A prequel can be the foundation that any good story is built upon. However, some stories are better left untold. Their success rate is uneven at best, prequels are a great way to learn more about a backstory of some of our favorite heroes and villains. It is a daunting task, how can they both remain true to the original product while simultaneously creating an experience that stands on its own right, satisfying existing fans while winning over new ones? The outstanding, The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance is the newest creation that stands out as a worthy “successor” to the original material. In the past several years, some others that I would say raised the bar are Better Call Saul, Bates Motel and Fargo (Season 2).
Another problem with some of these, in the case of The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance. We know how this ends. The movie made certain of that. Hope in the times of darkness is heartwarming when you can hope with heroes. When you don’t know what happens next. However, when you do know Sometimes you have to wonder if they wouldn’t be better off if they didn’t fight at all. It can be a depressing realization, especially if you care about the characters and believe in their unfortunate situation. Now, it’s easy to be cynical about this type of thing, but it’s just as easy to not be.
Sure, but there’s a big difference between “all our hero’s good works will eventually be forgotten” and “our hero will never achieve his goals and will die horribly.” Take LOTR for example: Yes, we know that Aragorn’s line will eventually fade out, the Shire will eventually disappear, etc. But that doesn’t change the fact that many of our protagonists’ lives actually turned out pretty well – saved the world, got the girl, died peacefully of old age. They won, at least for a while.
With respect to Dark Crystal, think of it more like the the Tale of Hurin or the Fall of Gondolin – our protagonist keeps trying to keep hope alive, but all of his goals fall apart and everyone around him dies, and the stories end with only the barest spark of a chance that things might get better for someone eventually. Which (as evidenced by book sales for those stories) some people still enjoy reading if written well enough, but they’re definitely different in kind. LOTR may be bittersweet, but Hurin and Gondolin are tragedies.
Go forward far enough, and the “happily ever after” heroes of any story will be dead, their achievements forgotten. Eventually, the entire world they fought for will cease to exist. We can enjoy stories set in Ancient Greece or Egypt with the full knowledge that those kingdoms and cultures are long gone and supplanted by others. All that matters narratively is what the characters achieve during their own lifetimes, and for the sake of those they care about.
Or, as Orson Welles put it, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”
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