Posted by: jgurner | July 29, 2013

Why Krull is the Greatest Sci-fi Movie Ever!

Krull; UK/USA, 1983; Starring – Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones, Alun Armstrong, David Battley.

Okay. I know what you’re thinking: Krull isn’t a sci-fi movie. It’s a fantasy. There’s magic and swords and a cyclops that isn’t Leela from Futurama and kings and princesses and all the stuff you find in fantasy movies with just a little hint of sci-fi thrown in.

Well, you’re wrong. And I’m about to tell you why.

First, here’s what you need to know about Krull. It didn’t start life as a late-night cable movie you watch when you come home drunk at 2 a.m. It was a massive undertaking for a film at the time. The sets covered 10 sound stages at Pinewood Studios in London. The soundtrack was recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra and the budget is estimated somewhere between $27-50 million in 1983 dollars. In comparison, another, small, not so well known sci-fi movie called Return of the Jedi cost a mere $32.5 million. Chump change in today’s sci-fi movie budget standards, but huge back then.

The story centers around Colwin (Ken Marshall, who is probably best known to anyone reading this as Commander Eddington from DS9) and Lyssa (Lyssette Armstrong, who you probably don’t know from anything unless you’ve watched British television for the past 30 years. And BBC America doesn’t count), a young prince and princess, respectively, who are getting married to unite their feuding kingdoms against the scourge of a powerful enemy known as the Slayers (not the Buffy kind or the metal band kind.) Just as they are performing the marriage ceremony, and isn’t it always just as the wedding takes place, the Slayers attack, killing off everyone except… You guessed it, Lyssa, whom they cart of to the Black Fortress, and Colwin, who manages to survive the same laser blasts that kills everyone else. And, this, the quest begins. Along the way he is joined by not one, but two Obi Wan Kenobi types, Mr. Turkentine from the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a band of criminals that include Hagrid and Liam Neeson – who is nowhere near as badass as he is in Taken – and, of course, a kid. Because you always want to take a kid along on a mission that means certain death. They quest. They fight. Colwin gets what is arguably one of the coolest sic-fi/fantasy weapons ever – the Glave. They face giant glass spiders and, finally, the Beast, who sounds a lot like the Borg.

Now, we come to the part where I prove to you that Krull is not a fantasy movie with a few sci-fi elements thrown in, but a full-blown sci-fi movie, with a few fantasy elements thrown in.

1. It’s on another planet.

That’s actually talked about quite a bit. And in such a way that you are led to believe they know about other planets with other people on them. In fact, the opening and closing narration, it says: “A girl of ancient name shall become queen. And she shall choose a king. Together they will rule the world. And their son will rule the galaxy.” That not only gives away the fact that both Colwin and Lyssa live through the movie, but it also says there is a known galaxy to be ruled.

2. The Black Fortress is a space ship.

I mean, c’mon. In the opening scenes, you see it come into orbit around the planet and land. It might look like a mountain, but it’s a space ship – a spaceship that has to descend through the atmosphere and land, but then apparently can teleport anywhere it wants to on the planet. And one that the inside looks kind of like what you might get if Salvador Dali designed the inside of the Tardis while dropping acid.

3. The Slayers are slugs in robot bodies.

Simple enough. When you see a Slayer die, you often see a slug crawl out of its head and burrow into the ground. The robot bodies are apparently supposed to be armor as well as a device which make it easier for the slugs to both get around and to be a bit more imposing that, say, a slug, but, judging from just how easy it is to kill a space slug wearing robot armor, the suits must be made by the same people who make the armor for the storm troopers in Star Wars.

4. The Slayers use lasers.

Did you hear the one about the guy who brought a sword to a laser gun fight? Yup. It’s swords and magic against lasers and space armor. Guess which one wins.

Okay, I hear you saying, you’re convinced it is at least more of a sci-if movie an a fantasy. But the best sci-if movie ever? Prove it.

Here I go.

What’s one thing that can make a sci-if movie great? Epic scale. Krull is epic. It’s a planet-wide adventure with galactic consequences in the vein of Dune. And we know there is more to come, we just don’t see it because our two hours are up and, for some reason, no one ever made a sequel. It was also an epic production, which I mentioned above. And we have definitely learned in the 30 or so years since Krull that elaborate sets, costumes and a big budget mean it must be good.

And speaking of Dune, Freddie Jones, who played Ynyr and Francis Annis, who was the Widow of the Web, played Thufr Hawat and Lady Jessica, respectively in the classic 1984 David Lynch movie.

What else is sci-fi gold? Star Trek.

As I mentioned before, young Colwin is played by Ken Marshall back in the days when he had hair. When he didn’t have hair anymore, he played one of the most memorable antagonists on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Colwin isn’t as complex or intriguing as Commander Michael Eddington, but you have to admit, if Eddington had gone up against the Federation armed with the Glave and with Hagrid and the man who played both Aslan, Zeus and Rob Roy at his side, things might have turned out different for Benjamin Sisko.

The second Star Trek connection is a biggie – James Horner and the score for Krull. While watching Krull and hearing the huge, dynamic score, you may think it sounds somewhat familiar. Well, it should. In fact, it sounds like someone ripped off the score for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which was composed by James Horner. And someone did. That someone was James Horner. He took to heart the old musical adage: good composers borrow, great composers steal. And he stole his own work on TWOK for Krull. Not note for note, but pretty damn close.

What else is a tried and true sci-fi trope? Parallel universes, alternate realities, alternate timelines, pan-dimensional causality, and so on. So, with what we’ve seen so far, you can now use the Six Degrees of Star Trek reasoning to place Krull in a convoluted, alternate timeline connection with both Dune and Star Trek. (And, if you want to push it, Star Wars via The London Sybmphony Orchestra.)

And, if you really want to go the full distance and firmly establish that science fiction-fantasy crossover, you can think of Rhun, played by a young and not quite so massive appearing Robbie Coltrane, as either a temporal precursor or temporal shadow (depending on when the actions that take place in Krull are actually set) of an alternate reality that includes the half giant/half human Rubeus Hagrid.

So. I think I’ve laid out a pretty convincing case for my claim that Krull is, in fact, the greatest sci-fi movie ever. If you’re not completely sold, take some time out of your obviously busy schedule and sit down and watch Krull through paradigm shifted eyes. Then you will see just how right I am.

 

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