We’re finally getting around to watching the Dark Crystal series on Netflix. Twenty minutes in and I’m already grumbling. Hear me out.
The visuals are, as one would have expected, spectacular, given that Henson’s people have had almost four decades to ruminate on what a sequel could look like.
It’s too soon to give a verdict on the story.
My gripe is with the sound. Every scene is jaw-clenching.
Taron Egerton is not a voice actor.
Anya Taylor-Joy is not a voice actor.
Nathalie Emmanuel is not a voice actor.
Harris Dickinson is not a voice actor.
Hannah John-Kamen is not a voice actor.
Catriona Balfe is not a voice actor.
Helena Bonham Carter is not a voice actor.
Natalie Dormer is not a voice actor.
Theo James is not a voice actor.
Shazad Latif is not a voice actor.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw is not a voice actor.
Mark Strong is not a voice actor.
Alicia Vikander is not a voice actor.
Benedict Wong is not a voice actor.
Some of them are good actors, though most of them are middling, or plain bad, in their other rolls. In the Dark Crystal, none of them bring anything to the screen except their name. They emote with their faces, not their voices. Each scene with their characters is flat. (so far).
Harvey Fierstein, Mark Hamill, Eddie Izzard, Awkwafina, and a few others actually DO voice work. Their respective characters come alive on the screen. They steal every scene without even trying. You can tell they know what they’re doing.
Hollywood used to use voice actors to voice animations, puppets, cartoons, and other shows where the actor had to use the entirety of their voice to act the part (and these people are very, very good at their craft – Youtube the trailer for “I Know That Voice” or watch the whole doc on Netflix).
The use of big-name, recognizable screen and tv actors to voice muppets is the very definition of stunt-casting. It’s not done to improve the characters, it’s done as a ratings draw. The show suffers for it.
Analogies fail more often as not, but try this one out: Every band started by a well-known actor has been bad. Also, the reverse: most every well-known musician going into acting has been middling, at best. The moral of the story is when either group strays from their lane, it’s never great and rarely even good. Voice acting is like that: it’s a lane of its own. It’s a craft, in and of itself. When casting directors shoehorn flavor-of-the-month screen actors into voice work, the voice work often suffers for it.