a great job.

This transition is featured throughout the episode, from how we see her interact with others at the feast, to her argument with Jon (Kit Harrington), and, finally,  the grief of her losing another dragon, Rhaegal, along with her close friend Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel).
However, one of these deaths is better than the other.
While Missandei’s death at the end of the episode is tragic, Rhaegal’s feels forced and once again reliant on the tropes George R. R. Martin tries to avoid.
He is shot out of the sky by Euron (Pilou Asbaek) in what feels like a complete shock value moment.
Not only this, but the scene has a ton of plot holes.
Where did Euron and his ships come from, how did Dany not see them, why did Euron not aim for Dany first and end the entire war?
Not only this, but a dragon being killed by one of series’ worst characters is hardly flattering.
Coming back to Missandei though, her death is handled well for the most part.
Sure, there are pacing and structural issues with her capture, but her death scene is incredibly strong, with her going out on the memorable line of “Dracarys!”
The performances of Emilia Clarke and Jacob Anderson, who plays Grey Worm, at this moment also help greatly to deliver an emotional gutpunch.
Both do a magnificent job, with it being clear through the final shot of Dany’s face that she is going to go on a rampage next episode.
Missandei’s death is very shocking and feels like a return to the old, unpredictable plot of Game of Thrones.

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Missandei’s death was very surprising to me because I thought Grey Worm would die before her.

Another scene that continues this feeling of a return to form is the conversation between Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill), which is my favourite scene of the episode.
The two discuss Dany’s recent volatile actions, leading Varys suggesting they overthrow her in favor of Jon.
This felt like a return to the gripping political drama of the first few seasons and, while Tyrion is still dumbed down compared to how he was in those seasons, it really like the old Varys has returned.
It will be interesting to see how Varys attempts to put Jon into power, as information about his true lineage is quickly spreading.

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The conversation between Varys and Tyrion about what to do with Dany was very intriguing. I cannot wait to learn what Varys has planned.

Yes, Jon told Arya (Maisie Williams) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) this episode about his true parentage which, as Dany said, may have not been the right call because, once it gets out, it is going to create a storm.
One minor gripe I did have with the scene where Jon tells Arya and Sansa is that it does not actually show him telling them.
Yeah, I get they did not want to repeat the explanation about his parentage again, but I would have liked to see Arya and Sansa’s reactions.
Speaking of Arya though, it looks like she and the Hound (Rory McCann) are on a suicide mission to kill Cersei and the Mountain.
While I think is likely that the Hound will die, it will be interesting to see what happens to Arya.
She has a very nice conclusion for her relationship with Gendry (Jon Dempsie) this episode, where she refuses his proposal of marriage because it is not who she is, which is in character.
Whatever happens to her though, Jamie will most likely get involved as well, with him leaving to either help or kill Cersei, abandoning Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), who he gets together with in the episode.
I felt this is a nice coupling, and the scene where Jamie (Nickolaj Conster-Waldau) explains to Brienne why he is leaving has a very tragic feel to it.
And, with Brienne, Sam, Gilly, little Sam, Tormund and Ghost all left behind at Winterfell, I think it is very likely all six of these characters are going to survive the series.
The final battle will be in King’s Landing and these characters are far away from it.
I just hope the series can end on a high note in its final two episodes.
Overall, “The Last of the Starks was a good episodes with a few flaws that held it back.
Still, it is better than “The Long Night” so that is something.