Krull (1983)
Krull (1983)

Genre: Adventure and Fantasy Running Time: 2 hrs. 1 min.

Release Date: July 29th, 1983 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Peter Yates Actors: Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones, Alun Armstrong, David Battley, Bernard Bresslaw, Liam Neeson, Graham McGrath, Robbie Coltrane

 


 

C

learly nodding to (or just borrowing from) “Star Wars,” “Krull” opens with an enormous starship slowly gliding across the frame. Fortunately, the ship design is entirely original – it has a rocky shape to it, looking like a chunk of a craggy mountain, but with engines on the back to propel it in a particular direction. When it lands, engines first, it very much resembles an earthy protuberance.

Blending a futuristic space opera with a medieval knights-in-shining-armor adventure, the film details a prophecy involving a girl of ancient name, who shall become queen. With a king of her choosing, they’ll produce a son who is destined to rule the galaxy (although none of that actually happens during the movie). The most likely candidate is Princess Lyssa (Lysette Anthony), whose upcoming marriage to Prince Colwyn (Ken Marshall, an actor capable of only one expression: smugness), a great warrior, is arranged in order to bring together two neighboring kingdoms – and their armies – in the hope that in unity they’ll have the resources necessary to combat evil invaders. And those conquerors are the Beast and his minions, the Slayers, who have mercilessly enslaved many worlds.

On Lyssa and Colwyn’s wedding night, the Slayers attack, killing most of the guards, as well as Colwyn’s father. And they also kidnap Lyssa, to be held prisoner in the Black Fortress. Colwyn is now a king, but he has no kingdom. With the help of Ynyr the Old One (Freddie Jones), the young ruler embarks on an epic quest to locate a legendary glaive (which is more along the lines of a jeweled shuriken), recruit a band of warriors, rescue the princess, and defeat the Beast.

The look of “Krull” is very much along the lines of “Star Wars” and “Willow” (which this film predates), utilizing advanced technology and ancient magic in equal proportions. The sets reflect this, with sunny countrysides, volcanic tunnels, ivory castles, and forested waterfalls, not unlike what is seen in “Clash of the Titans,” the fantasy undertakings of Sinbad, or even “Conan the Barbarian.” And the Beast’s palace is a network of boney structures and shiny surfaces, reminiscent of architecture in “Alien,” “Dragonslayer,” and “Flash Gordon.” The character designs follow suit, with human inhabitants appearing as if pulled from Robin Hood or “The Road Warrior,” while the villains are slimy, slug-like monstrosities. Plus, there’s a towering cyclops (Bernard Bresslaw), a little boy (Graham McGrath as Titch) and a comic-relief wizard (David Battley as Ergo the Magnificent). “The hill people lack the power to do harm.”

Likewise, the costuming is an amusing mix of metal armor, helmets, swords, and axes, but with organic embellishments, as if reptilian knights. The weaponry also features red lightning sparks, while the various soldiers use guns that shoot laser-like bolts of energy. The initial fight sequences have a swashbuckling flavor, as combatants clash swords and spears up and down stone staircases in a castle. But the first task, insisted upon by Ynyr (who is unavoidably comparable to Obi-Wan Kenobi), is accomplished with little effort, making it much less of a worthy quest than a mere chore. “Krull” contains some interesting concepts, but it has a remarkably difficult time not appearing entirely derivative of other works.

Once Colwyn teams up with escaped prisoners (one of whom is a young Liam Neeson, and another is Robbie Coltrane), the missions grow more daunting, though the mythology and related explanations seem random; there’s no specific purpose for their travels, which results in on-the-spot decisions to go from one mystical place to the next as if reading from a list. The Emerald Temple, the Great Swamp, the Iron Desert, and the lair of the Widow of the Web (Francesca Annis) are meaningless locations talked about on a whim to give the surplus of characters more things to do en route to the climactic confrontation at the Black Fortress (at one point, this even poses a continuity conundrum, as the protagonists enter the quicksand-covered swamp on foot, only to inexplicably mount horses again on the other side). Each new arena only gives clues to the next change of scenery – and it’s a time-consuming transition between regions (including the booby-trap-filled Fortress). Nevertheless, some of the makeup effects and creature designs are quite arresting, even if the best of them aren’t saved for the finale, which is a tremendously lackluster showdown.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10