Movie: Krull (1983)
Why Did I watch this?
This was like 80% that episode of South Park, which I did not know even referenced this, and like 20% leaving HBOMax at the end of the month. Mostly recognizing the glaive from the picture. Honestly I hate to admit that for the past 15 yaers I thought South Park was referencing Predator, to the point where I was surprised to re-watch those films the other month and see no glaive. Anyway, this is clearly a gap in pop culture knowledge for me, so I pressed play.
What Did I know ahead of time?
Apparently like, nothing. I thought this was going to be in space! Like The Ice Pirates (1984) or something, like a bad B movie. Instead it was a bad B movie but set in Fantasy Times? But also sort of also Outer Space Times? It's kind of a cool premise, like monster aliens invade in a disappearing mountain who mess with the medieval magic people. I had no idea about any of this going in, but I knew there was a glaive, so that kept me going.
How Was It?
I mean, in no world is this a good movie, but it's pretty fun and tries to be unique, even if it steals every trope in the book. You can very easily tell this was in a post-Star Wars world that was trying to copy everything they had, with a dash of Clash of the Titans (1981) and other generic fantasy titles thrown in. BUT there is enough to make it stand out, namely the merging of sci-fi and fantasy along with everything in the Beast's castle which is bonkers and surreal with some really mind-blowing sets and lair layouts.
The premise is basically Spaceballs (1987). A prince has to marry a princess to unite two rival Kingdoms to fight the Beast and his evil Space Army, but the princess is captured by said Beast, and so the prince has to unite a merry band of misfits to save the day. It moves at a remarkable pace, without slowing down to explain much of anything, which does work in its favor. It doesn't give you time for Fridge Logic and you just have to go along with the nonsense. It's primarily a fun adventure film and you're just along for the ride.
And you really have to be because there is no real plot development or logic here. It feels more like a series of disconnected Fantasy set pieces than anything that builds on itself. Like, we have the Quicksand Swamp, Spider's Cave, Fire Horses, and the Beast's Castle without any real logic between them, just like, things that would be cool and the characters move from one to another. They encounter problems, some of which are significant, that they largely solve just because they have to instead of proving themselves. You see this most in the SPOILER end when the hero uses the glaive to kill the Beast (it's not really a glaive btw). It doesn't work, so he just uses his Human Torch fire finger power, which I guess he had this whole time. Like, he just stands and points his fingers. It's not at all cathartic or worthwhile, it just kind of happens because now the movie has to end. The whole thing is like that.
Like, since the Evil Castle movies at sunrise every day (I really wanted a scene where one guy was left outside when it vanished, so he would fall to his death. That's not even out of the ordinary for the ending scenario, I've never seen a movie dispatch its merry rogues with such abandon in the last 15 minutes), they need a Seer who can predict where it goes. When that Seer is killed, it's no big deal, the old guy who has been traveling with them the whole time just happened to used to bang the Widow of the Web, so he goes there and asks her. Like, it's a journey to defeat the Spider, kind of, but they seem to always have a solution in their back pocket for new problems that are based on happenstance, not character.
Don't get me wrong, a lot of these sequences are fun and interesting, but there's not really an authentic story progression. I really liked the set design, so many Fantasy Realms are just generic (cough Rings of Power cough) but trekking through the brown swamp here feels really cool. And the mountain, the Lair of the Beast, and even the smooth, clean lines of the Princess' Castle feel like they hint at some kind of technologically advanced medieval world that just helps the world-building.
As far as characters go, we have the most generic pretty white boy protagonist of all time. I feel like they tried to give him a Han Solo look with a Luke Skywalker personality but blander. It doesn't work. Rounding out his merry band is a comic relief character who looks like an uglier Eric Idle and sounds exactly like an uglier Eric Idle, and also Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane for some reason. Robbie Coltrane looks Mexican but speaks in an English accent so that might be accidental racism there? Like, I don't think they were actually going for brownface. And yeah, that's straight up 1983 Liam Neeson. It must be bizarre for the rest of the cast of Krull to look back and see an A-lister amongst their midst. He's got presence here, man. It's a consistent but definitely bit role, but his voice has a ton of authority and he displays way more charisma than just about everyone else.
The Princess is good, she seems like she has her own agency and isn't like, a flighty stereotype, but she's still captured like Princess Peach in a generic plot. I think it's the actress bringing more to her character than what's on the page. There are no other women in this movie.
This does a great job of giving each of its characters a distinctive look, name, and weapon. I recall the Hobbit movies decidedly NOT doing this with their dwarves. That band on a mission style we just don't see anymore. I remember feeling this with the Clash of the Titans (2010) remake, which was in this zone, which felt very old fashioned twelve years ago. Everyone's got their own little thing and their own backstory. It harkens back to a time of more renegade filmmaking, now when everyone is safe and generic it's hard to make anyone stand out.
I keep talking about generic versus distinctive and it's tough because so much of this movie is really on the copy and paste side, but there are also wildly inspired creative bits. It's a weird zone to be in. Again, it was surprising how much the ending sequences just kills most of our characters, some get worthy deaths, others are definitely just offed without much fanfare. I'm also torn on the bad 80s effects. The ambition of this movie might have outstretched the constraints at the time, but maaaan it just makes Star Wars look so much better. Some of the green screen here just feels unnecessary, like they could have found creative ways around their clunky compositing rather than just going for something that looked bad. That lesson is still being learned today.
I'm not sure why their swords clashed red lightning when they struck each other, it felt like they wanted lightsabers but knew they couldn't just straight rip them off. I did love how every time the Monsters were killed they screamed the same sound effect and then a giant worm wiggled out of their brains. I mean, for real, some parts are awesome. Krull is the kind of movie that needs a remake - obviously some sort of pop cultural legacy, cult or not, but not significant enough to piss off a large dedicated fanbase and an easy way to update writing and effects to modern standards. Maybe change the name, the name Krull is obviously terrible.
My impression is a net positive, it was pretty fun, there is enough wackiness and levity to get us past the stuff that doesn't work and it helps that it doesn't take itself at all that seriously. It's definitely weird, You have like, today to watch it, so plug it in!