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Mark Hamill steals the show at The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Comic-Con panel

Darkness of crystals notwithstanding, Mark Hamill brought light to the Comic-Con stage during Netflix’s Hall H panel for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, the streamer’s buzzy prequel series to Jim Henson and Frank Oz’s 1982 fantasy cult classic.

Premiering August 30, Age of Resistance introduces a host of new characters (and therefore new puppets) into the lush land of Thra — including Taron Egerton’s Rian, one of a trio of Gelflings living blissfully unaware of the truth about the nature of the Skeksis race they serve. However, given the predispositions of prequels, familiar faces from the original film also pop up, like The Scientist, a Skeksis voiced in 1982 by Steve Whitmire but who now gets his menacing gurgle courtesy of voiceover royalty Mark Hamill.

Hamill and Egerton represented the series’ lengthy acting roster when they joined executive producer Lisa Henson (daughter of Jim) and EP/director Louis Leterrier for the San Diego Comic-Con panel on July 19. Within moments, Hamill had the crowd captivated as he proceeded to flip in and out of anecdotes (including one about his bad Kermit impression) and voices (including plenty of laughter as the Joker). “Ever since I first played a certain berserk clown, I’ve become typecast as a villain in voiceover,” Hamill joked before telling the packed audience his history with The Dark Crystal.

Hamill took his children to see the 1982 film in support of his friends, co-directors Henson and Oz (whose legendary work crafting Star Wars‘ Yoda more than itself speaks for, mmm) and producer Gary Kurtz (who also produced Star Wars). “What I loved about [The Dark Crystal] was how daring and dark it was, as opposed to the other projects that were associated with the Muppets, and [recently] it’s really come into its own,” he said, comparing the film to Return to Oz, another Kurtz film that was once criticized for being too dark before finding its audience decades later. “The last time I saw Gary Kurtz before he passed away, I told him I was doing this and he had read the script and really gave his seal of approval,” Hamill continued. “He said the script for Age of Resistance was really, really good, and he was right. It was just great writing. So that’s what you look for.” Ahead of his return engagement with fantastical puppets, Hamill referred to himself as “a Muppet fanatic, from the minute I saw them on The Ed Sullivan Show. They were just one of my favorite, favorite things in the world, and one of my career highlights to this day is being on The Muppet Show’s Star Wars episode.”

Egerton, 29, shared that he first saw The Dark Crystal at six or seven years old: “My father showed me it, and I just thought it was enchanting and completely unlike anything else. I still feel that way about it.” Later, the actor’s tangible enthusiasm over working with — and finally meeting — Hamill in the flesh also happened to produce the panel’s biggest cheer as Egerton gushed, “Mark was in Kingsman: Secret Service, and we sadly never met and I was heartbroken because — can I swear? — I mean, he’s Luke f—ing Skywalker!”

Elsewhere, both Leterrier and Henson spoke of the particular challenges demanded by the film’s physical production, which embraced new technology but deeply honored the practical effects that Jim Henson worked so hard to pioneer. “Every shot is the most complicated shot of my career,” joked Leterrier, while Henson said that Age of Resistance is “the thing that I’m most proud of that we’ve done since my siblings and myself have been running the company.”

“It was a very special project very, very close to [my father’s] heart and he found it to be the biggest challenge and his most personal film,” Henson continued. “And so for us to go and try to approach the work that he and Frank Oz and [concept illustrator] Brian Froud did, we had trepidation, but it’s also tremendously ambitious and everybody who came to it was in love with the original movie. So it was developed through great respect and love of the original, so ultimately we were not afraid to do it. It was a lot to achieve, to push for… but to be in Hall H saying it’s real is like the greatest moment of my professional life. It’s come out so much better than I ever dreamed, and my family’s so proud and the company’s so proud as well.”

Before Henson and the panel treated the crowd to its biggest surprise, then — a world premiere screening of the entire first episode of Age of Resistance — a representative for Comic-Con appeared onstage to award Hamill with the 2019 Comic-Con Icon Award, “presented to an individual or group who’s been instrumental in creating greater awareness of and appreciation for comics and related popular art forms.” Accepting the honor, Hamill said, “Listen, I told you how lucky I feel to be able to do all the things that I loved as a kid and get paid for it, so this just… seems wildly excessive, but it is much appreciated. I have to tell you, actors get up and they say, ‘Oh, I need to share this with [my] agent’ or whatever, but listen guys, if it weren’t for you, I certainly wouldn’t be standing here. I started coming to these Cons years before I met George! I remember I was at the Con when they said, ‘Did you hear? There’s gonna be 5,000 people this year!’ And we were like, ‘Wow! How many are women!?’ So I thank you very, very much.”

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