Great special effects for the time, and it's like watching the best scenes from a bunch of different fantasy movies in one.
It's 80's Fantasy Salad.
I saw a lot of films in the 80's on VHS. I can't ever remember seeing Krull. It's more likely that I saw Krull but it left such a dull impression on me that I can't remember ever seeing it. I attempted to watch it the other night and turned it off halfway through. Without your "Nostalgia Goggles" on, this film is a real snooze fest.
We're talking about a film that cost 27 Million here. It wasn't some cheapy sword and sorcery film. Yet. somehow that 27 million never made it on the screen!
THE PLOT- Huh? What plot? Aliens land and attack. take girl, guy goes to save girl and collects a series of people to help him in one boring scene after the next. End.
THE SCORE- James Horner did a decent job here of breathing some life into a film on life support. However, this is no Wrath of Khan or Aliens score. I'm going to excuse Horner because he likely wasn't given much to work with in the film.
VISUAL EFFECTS - For an 80's film, the visual effects stand up ok.
CHOREOGRAPHY - Dreadful. Enemies just kind of mosey onto the scene like they are taking a weekend hike through the woods. They shoot little laser beams while everyone else plays backyard sword fight. THIS HAS by far the most boring fight scenes I have ever seen in a film. It's like they are playing Water Ballet with swords, "Uh, Ok, I need to move this way while you slowly swing a sword at me." Utterly Dull.
THE ACTING - Whoever hired the actor to play Prince Colwyn needs his license to practice casting taken away. Equally goofy and serious, this character goes nowhere. I can't help but think this character would have been better served if they had went the Kurt Russell Big Trouble in Little China route. Arrogant and dumb. Freddie Jones is ok in this film but playing it so straight he just doesn't come off the screen too well. More like drying paint. He works much better when he is allowed to go off the rails in movies like FireFox and Dune. WTF is Liam Neeson doing even being in this film?! I know it was early in his career but compare this to his work in Excalibur. Here he is totally in the background. So small back there that you can barely even see him. What a waste of talent.
I can't help but think this film was used to pad someone's wallet. The 27 Million to make the film is not on the screen. This looks like a film that Roger Corman could bang out for 10 million. Compare this to Excalibur - a much better film- 11 million. The Empire Strikes Back -20 million.
Huh? Where did the 27 million go? Up someone's nose?
Anyway the plot is pretty much your standard, Prince saves the Princess from an evil monster type situation, along with wizards, jesters, warriors and young apprentices, completely cliched hokum. The planet Krull is attacked by an evil force know as the Beast, a huge hideous creature that dwells within a giant fortress made of rock that apparently can fly through space. In time the Beast manages to gain control of the planet forcing its inhabitants to live in fear, everyone knows of the creature and its legion of faceless Slayers. Eventually the Beast's Slayers attack one of the main kingdoms of Krull, kill pretty much everyone and kidnaps the Princess in true fairytale style (might as well call him Bowser/King Koopa). Unfortunately for the Beast, the lone Prince Colwyn survives this attack and sets off to save the Princess (his future bride) with the help of a plucky band of warriors.
Now lets get one thing straight here, suspension of disbelief is required throughout this adventure, yes we all know its a hokey 80's fantasy so...duh! But seriously, this ain't no classic George Lucas or Ridley Scott flick here, this is pure cheesy cheese with extra lashings of cheese on top...with cheese. The whole idea of this movie is from the outset, kinda daft, but interesting nonetheless. The planet of Krull is a typical sword n sandals type place where everyone goes around on horseback, uses swords, armour and all manner of ancient weaponry, and there is magic and mythical creatures abound. The alien race that comes down to Krull are your typical armour suited creatures with laser guns and...errr, they also ride on horseback? Actually it makes you wonder really, apparently these aliens have swept across the galaxy conquering worlds easily (apparently), but how? They use horses, they don't seem to have any futuristic vehicles to travel around in, no heavy weaponry, they all walk really really slowly making themselves easy targets, their fortress is a flying lump of rock and their only weapons seems to be sticks that fire one laser bolt. Once that shot has been fired they reverse the stick and it becomes a sword or spear of sorts. How the fuck did this guys manage to conquer anything??! Surely they might have come across an alien race that could match their powers at some point. Luckily for the Beast and his Slayers they've stumbled across another planet full of lifeforms that only use swords to defend themselves.
As the adventure starts the hilarious plot holes do start emerge, and they are hilarious...but still cool. Colwyn (Ken Marshall) meets up with Ynyr the old one, an old Obi-Wan Kenobi type clearly. Now this guys knows everything, absolutely everything about anything, handy at the best of times. He knows exactly what can defeat the Beast (the Glaive) and where to find it which makes you wonder why he hasn't gone and got it for someone to use. Nonetheless they both trot off to get this legendary weapon which happens to be inside a massive mountain. So Ynyr points Colwyn in the right direction and waits patiently for his return. This whole sequence is really amusing, simply because the journey that Colwyn undertakes to retrieve the Glaive is arduous and long, really long! The guy must rock climb up sheer cliffs for flips sake! numerous times it seems, then he must stick his hand into molten lava (so it seems) to get the Glaive (which he finds quite easily and very quickly once inside a huge cavern). Now all this would surely take most of the day, if not days! yet he manages it within the afternoon and without getting even remotely tired apparently, because the minute he gets back they journey onwards to their next destination! I understand they need to get the plot going but Holy smouldering balls of fire! that's ridiculous!
The bulk of the story sees Colwyn firstly recruiting his band of warriors across various places. He picks up a small band of criminals that look like ugly rejects from the [i]Mad Max[/i] universe, with even more stupid names. Its like watching Robin Hood and his unwashed band of merry men, each having their own set of skills naturally, knives, nets, battle axe etc...These cannon fodder characters are mostly faceless accept for the noticeable inclusion of a young Robbie Coltrane sporting an unusually modern haircut for a fantasy film. A young Liam '60+ action man' Neeson who should have easily played the character of Little John looking as he does, very young [i]Grange Hill[/i] and [i]Eastenders[/i] star Todd Carty, and sort of young epic British character actor Alun Armstrong (with hair and dodgy dog collar). Other team members include the [i]Carry-On[/i] legend Bernard Bresslaw sporting some quite brilliant makeup and prosthetics as Rell the Cyclops, David Battley as the clownish Ergo the (not quite so) magnificent, John Welsh as The Emerald Seer...another powerful wizard type, and Graham McGrath as the young apprentice Titch who does nothing accept get in trouble.
As the band of heroes travel to various places to gather various bits of information from various people so they can catch the Black Fortress (it moves at sunrise), we go through a series of set pieces and plot exposition scenarios in different hostile/pleasant landscapes. The main one is a nice, visually pleasing, battle within a barren swampland where it amazes me how these Slayers manage to overcome any adversary frankly. There is the typical campfire setting, an icy snow setting (fortress only), rocky mountainous terrain, lush green valleys and the really cool widow of the web sequence (the full gamut of stereotypical alien terrains). Again this entire spider web premise makes no sense at all and to this day I still don't really get what's going on. Ynyr used to be in love with this woman who, for some reason, killed their only child and as punishment has been placed within this giant spiders web...by someone. The giant spider is somehow controlled by her with an hourglass of sand? or it protects her? or keeps her prisoner? no idea how she survives, what does she eat or drink etc...She seems to be popular because many try to reach her but none ever manage it, either eaten by the spider or falling to their death (the web is over a huge chasm), I'm just not sure what she has or knows that is so important.
Anyway somehow she knows where the Black Fortress will go next, so she gives her lifeforce to Ynyr (the sand from the hourglass) so he can escape the spider, but when the sand runs out he will die? why exactly? This means the spider can now happily attack, destroy and kill the widow and her delicate web abode...but I'm not really sure why, or what would happen next with the spider. Does it wait for someone else to get trapped by persons unknown in its lair? beats the shit outta me. Despite the bizarre story behind this weird-ass sequence, the effects here are some of the best in the movie. The whole spider web set is really well designed and created, it actually looks quite real, where as the spider is truly fantastic in stop motion form. If you think along the lines of classic Ray Harryhausen, only better, then you have your vision. Sure it looks a tiny bit plastic but that's probably down to the deliberate transparent look of the creature (which I love!). But its the arachnids movements, sound effects and the top notch blending of live action, matte painting and stop motion model work, that overall create this truly spine-tingling atmosphere. It just makes me wonder why some of the other movie effects couldn't look as good.
The finale is a huge bluescreen affair that really does show its age I'm afraid, some quite hideous effects. First a rather embarrassing bluescreen ridden sequence where the remaining heroes travel on fire mares (think horses like Pegasus, but really fast and no wings) to the Black Fortress. The interior of the Black Fortress is very imaginative and surreal with a nice blend of models, sets, matte paintings and bluescreen, of course the sets are easy to spot. Then we have the main monster (Beast), simply a bloke in a big rubber suit which we don't really see too much of, hidden by smoke and shadow. It is well made and has quite scary facial features but you can't help but feel it just looks like something out of [i]Dr Who[/i]. Pretty much the same with the Slayers, men in rubber suits that also look a bit Dr Who-ish. To add to that, the Beast doesn't really do anything, he shoots out large white balls of power from his mouth with truly awful effects but that's it. Colwyn counters that against another dreadful bluescreen effect with the Glaive which, lets be honest, is merely a ninja throwing star that acts like some kind of boomerang. So in the end Colwyn merely stabs the Beast to death, oh and then he burns it alive with his fire shooting powers that he gains with Princess Lyssa, for some reason.
I've taken the piss here a lot, [b]a lot[/b], but that doesn't necessarily mean I don't like this movie. As I already explained, you know exactly what to expect with this movie, you knew back in the day, and to that degree it does its job well as a light-hearted, dark, space fable of sorts. Yes there are lots of plot holes and ludicrous moments that make no sense, like what exactly are the Slayers? when they die a big slimy bug thing comes out of their heads, why does that bug thing then burrow straight into the ground? Where do these Slayers and the Beast come from? why are they trying to take over the galaxy? what did the Beast want or need with this particular Princess? was she more special than other lifeforms from other planets or did he just fancy her? What's with the big rock fortress? etc...The movie is a product of its time and shouldn't be taken apart, even though that's exactly what I've done...but! I still enjoy the movie for what it is. For me the film falls into the same type of category as some of the lesser Harryhausen movies like the Sinbad trilogy, although not quite as good. Its very much a guilty pleasure with some great moments and some awful moments, but on the plus side, an epic never again cast line up, a rousing rip-roaring score and overall a good calibre of imagination.