The Glaive and the Maiden Fair: ‘Krull’ Review

Posted in Screening Room by - November 30, 2016

It’s a curious thing, thinking about those obscure, cable-residing, direct-to-DVD films that occupy the graveyard slot on lonely Wednesday nights; to contemplate what they might have been, what their creators originally envisioned them as. Oftentimes, these bargain bin finds are just that – small effort, even lower budget, movies made by a production mill for the express purpose of gaining marginal returns with minimum investment. But, every now and again, you’ll find a film whose future wasn’t destined to be the bottom of the discount barrel – at least not originally.

Krull, a 1983 Sci-Fi adventure piece, is one such film. Helmed by legendary English director Peter Yates, Krull is a save-the-princess tale with a unique blend of magic and science fiction appeal. Well, unique if it weren’t for a little trilogy called Star Wars whose third film came out a short while before Krull hit theaters — but more on that later. Following the violent interruption of a marriage ceremony that would join the two rival kingdoms of the planet Krull with a resolve to defeat an invader species, Prince Colwyn (Ken Marshall) must find the Princess Lyssa (Lysette Anthony) with the help of a band of outlaws and his royal sage. To do so, he must battle the Beast, the leader of the invading species. In this pursuit, the Prince seeks out the mystical Glaive, a mythical weapon of immense power and the only chance the Prince has at not only saving the Princess, but the union between Krull’s two kingdoms.

First, the good. Krull, for all its flaws (namely those attributed to the ‘80s styling choices and sparkles), isn’t an all around terrible film. The acting is often genuine, it stars a young Liam Neeson as bandit turned hero, and the special effects have aged fairly well. Additionally, there are some genuinely breathtaking wide angle shots which bring the world to life exceptionally well. Having to justify a film in these “almost” and “maybe” terms, however, outlines the inherent issue with the movie better than a declarative sentence ever could. If it’s barely good, why watch it at all?

To be honest, I can’t really give you a good answer there. Krull is, in many ways, Yates’ response to the George Lucas’ titan of a franchise at the time. For whatever reason, Yates took it upon himself to copy er- mimic, the general premise of Star Wars and do it better. The former he attempted haphazardly and the latter he didn’t come anywhere close to accomplishing. Where Star Wars took elements of western, fantasy, science fiction, and a variety of other genres, Krull attempted the same but leans heavily towards traditional fantasy. It has all the stock fantasy settings (murky swamp, shadowy forest, high plains) and its setting of medieval royalty contrasts harshly with the science-fiction invasion aspect of the film.

While there are bright spots in the film (the score being phenomenal for one) it never really seems to step out of the shadow of its obvious inspiration. Instead of cultivating its world for audiences to enjoy, it tries to capture that same blend of magic and science that made Star Wars so popular. What’s more, where Star Wars is timeless in its elements of fiction, Krull is yet another victim of ‘80s hair and copious sparkles littered throughout fight scenes, ultimately ensuring its transient cinematic lifespan.

Honestly, even if Krull were a masterpiece of fiction, it would’ve failed regardless. I mean for chrissake the studio released it a month after Return of the Jedi came out. What did they expect?

Final Verdict: Skip It

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When not drowning in school work or ignoring social obligations he enjoys watching movies on just about anything. Currently making his way through the cinema classics he hopes to one day write a novel, but he’ll probably end up playing The Witcher 3 instead.
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