Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday Movie Theater: Krull (1983)

Simple, beautiful, fun

After a month since the last visit, Sunday Movie Theater is back, featuring an old goodie this time. ^^

Movie poster is from IMDB.

Trailer of the movie.
Video clip is from Youtube. Follow this link to the website if you can't see anything.

"Krull", a 1983 movie directed by Peter Yates. Technical movie details can be seen on IMDB.

Released one year before I was born, "Krull" was a movie I watched on TV when I was very little. ^^ Like many other old movies, I grew up with fuzzy memories of various elements from it, but couldn't recall the title at all. ^^; That's a common "problem" I have with old movies, or even songs. I could describe certain scenes or lyrics in great details, but I have no memory of anything that could be used to link them to the actual titles. ^^; Discussing all that with friends during gatherings can get really fun when someone could provide a hint to finding out the titles, but it can get very frustrating as well when you discover everybody know exactly you're talking about, but nobody has a single clue what it's called. ^^; Unfortunately (for me), "Krull" belongs to another extreme scenario where none of my friends seem to know about it, and the "what are you talking about" expression was what they wore on their faces the entire time when I was describing some of the scenes I remember to them. XD

Eventually, I just chanced upon the title somehow about one or two years ago. ^^ Since then, I rewatched the movie a couple of times, and seeing some of the scenes I remembered so vividly from the old days in the context of the whole movie have been really fun. ^^ Scenes like a Cyclops riding a horse that is on fire, a person dipping his hand into a river of lava and pulls out a shuriken, a member of the adventure team drowning in a pool of quicksand despite effort from his friends to save him, a tiger appearing from nowhere and kills an enemy soldier in the final fight, and a few others are what I remember of the movie. I recalled having many "Ah, so that's what happened" moments in my first rewatch of "Krull" right after finding out its movie title. ^^

Featuring elements of sci-fi, fantasy and medieval designs, "Krull" is essentially an adventure story of a young hero in his quest to save a damsel in distress. ^^ The story begins with an invasion by a powerful and magical alien force called the Slayers on a distant planet. Colwyn (played by Ken Marshall), a young prince on the planet is about to marry Lyssa (played by Lysette Anthony), the princess of another kingdom when the aliens attacked the ceremony and kidnapped her. Saved by an old sage (played by Freddie Jones), Colwyn begins his quest to locate the Black Fortress where the Slayers are from and save his bride-to-be. As with most other adventure movies, Colwyn encounters many interesting individuals along the way, including a band of outlaws led by Torquil (played by Alun Armstrong) and Kegan (played by Liam Neeson), a Cyclops (played by Bernard Bresslaw), and even a circus magician (played by David Battley). XD After overcoming various challenges in finding its location, the team travels to the Black Fortress to face their final enemy. To save the princess and to put an end to the Slayers' reign of terror, Colwyn must defeat their leader, a monstrous being known only by a generic name of "The Beast" by using a legendary weapon (a large five-pronged boomerang with extendable blades XD) called the Glaive.

The overall story of "Krull" is fairly straightforward, with various cliches of a generic adventure movie helping to make the plot points easy to understand. XD A young, courageous hero destined to be the leader of his people, check; his lover waiting to be saved, check; enemy grunts who are seemingly strong at the beginning but falls like flies in the final battle, check; ragtag team of misfits who are really thieves with hearts of gold, check; team members who choose to sacrifice themselves for the hero whom they met just days before the (mis)adventure, check; a comic relief character in the team, check; everything evil automatically disperse once the leader is down, check. ^^ In essence, "Krull" isn't exactly original in any way, but there are still many elements that are well-executed which made it a pretty enjoyable watch. ^^ The inclusion of medieval and magical elements in the movie is pretty interesting. In the universe of "Krull" where soldiers fire laser shots using their spears, there are also old wizards and witches living in caves, and magical weapons hiding in secret places. ^^ Aside from the advanced weaponry and the fact that the story is set in a different universe, fantasy is the more dominant theme of "Krull" as compared to sci-fi. Because of that, the various medieval designs don't look out of place in the overall story to me, although I do find the display of alien monsters riding horses into combat, and bows and arrows versus laser spear somewhat goofy in context. ^^;

Speaking of the fantasy and medieval elements in the movie, the props and location designs in "Krull" are very elaborate and awesome-looking, even till this day in my opinion. The locations selected for some of the scenes, even when they don't involve any prop or special effect are very beautiful and seem fitting to the alien world setting of the movie. ^^ I felt so very strongly when I first watched the movie as a kid, and I still feel the same way rewatching it many years later. ^^ For locations that do involve the usage of props and special effects, they are very well designed and executed too. The spider lair where the Widow of the Web (played by Francesca Annis) lives immediately comes to my mind as one of the most remarkable scenes in the movie. The giant spider outside the chamber where the witch resides is obviously done using stop motion animation, but the elaborate cobwebs the sage needs to cross and then escape from are actual set design, and they are amazingly well done. The transition between actual on scene shots of the lair and the spider animation is very smooth, which definitely help to project the creepiness and horror of that particular scene. The seemingly endless vast but plain chambers inside the Black Fortress that Lyssa ventures through in her attempt to escape look pretty surreal as well, and they certainly fit the fantasy theme of the movie. ^^ With CG being the primary method used in movie-making nowadays to create all the awesome sceneries and environments, I certainly appreciate the extensive principal photography in "Krull" that features either real natural locations, or heavily decorated sets. It's very well done in projecting the realism of the fantastic environment of the story.

There are also tons of special effects used in the movie, most which are quite dated by today's standards. ^^; All the effects involving laser shots seem pretty primitive in design I would say, to the point I feel that the overall result would probably be nicer and more natural-looking if the effects were toned down in the first place. ^^; In comparison, the armor design of the human and alien soldiers, the props all the characters use, and the aforementioned beautiful locations selected for the many scenes are definitely more outstanding in my opinion. Then again, the special effect designs were obviously limited by the technology available at the time this movie was made, and they don't look too horrible in execution to begin with, so I'm not going to discredit them too much. Very interestingly, even with the advancements in computing technologies nowadays, there are still movies with elaborate special effects that I like for their beautiful locations and props instead - "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy for example, which would fit in the same movie genre as "Krull" if not for the latter's sci-fi element. ^^

Another interesting point about "Krull", one which I discovered after tracking down the movie after so many years is seeing Liam Neeson and Alun Armstrong in it. ^^ Liam Neeson's character, Kegan is a huge muscular member in the band of outlaws, who seems to be pretty popular with the ladies wherever he goes. ^^ His tough build is way above the look he projected as Hannibal in "The A-Team" (2010), and the mullet he has in this movie is certainly very uncharacteristic of Liam Neeson nowadays too. XD Along with Alun Armstrong, whom I know from movies like "Braveheart" (1995), "The Mummy Returns" (2001), and "Van Helsing" (2004), the two actors are still recognizable in this 1983 movie. ^^ Given their reputation today as well-established actors who performed many diverse cinematic roles, "rediscovering" them in this old movie makes it even more fun to watch I think. ^^

While the simple storyline mentioned earlier on makes the movie easy to follow, some points were "oversimplified" and overlooked I think, and they become more and more noticeable with each rewatch. ^^; The lack of people besides the hero and his team stands out as a really funny and strange point about this movie. The two scenes featuring NPCs (XD) are the initial wedding ceremony attended by royal family members and other guests, and the campfire before the Sage's visit to the Widow of the Web, where one of Kegan's girlfriends appears out of nowhere to bring the men food. The whole world in the movie seems so devoid of people it makes me wonder the actual benefit for the Slayers to invade and conquer it in the first place. ^^; For that, there's very little sense of danger and threat of the enemy to the hero, since besides the kidnapping of his bride-to-be, there's not much to gain from him at all. How about crushing his kingdom? killing his people? Well, that's all accomplished in the first ten minutes of the movie. After that, there's really nothing left for the enemy to gain it seems, but the Black Fortress stays on the planet anyway, seemingly waiting for the hero to come and destroy it (which is exactly what happened in the end ^^;). Regarding the weak sense of danger, the design of the ultimate boss, the Beast is very weak as well I think. ^^; It's a hideous humanoid monster that couldn't make use of its size and brute strength to crush two tiny human characters. ^^; The intensity of the final fight between Colwyn and the Beast doesn't match up with the danger faced by the entire team before reaching the Black Fortress. Overall, the movie is just following the simple, standard cliche of the hero saving his love and defeating the ultimate evil along the way, but some of the plots, especially those regarding enemy motivation (XD) could be designed to be more intricate to avoid said plot holes I believe. ^^

Since the movie was released in 1983, the comparison of it to the "Star Wars" trilogy, which concluded with "Episode VI - Return of the Jedi" in the same year is completely unavoidable. While the overall plot is very similar, I think it's hard to discount the fact that the story of "Star Wars" also follows the same adventure movie mold. So, it's not exactly fair to call "Krull" a total copycat of "Star Wars". ^^; For me, "Krull" is an enjoyable watch from time to time, and there are many parts of the movies that work well in its context - the locations and prop design as mentioned earlier on for example. There are of course many parts that don't really make sense, but they aren't exactly horrible, off-putting mistakes that ruin anything anyway. ^^;

A very fun old movie it is, not the best in any aspect, but very fun nonetheless. ^^

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