Comic-Con: ‘The Witcher,’ ‘Dark Crystal’ vie to be Netflix’s ‘Game of Thrones’

SAN DIEGO – With the ending of “Game of Thrones” leaving a giant fantasy hole in TV fans’ pop-culture lives, Netflix is looking to fill it with the help of Superman and a bunch of cool puppets.

Later this year, the streaming service is unleashing “The Witcher,”  based on the novels and video games and starring ex-Man of Steel Henry Cavill. And on Aug. 30, Netflix will release “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance,”  a prequel series returning to the world of Jim Henson and Frank Oz’s 1982 movie. Both had panel presentations Friday at Comic-Con’s prime-time exhibit hall.

“The Witcher” centers on Geralt of Rivia (Cavill), a hunter who’s all about monsters and money in a land where people are often the most monstrous of them all. He comes into contact with Ciri (Freya Allan), a princess with a secret, as well as Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), a dangerous young sorceress.

Henry Cavill stars as the solitary monster hunter Geralt of Rivia in "The Witcher." (Photo: NETFLIX)

On Friday Cavill said he’s a “Witcher” gamer who was bugging executive producer/writer Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and others before there was even a script. 

“My agent was calling every day before I had this,” Cavill said. “It was something that I was not going to let pass me by before at least giving it a shot.

“There was something about Geralt that really struck a chord with me. He’s not your average hero.”

Hissrich saw 207 different actors for the role but “as I continued to write, I had Henry’s voice in my head.”

In the series, Witchers are a group that take young boys off the streets and train them to inhuman levels of endurance and agility before subjecting them to alchemical trials. Most don’t survive, but those who do are trained as monster hunters.

“He has this dichotomy of being very hard on the exterior and he reflects this world, but deep deep down he has a belief in what the world can be,” Cavill says of Geralt. “There are moral decisions he makes along the way and they get him in trouble.”

By his side is Geralt’s horse, Roach. Though Geralt is 100 years old and has had a lot of steeds (and calls them all Roach), this one is “kind of like his therapy horse,” Cavill said. “The world hates him and hates what he does, She’s the one access point he has to humanity.”

Taron Egerton voices the young Gelfling named Rian in "The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance." (Photo: KEVIN BAKER/NETFLIX)

Netflix’s “Age of Resistance” is also a star-studded affair, using the same old-school puppetry from the original Henson film with high-tech special effects.

“Rocketman” star Taron Egerton voices the elfish Gelfling named Rian, who’s part of a community that serves the evil and beastly Skeksis. Something horrifying happens in the first episode as Rian sees the Skeksis draining the essence of a Gelfling.

“He sets on a quest to make his fellow Gelfling aware” in a coming-of-age story, says Egerton, who watched the original film when he was 6 or 7. “Tonally it’s just unlike anything else. It frightened me a little bit. There’s something edgy and freaky about it a little bit. I remember being a little on the edge of my seat as a kid.”

Mark Hamill voices the Scientist, a Skeksis in "The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance." (Photo: KEVIN BAKER/NETFLIX)

Mark Hamill, who voices the Skeksis known as The Scientist, has always loved Henson’s Muppets but loved “how daring and dark” the original “Dark Crystal” movie was. “Kids love being scared. When you see the Witch (in ‘Wizard of Oz’) you peed your parents.”

The A-list voice cast also includes Anya Taylor-Joy, Awkwafina, Alicia Vikander, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Simon Pegg, Andy Samberg, Keegan Michael-Key, Lena Headey, Natalie Dormer and Sigourney Weaver.

Executive producer Lisa Henson, daughter of Jim, was a folklore student when she visited the set of the original “Dark Crystal.” She’s overseen attempts at other movies over the years and calls the Netflix show “the greatest moment of my professional life.”

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