Today I watched Peter Yates’ Krull (1983)
Ahh is there anything finer than cheesy 80’s fantasy flicks? well, other than legitimately good movies that is. OK, that’s being reductive, while the boom of fantasy flicks in the 80’s can totally be attributed to the success of star wars and the choice of fantasy was because it was cheaper than sci-fi, you could just go shoot it in sole old italian ruins and dress everyone in burlap sacks instead of all that techy greebling. It still gave us some really neat films with interesting imagery and some of them were even legitimately great. Krull is not great, but it does have imagination and imagery to spare.
While Krull is almost universally cliche high fantasy tropes, it’s plot does have some interesting details. Despite being a fantasy, the story is about a planetary invasion, an alien force known as the Slayers set down on a hum-drum sword and sorcery world to conquer and consume. A prince and princess of enemy kingdoms must unite and bring together a band of misfit warriors to do battle with the ultimate evil that controls the Slayers. No, it is not a particularly interesting plot and no the themes don’t get much more complicated than the most basic integration of the heroes journey.
Ever since Joseph Campbell exposed the heroes journey and the monomyth, it has been incredibly boring to me when it is used as the primary thematic conceit of a film without being twisted or concealed or played with in some interesting way. Making a fantasy film in which a hero does battle against evil and follows the journey so explicitly, is to me, like watching someone play bingo. What saves this film from boring me is some really creative artistry and visual design. The Slayers are a truly alien force that is legitimately terrifying and is like nothing I have seen in any other film save some of the stranger Tokusatsu suitmation. In the finale our heroes must navigate the fortress of evil that is the source of the Slayers and this is where the film makes everything worth while. This interstellar citadel looks like the interior of some great beast combined with alien technology unlike anything seen on earth, it reminds me of H.R. Giger without actually copying his style.
I would say that Krull is a totally worthwhile movie, but only to people who can appreciate fantastical imagery in it’s own right. The story is nothing special but it isn’t anything offensive either, merely existing to move things along. The film makes you wait a while for the full awesomeness of it’s visuals which is somewhat problematic, but Ken Marshall, who plays Prince Colwyn, is charismatic and certainly made me want to stick with it. While parts of this flick may have grown tiresome to me, it’s finale made up for this in spades. There is a sense of honest whimsy and fun here that is a calling card of plenty of wonderful fantasy tales and the creativity in the design of the world here is really what fantasy is all about; new worlds that stretch and exercise our imaginations and fun filled adventures to lighten the load of our often difficult reality. 3/5