One day someone will compile a list of all bad ideas in movie history, and very close to the top of the list there will be, I am certain, the words “Let’s make the next Star Wars.”
Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious and setting yourself a big bold target, but the problem with “let’s make the new (whatever)” is that the ghost of whatever it is you are trying to outclass will haunt your production. Which can be bad. Really bade.
Case in point, a movie that was supposed to be “the next Star Wars”, and suffered for it, a lot: Krull. And I re-watched it the other night.
Back in the day, I actually read the Krull novelization by Alan Dean Foster before I saw the movie, that I caught in a rerun in a periphery cinema in 1984, I think.
The novel was OK, as Alan Dean Foster novelization usually are – and in retrospect it’s a lot better than the movie, probably because it does away with the boring bits, and proceeds at a good clip.
And I liked the idea of a story based, essentially, on a medieval, fantasy civilization fighting off an alien invasion.
Alas, Krull is a movie that creaks along its tracks, and is inferior to the sum of its parts.
The plot in brief: prince Colwin is to marry princess Lyssa but the minions of the alien Beast kidnap her. He puts together a band of unlikely companions and goes to get her back.
So yes, it’s a “princess prisoner in the bad guy’s base being rescued by a bunch of scoundrels” sort of movie. The next Star Wars, remember? It even features an iconic weapon – the five-pronged, switchblade glaive – armored bad guys shooting lasers and a big explosion at the end.
The movie went through a number of rewrites, and in the end this weakened the plot, I think. The story does not manage to get any momentum, and big set-pieces are spoiled by what sometimes feels like hasty or sloppy execution.
Which is weird, considering there’s Peter Yates (the guy that did Bullit!) directing, and that the cast is loaded with excellent performers. Add to that a soundtrack by James Horner, and you should have all the ingredients for a smash it. Only you don’t.
Who knows, maybe the problem is the effects, that Yates has not much experience with – it’s like the director is struggling with a language is not overly familiar with. Also, the cast is wasted, and the best talent is relegated to secondary roles: Alun Armstrong’s bandit Torquil and his band of escaped criminals (that includes Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane) are a lot more interesting than Colwin; Lysette Anthony as Lyssa is positively gorgeous but has very little to do, and Francesca Annis, equally gorgeous when not made up like a crone, has what’s probably the most fascinating role, but too little screen time.
But it’s good to have a seriously skeptic protagonist, even if Colwin’s transition from embittered survivor to enthusiastic hero is a little abrupt, and he remains quite wooden for much of the porceedings.
And “A little abrupt” is a perfect description for a lot of stuff in the movie, that despite some pretty hectic scenes appears to take place in a world devoid of people, in which only the main characters live, with a disquieting lack of extras and walk-ons.
Maybe had they not to emulate the success of Star Wars, the people involved in the film would have been a little less earnest, and a little more relaxed. Maybe with a more reasonable target. The many great ideas that lie scattered through the story (the glaive, the future-seeing cyclops, the Widow and her spider’s web house, the whole backstory of what passed between the Widow and the Old One, the aliens) would develop into something a lot more memorable.
But they were thinking about Star Wars, alas.
The production apparently tried to whip up a fanbase of Star Wars-like cosplayers and obsessives, even promoting the celebration of “Krull-style marriages”, but basically you can’t create a fandom artificially – or at least you could not do it before internet and social networks.
In the end it was a disaster, and it’s a pity, really.
With its sword & sorcery rogues and weary spellcasters fighting off aliens, Krull is still an unicum that’s worth watching. And it’s the sort of movie that might be ready for a remake/reboot, with a stronger script, a director more at ease with effects and a more tongue-in-cheek attitude. And without the dog – please remake this movie without the dog.