This, it was given me to know: that purveyors of the Internet value the reviews and criticism of others especially in mixed media. This, it was also given me to know: there are things we remember from our childhood that will no longer hold their charm as we grow old. But this I cannot know: whether or not such criticisms will lead to anything beyond a few additional visitors, especially when I ape the tone and timbre of the opening narration of the film in question. In this case, the film is 1983’s Krull.
Krull is a world in a distant corner of the galaxy, and it is under attack by the powerful and malevolent Beast. He rules from a teleporting palace of dark magic called the Black Fortress and employs an evil army of creatures known as Slayers. Krull is not without its defenders, two mighty kingdoms traditionally at war. The kings will form an alliance, however, at the behest of their children: Prince Colwyn and Princess Lyssa. The night of their wedding is when the Slayers attack.
So we have a story that isn’t terribly complicated. But simple does not mean bad. Sometimes the simple stories are the best. Let me give you some examples: a dude that fights monsters has to prove he’s not a dick before he can have his magic monster-fighting hammer back. Five criminals are picked to pull off a heist for a mysterious guy they all fear. A little guy has to destroy a rather evil piece of jewelry. And here we have an actually kinda charming prince storming an evil space-traveling castle to rescue his princess.
All this and brains, too. Not to mention chutzpah.
Let’s face it, the story isn’t any more complicated than your typical Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Considering this was originally intended to be the Dungeons & Dragons movie, that should come as no surprise. Objections of the late great Gary Gygax aside, there’s a lot going on here that is very much D&D. The first title for this film was the Dragons of Krull, but some licensing issue lost to time caused the title to change. It also somehow caused the dragons to disappear. But we still have a good core party of warrior, thief, wizard & cleric. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which is which.
Despite its trappings of tabletop gaming and some of its other trope-happy aspects, Krull has a good cast of interesting and well-developed characters. Colwyn is headstrong and brave but also willing to admit his faults and strive to overcome it. Princess Lyssa is also brave, as well as smart. The comic relief isn’t entirely annoying or useless, the dour cyclops is a great presence even if he speaks little and the small seer boy is more endearing than anything else. And let’s not forget the presence of a young Liam Neeson & Robbie Coltraine! The movie gets bonus points on this talent alone.
And the talent isn’t wasted. The story’s as simple as they come but the dialog and characterization are rather well-rounded. There isn’t much scenery-chewing going on, at least not by the actors. James Horner’s score, on the other hand, has bombast and dramatics coming out its ears. This film came out a year after Star Trek II, another movie that he scored, and they sound very similar, despite one being a nuanced space opera and the other the highest of high adventures. Oh, it’s grand and appropriate for the setting, to be sure, it’s just that it tends to overwhelm the action on-screen now and again rather than complimenting it. But honestly, if the biggest criticism one can bring to bear is that the score could be dialed down a couple notches, that’s another point in the movie’s favor.
There are a couple places where the special effects and other bits are starting to show their age in Krull, the villain is more effective when he’s heard and not seen, the story as mentioned is pretty simple and some of the acting is admittedly nothing award-winning. But the whole affair is so earnest and charming that it overcomes these failings and takes on a timelessness that normally is held by such adventure sagas as the Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia. It’s earnestness means that it doesn’t quite fall into the realm of camp that Flash Gordon does, even though they might seem similar at first glance to some viewers. Krull‘s charm comes from the honesty of its characters and the straightforwardness of its story, rather than the degree to which it sticks its tongue in its cheek. Now, this all may come as high or perhaps even undeserved praise, but I for one would rather see unique ideas like this, with intriguing and surreal set designs and characters that actually behave like real or at least likable people, get produced rather than another franchise knock-off or a Tyler Perry movie.
Colwyn, seen here with the deadliest starfish ever.
For every moment the seams in the story’s age start to show, there’s at least one where the characters shine through in their writing and portrayal. For every knock you might make about the premise being cliched or character motivation being too simplistic, a merit in the ideas in play or a stylistic touch of coolness can be pointed out. All in all, the pros in this film far outweigh its cons. If it’s adventure you seek, unapologetic for being unique if that uniqueness means the occasional silly moment but looking to tell you a tale you’ll remember, Krull belongs on your Netflix queue.
Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.
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