Monday, February 13, 2017


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There were a lot of fantasy movies in the 80s - I'm making a clear distinction here from sci-fi (Conan the Barbarian, Clash of the Titans, Time BanditsThe NeverEnding Story, Willow, Splash, etc.) - and I think many of them had a sort of innocence to them that's missing from the genre today. It's hard to explain if you weren't there. These days you have Game of Thrones on TV, with all its carnage and sex, while on the big screen there's The Hunger Games and its copycats, set in bleak, dystopic futures.

The fantasy films of my childhood weren't like that. No doubt as a result of the original Star Wars, which owes at least as much to the familiar tropes of fairy tale fantasy as to sci-fi - and which itself was a reaction to the bleak SF films of the 70s - these movies felt more like simple good-time, PG-rated adventure stories. I'm told there's a current Netflix series called Stranger Things which tries to recapture this vibe to a certain degree, but for the most part, it's less prevalent in modern fantasy.

I remember seeing ads for Krull in my comic books. I think Marvel may have even done an adaptation. I never saw the film until last week. I was prepared to mock it, but it wasn't as bad as I had expected. It's totally derivative of other, better stories - think Star Wars meets King Arthur - but for what it is, it's mildly entertaining. It's a Saturday afternoon matinee movie, not unlike those 60s Sinbad movies, or Jason and the Argonauts, or Journey to the Center of the Earth. It felt like it was in that spirit. The bombastic James Horner music underscored this feeling.

The plot is nothing more than find the weapon of power, recruit allies, save the princess - or queen, in this case; the hero is a very young king. The special effects are minimal; more money was probably spent on props, costumes and set design. (The bad guy's lair, in particular, is really trippy and abstract. The young queen wanders through it like a carnival fun house designed by Salvador Dali.)

The most memorable thing about Krull, I think, may be its location shots. They were filmed in Italy. The vistas are truly breathtaking, especially in the scenes where Ken Marshall climbs a mountain to acquire the ninja throwing star thingie. There are grassy meadows, and forests, but those mountains were really spectacular.

Plus, there's an unexpected bonus: a pre-Darkman Liam Neeson! His is a small role; he's one of a band of thieves Marshall meets along his quest. Neeson gets a small moment or two, but nothing that would make me think one day he'd make Schindler's List. His IMDB page, however, reveals he was in two King Arthur films, Excalibur and a TV film called Arthur the King, in addition to this Arthur-like Krull. Interesting.

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