IR TV Review: THE DARK CRYSTAL – AGE OF RESISTANCE [Netflix-S1]

The challenge of creating an updated world of one such as “The Dark Crystal” is a specific challenge. The balance reflects in two aspects: can the puppetry be held up in such a way that it doesn’t take away from the original but also does it take into play the world building and mythology that Jim Henson created so many years ago. Granted nothing can be quite like what was done in 1982 considering the restrictions. But what Louis Letterier and the Jim Henson Workshop have done with “The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance” is quite effective in living up to the original while also taking it much darker which was always underlying beneath the surface in the initial film. Leterrier seemed an odd choice initially after Genndy Tartakovsky, known for “Samurai Jack” and the initial “Clone Wars” shorts left the project seemingly over creative differences. What might be said is that there might have been a structure that Henson had initially left which painted the backstory. It is hard to say.

Nevertheless, the story told over 10 episodes takes into fact many eventual outcomes seen in the movie. But it also reflects an immigration story in reverse that is very prevalent to our times while also being universal and older. Watching this iteration, especially in the plight of The Gelfings, the parallel to Native Americans both in the look and mysticism of the characters becomes much more defined especially with Deet, an exceptionally connected Gelfing from underground. Another clan from what is called The Crystal Desert plays into this myth as well. The key aspect in this series that it shows Thra as bigger than what was imagined (or likely planned). The eventual genocide of the Gelfing as indicated in the movie is a great underlying theme even as battles are fought. Rian, as played by Taron Egerton of “Kingman” and “Rocketman” fame, anchors the cast as the would be hero.

However the grand balance relates in the Skeksis, both in the voices and the abject cruelty that begins to seep in. The most intrinsic simply because he is the most dynamic in terms of chess moves is The Chamberlain, as voiced by Simon Pegg. He is almost the Judas in a way who belies his own loyalty for a texture of power. Pegg gets enough of the voice without overplaying say, the whimpering. The General as always is his adversary for power as voiced by Benedict Wong. The overarching Emperor is voiced by Jason Isaacs and Mark Hamill plays The Scientist. The driving force of essence at a certain point becomes all encompassing. This could be a balance to the progressive nature of the current opiod crisis or simply reflect back the essence of the opium trade in the 1800s. Point being that the story works on many different levels.

Augra is the unifying and yet destructuring force. It is she who is blame but also she who is ultimately a deliverer. It is almost as if she is the ID within everyone. The larger reasoning of who the Skeksis are and why the Mystics function as they do is hinted at but left for later deduction. The politics though especially within the clans of the Gelfling are really what propel the story but it is the ideas influenced through Augra that anchor it. While the aspects of transcendence and new age thinking still play into the actions of the characters, the introduction of The Archer and more specifically The Hunter as well as two other characters co-existing with each other at the end of the world create a different dynamic and add even more to the proceedings.

Ultimately though the elements of the betrayal of trust by the Lords Of Crystal and their ultimate greed is what defines the path. Technically, the show does what is needed to do. Practical effects and puppetry are used heavily with only slight digital enhancements while landscape and certain creature elements that just would not have been possible before without CGI add that degree of scope without forgetting the true nature of Thra. “The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance” is an apt, entertaining and visionary extension of Jim Henson’s universe. Seeing the possibility of it coming back in this way, which would not have happened in the current TV and filmmaking climate without Netflix, shows the importance of certain Ips being given a chance to reach a new generation while still reflecting the old.

A-

By Tim Wassberg

Fest Track On Sirk TV: DUBAI FILM & TV COMMISSION [American Film Market 2015]

IR Film Review: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION [Paramount]

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION

The intention of a Mission Impossible film seems to change with each director but the transformation of movies since 1996 when the first film came out has changed irrevocably. We now have these bloated blockbusters and comic book adaptations just trying to create a universe. Mission Impossible, and to a lesser degree, the Bond films have always been about bowing to the director. This is undeniably the effect of Tom Cruise. Whatever you want to say about the guy personally, his business instincts are usually creative and spot on. Point in fact is “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”, the strongest entry storywise by far since the first one directed by Brian DePalma and written by Robert Towne. This is because you have an exceptional writer at the helm directing his own script with Cruise backing him all the way while giving constructive notes. People ask why Cruise is still a movie star. This is why.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE ROGUE NATIONThe conceit of this film, much like “Ghost Protocol”, involves the disavowing of the IMF team. What is great here is that from the beginning, Cruise plays against expectations by doing the most massive stunt at the beginning with the take off of a huge cargo plane and getting it out of the way. Cruise hanging off the side of that transport continues to show that he is willing to go the extra mile.

TAURUSThe picture jumps back into story mode but knows where it is going starting from the immediate capture scene soon after. What McQuarrie seems to do, like he did in “Jack Reacher” and likely “Edge Of Tomorrow” is create female characters who are very bit as powerful and smart as Cruise yet still retain a balance. Emily Blunt did it in spades with her character in “Edge” and Rosamund Pike to a lesser degree in “Reacher”. Rebecca Ferguson is a more divisive choice but interesting nonetheless. She is more akin to Tom’s age but also keeps the intent platonic as to not demean her progression. From the beginning she is just as quick and save for a couple swimsuit shots, not over exposed while Cruise is only too happy to take off his shirt when asked for it. The key is that she moves the plot and is not a by product of it. Big points for that and indicative of McQuarrie as a writer having a steady hand. It is too bad that it needs to be mentioned but it is a truism.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATIONOne thing McQuarrie also creates, like DePalma did before him in the series, is stylish and practical set pieces. They might not fall utterly in line but their intent is beyond reproach. The Vienna Opera House sequence has elements of DePalma’s beginning in “Femme Fatale” using the backdrop of classical music to show a double/double cross. Ferguson anchors it having the right balance of poise and classic titillation In a stunning yellow dress you can’t take your eyes off of.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATIONAnother is a hark back to the CIA infiltration scene in M:I 1 but this time going underwater with Cruise holding his breath. Again he supposedly did this for real but the story element makes it work especially with a turn of phrase from Ferguson which leaps into an even more high octane but less original car chase. The progression is interesting again nonetheless because it introduces a flaw in Cruise in his response which makes the sequence more true. Despite the spectacle of running through a sandstorm in the last one, “Rogue Nation” is more controlled and lower budget. It allows for cleaner and more concise film making.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATIONEthan Hunt’s cohorts are back but save for Simon Pegg, they seem to fill gaps through no fault of their own. it is just the way it is built. MCcQuarrie understands the underdog nature of Pegg’s character Benji getting to run with Cruise and makes the best of it giving him both gravitas, wit and humor. The dichotomy of the opening scene with an absolutely excellent climactic scene against a bad guy using a really great progressive device really ups the game in the final moments because it makes it about the psychology and the intellect. It is a very intimate scene with no big explosions and that it what makes it so exceptional. It shows what film making used to be on bigger films.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATIONThe only slight soft spot is the villain. With his frail almost Blofeld approach, he has menace but his tics seem too affected and as a result seems over acted. Granted the rest of the leads including the head of MI6 and especially Cruise and Ferguson are top rate. Alec Baldwin as the new CIA chief had the possibility of getting some of that old Jack Ryan mojo back but he needed to change his delivery. He Is so overtaken with his own persona and posture that he wastes a perfectly good opportunity and seems to be mugging. Again smaller issues in an overall exceptional picture.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE ROGUE NATION“Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” stands with the 1996 original as being one of the best of this series simply because the writing is tight and the direction follows close behind it. Much of this is due to Cruise but also to Christopher McQuarrie’s strengths. Add to this a more malleable Cruise able share the screen and mold his image plus a powerful and plot oriented female lead in Rebecca Ferguson and a multi layered turn by Simon Pegg. Put these all together and you have an effective, smart and worthwhile ride.

A-

By Tim Wassberg

IR In The Trenches: The Adventures of Tintin [Paramount]

Error
This video doesn’t exist