Viking Night: Krull
By Bruce Hall
October 18, 2011
You can’t imagine the ways in which I suffer sometimes to bring you this column. Quality and enjoyment are relative concepts when it comes to cult films, so results can be hit or miss. I can’t say I’ve had to sit through anything completely unwatchable, but the law of diminishing returns says that I’ll eventually run out of material and have to get really creative. Someday I’m going to be down to nothing but bootleg North Korean propaganda films, and then I’ll have to hire an assistant. The clear and present danger is represented by the okay-but-not-worth-emailing-mom-about sort of flick. Assuming your mother has email. Mine doesn’t. Some days that’s a blessing, some day’s that’s a curse. But I digress.
What I’m talking about is the kind of film that might not make you ask for the two hours back, but you probably wouldn’t mind having them anyway. It doesn’t mean they’re not good movies. It just means they’re not bad - they’re badly mediocre. And if you subscribe to the lowest common denominator school of film making, all you have to do to transcend this is to put an inordinate amount of effort into one area of the film over anything else. Sometimes this means a screenwriter or director pours years of life experience into getting the story just right. For better or worse, the project ends up being an intense labor of love. But most of the time, it means just spending a crap load on special effects and sticking a plot together out of refrigerator magnets.
Which reminds me - I just sat through Krull again, and it wasn’t easy. But there are a few good things worth immediate mention, before we get to all the things that suck about it.
The first would be composer James Horner’s score, which adds significant weight to a largely lightweight story. He’s not John Williams, and he does recycle a lot of his own themes and motifs, but it’s definitely better music than the film deserves. Observation #2 is Liam Neeson. It’s early in his career, and he only has a small supporting role with perhaps three spoken lines (one being “Ahhhhhhh!!!!!” when he dies). But much like Angelina Jolie in Cyborg, his ability to emote separates him from the lesser actors around him. Third, I’d like to point out every time I see Krull, I find myself amazed at how well the visual effects hold up. Not that you’d mistake it for Avatar, but considering the ridiculous cash that went into the sets and visuals, the makers of Krull definitely got their money’s worth. Credible estimates of the budget are in the $25-40 million range, and most of that money is up on screen. But back in 1983, that was an extravagant budget - enough to require a major box office hit.
Oops. And here is where the problems begin.
Krull the movie takes place on Krull the planet, which is currently under invasion. A horrific race of beings called The Slayers travels the galaxy in a mountain shaped warship, enslaving civilizations under the gauntlet of their all powerful leader, The Beast. That’s right, the protagonists are called “The Slayers” and “The Beast”. Krull didn’t even have the decency to give its villains names, and that’s just never a good sign. What we do have is a despotic villain clad in black armor with an army of slow, stupid, faceless thugs at his disposal. They take over planets and kidnap princesses at will. Seriously, stop me if you’ve heard this one because I don’t want to get sued by George Lucas, and I still have to tell you about the Prophecy. Yes, of course there’s an ancient Prophecy. And of course it involves a son of unusual parentage and the fate of the entire universe.