Serious film criticism has no place here!7/10
I saw Krull recently on the HBO family channel (Comcast 304), of all channels. What's really funny is that Krull is rated PG for adult content! I believe the content of Krull wouldn't interest most adults, and diehard fantasy fans like myself aren't adults in the proper sense of the word anyway.
Krull offers the sheer pleasure of watching medieval men (Englishmen?), armed mostly with swords and spears, fighting seemingly unstoppable alien warriors with laser guns. The guns appear to have only one or two shots apiece, though, because most of the aliens turn their weapons over in combat to reveal blades for close-quarters fighting. If the aliens had infinite shots, that would be just too unfair for the hard-pressed good guys.
There is a story linking the action sequences together, which clearly draws its inspiration from Tolkien, Star Wars, and the Arthurian Legends. I can understand why someone wouldn't like Krull, because its similarities to Star Wars are so obvious that the movie seems derivative and formulaic even though it deserves credit for presenting its familiar fantasy elements in a somewhat unique manner.
The Krull plot concerns a young hero (no, not Luke Skywalker) with an old mentor (not Obi-Wan Kenobi), who must rescue a princess (not Leia) from an impregnable fortress (which is not the Death Star); otherwise, however, Krull bears no resemblance to Star Wars. Except for the massive spaceship/fortress that glides slowly by during the opening credits, of course.
One reason I like Krull is that the whole production has a distinctly British flavor: yes, the cast and the scenery are obviously British, even if some of it was filmed in Italy, but the movie is unmistakably British in more subtle ways.
The movie has bleak moments when all the good guys seem to be dying at once and their cause appears hopeless, but it also doesn't hesitate to be silly and poke fun at itself in quintessentially British fashion. The Ergo character provides comic relief with his transformations into various animals, which are all the more amusing because they are consistently unintentional. His fussiness and insistence upon his dignity are reminiscent of C-3PO from the Star Wars movies, except that C-3PO never expressed a desire for gooseberry pie.
The hero, his mentor and Ergo are waylaid by thieves, but rather than robbing them the criminals agree to join their quest in an enjoyable Robin Hood-type scene; not only do the thieves respect the hero when they learn that he's the future king, but at least one of them (Alun Armstrong) refuses to have his old shackles removed until the quest is complete. Armstrong's character is my favorite of the movie because I can't help liking a criminal who wants to redeem himself with heroism...like Han Solo (sorry, yet another Star Wars parallel).
Some comments have complained that Ken Marshall lacks charisma as the hero, but since he looks like Errol Flynn with a beard he certainly has the perfect appearance for a fantasy swashbuckler. He also runs the gamut of emotions well, bursting with youthful arrogance in the early scenes and seeming near the movie's end like someone who has actually been changed by experience and may grow into a great leader.
At least one comment complained that Marshall doesn't display enough grief for the deaths of his men, but since the good guys drop like flies in this movie (dying words are reserved for the developed characters) I don't blame him for not stopping to cry while alien laser beams fly past his head.
At least two subplots add mythological or religious connotations to the story: first, the Cyclops (Yes, there's a Cyclops in this movie, and it doesn't look believable at all. But who can hate a movie with a Cyclops?), whose ancestors "made a bargain with the Beast" for the gift of foresight, but were cheated so that they could only see their own deaths. Interesting. I think the Cyclops character was well developed in the movie, and his actions offer an interesting exploration of the issue of free will versus destiny.
Second, and my favorite sequence of the movie, is the visit to the Widow of the Web, because nothing could be more symbolic of a person consumed by hate and despair than someone who allows everyone who approaches to be ensnared in a web and devoured by a giant spider: the scene in which one character dares to approach the widow has the power of real myth.
Even if the spider's cheesy stop-motion animation renders it less than believably real, the sequence is so effectively creepy that it couldn't be improved today except by updating the special effects: perhaps the Shelob sequence in the third Lord of the Rings movie (for which the Krull sequence will provide an interesting precursor) will be better.
Peter Yates' direction is competent, though it's hardly the equal of Bullitt (the only other work of his that I've seen). The supporting cast is also more noteworthy than the leads, since it includes not only Freddie Jones and Francesca Annis from Dune but Robbie Coltrane, the aforementioned Alun Armstrong AND Liam Neeson! Any film that brings such a cast together deserves some credit.
I'm a huge Tolkien fan and fantasy fan overall, so I'm sure that I like this movie more than the typical viewer does. It has its fair share of problems, such as the fact that it goes on too long and doesn't go out of its way to engage an emotional response from the viewer, but I definitely believe that its sense of fun compensates for its flaws. When a movie shows me Errol Flynn killing alien warriors with a mystical boomerang, I cease to be a critic because serious film analysis has no place here!
At the very least, Krull is the kind of movie that will give you and your friends plenty to talk about afterward, supposing that they're willing to watch it with you.
Rating: 7 (A good fantasy-adventure.)