Krull (1983) / Fantasy-Adventure
MPAA Rated: PG for violence
Running Time: 117 min.
Cast: Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones, Alun Armstrong, David Battley, Bernard Bresslaw, Liam Neeson, John Welsh, Graham McGrath, Robbie Coltrane, Tony Church, Francesca Annis, Bernard Archard, Belinda Mayne, Lindsay Crouse (voice), Trevor Martin (voice)
Director: Peter Yates
Screenplay: Stanford Sherman
Review published April 22, 2007
Krull is a fairly blatant attempt to tap into a market created in the late-1970s and early-1980s in terms of blockbuster fare, most notably the science fiction and fantasy epics that proved enormously popular among the youth. Though the movies Krull would emulate weren't 100% original ideas themselves, they at least were cribbing from much older source material, rather than just slapping together bits and pieces taken from other movies that were around at the time. Playing like a mixture of Star Wars, Excalibur, and Clash of the Titans, with elements of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Flash Gordon, Alien, and even Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" thrown in, Krull is a nonstop regurgitation of futuristic fantasy/sci-fi/adventure elements that had just about run their course by the time of the film's release in 1983.
The story starts with the dreaded Beast taking over worlds with evil intentions and his army horde, called Slayers. His latest attempt at conquest is the world of Krull, and though they are formidable, the Slayers are able to defeat the Krull armies due to their lack of unity. The Krull leaders decide to form an alliance, symbolized through the marriage of Prince Colwyn (Marshall, Feds) and Princess Lyssa (Anthony, Dracula: Dead and Loving It), to unite their kingdoms and the armies opposing the Beast. Lyssa has been foretold to be the mother of the future ruler of the galaxy, and the Beast has his sights on making her a bride of his own, so before the marriage ceremony is complete, a major attack takes place seeing the deaths of both kings of Krull, the abduction of Princess Lyssa (now Queen), and only Prince Colwyn left alive to avenge the slaughter. Colwyn must head to the mysterious Black Fortress, the Beast's elusive lair, in order to vanquish the Beast and rescue Lyssa, but before he can do that, he must find the ancient five-pronged throwing weapon called the Glaive. With help from an old seer, a bumbling magician, a ragtag group of prisoners, a Cyclops, and others, Colwyn goes on the strange odyssey to the Black Fortress, encountering nothing but dangers and madness along the way.
A relatively high budget went mostly to bolstering the visual elements of Krull, concentrating primarily on many special effects shots, scenic locales, and grandiose set design. Though many of these effects are dated, some are still very impressive, such as a scary trip into the center of a formidable web protected by a nimble, giant spider. The design of the interiors of the Black Fortress itself is also very appealing, with its serpentine design and reptilian adornments -- those who have ever played the modern-day role playing game of "Oblivion" might conclude that the film provided some visual inspiration, especially the scenery upon entering an Oblivion Gate. As impressive as these components might be, they aren't quite enough to generate a much-needed sense of excitement in the overly-familiar quest of gallant warrior out to save the damsel from the clutches of evil through bravery and mythical weapons.
Liabilities abound, perhaps most notably in the fairly wooden lead performance of Ken Marshall as Colwyn, who exhibits a certain handsome nobility, but lacks the charisma and panache to ever make his character truly exciting to watch. However, Lysette Anthony does make for a fetching princess, though there is obvious dubbing of her voice (the producers wanted an American actress, so Lindsay Crouse's (Slap Shot) voice was used), and the supporting cast is solid, with bit parts given to some future actors of note like Liam Neeson (The Bounty) and Robbie Coltrane (Message in a Bottle). The script is also quite generic (favoring the cheesy, stilted dialogue typically used in most fantasy flicks), written by former "Batman" TV scribe Stanford Sherman, whose only previously filmed screenplay came with the wildly different Eastwood vehicle, Any Which Way You Can. Also, the swordfight choreography is too inept to take seriously, coming off about as convincing as watching seven-year-olds fighting with foam lightsabers in the backyard.
The sumptuous score by James Horner (48 Hrs., Star Trek II) is perhaps the element of Krull that gets the most praise (though some have stated he borrows heavily from the work he did for 1980's Battle Beyond the Stars, mined to the same extent again in Star Trek III), and with decent effects, one could envision a good film potentially emerging if only the characters and script could have been just a tad more original. Alas, it was not to be, as the makers of Krull were more backwards thinkers, looking only over the previous five years to spot trends and rehash them in the hope of equal success. That success was not to be, as the film barely made half of its reported $27 million budget back at the box office, not coming close to being able to compete with the juggernaut that was Return of the Jedi, which was still going strong in theaters at the time of Krull's release.
For all of its formidable flaws, Krull might still please those with a fervor for sword and sorcery epics of the early 1980s, as it is definitely one of the more pleasing to the eyes and ears -- indeed, it does have a bit of a minor cult following among nostalgia buffs. It also has a memorably cool weapon in the Glaive, although that isn't even used until about two-thirds of the way through. However, anyone not into nostalgic fantasy flicks will want to avoid this misguided studio attempt to play in the same arena created by the much more compelling Star Wars. It's not even close to the same arena -- more like a galaxy far, far away.
©2007 Vince Leo