Rating: *** out of ****
Enough people have tried comparing to Krull to Star Wars that I won't even bother emphasizing the similarities aside from the fact that Krull's mythology isn't half as well thought out, but it's just as fun as anything in George Lucas' space opus, and that's good enough to earn a recommendation from me; at the very least, this is easily among the best of its respective genre (better than, say The Sword and the Sorcerer or Willow), and it is to these standards one will immediately realize if this movie is up their alley or not. It probably isn't.
Set on a faraway world known as Krull, the film opens with the oncoming invasion of the Slayers, a fearsome, planet-conquering army led by the Beast, whose lair is a spacecraft shaped like a large mountain called the Black Fortress. They've clearly got the sword-wielding residents of Krull outmatched, as the Slayers are armed with laser, though they curiously still use horses as a means of transportation.
Knowing the only way to stave off the invaders is to unite, the planet's two warring kingdoms set aside their differences so that Prince Colwyn (Ken Marshall) and Princess Lyssa (Lysette Anthony) may be wed. In the middle of the wedding ceremony, the Slayers storm the palace, killing everyone except for Colwyn, and they take Lyssa back to the Fortress as a gift to the Beast. If this was really the extent of both kingdoms' armies, then I don't see how they could have stood even the slightest chance in a full-on war with the Slayers.
Anyway, the Beast has apparently chosen Lyssa to be his bride because he's aware of the prophecy that whomever she chooses to be her husband (and consequently the king), their eventual son will become ruler of the galaxy. Logically, I could only see this working if she chose the Beast, considering Colwyn has no means of interplanetary travel, which would make galaxy-ruling a bit of a tough task.
Determined to save his bride, Colwyn retrieves the five-bladed throwing star (think Alien vs. Predator) called the Glaive and recruits loyal followers during his journey (namely a band of criminals, including Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane). Hindering their quest is the fact that the Fortress automatically transports to a new location during every sunrise. This does beg the question why the Beast doesn't just blast off the planet with his bride-to-be than risk the slightest chance of Colwyn finding her...but I digress.
For all the moments of cheese (no moment unintentionally funnier than when Colwyn is able to recognize one of his men by a blood trail), unconvincing blue-screens, and occasional subpar effects, Krull still works dandily as a rollicking adventure. The cast is much better than usual for this kind of material, with Ken Marshall making for a charismatic and likable hero and lovable rogues like Neeson, Coltrane, and Alun Armstrong (whom I'll always remember as the traitorous Mornay in Braveheart) providing solid support. Lysette Anthony radiates beauty as Lyssa, she's easily one of the most drop-dead gorgeous princesses in cinema history. There's no question I'd go through the same trouble to rescue her as well.
Despite running a little over two hours, Krull moves at a consistently excellent pace, delivering good production values (loved the exterior and interior sets of the Black Fortress), beautiful locations (and thus, some lovely cinematography), and a number of exciting action sequences. The battle scenes are surprisingly well-choreographed; whatever the sword fights may lack in gritty violence is made up for by pure swashbuckling fun. Other terrific scenes include Colwyn's solo rock-climbing, the trek through the swamps, the adventurous ride on the Firemares, and the battle/chase within the Fortress. The action and adventure is given a great boost from James Horner's rousing score, one of the composer's personal best.
Director Peter Yates strictly adheres to fantasy formula, so there are no surprises to be found. The plot is occasionally baffling, essentially making up a lot of its own rules as it goes along (the old mentor telling Colwyn he can't use the Glaive until the right moment, a character staying behind because his "time is up" only to come to the rescue later, etc.). But it's all in good fun, and the movie is pieced together with moderate coherency and consistent momentum. Recommended to fans of 80s fantasy, Krull delivers the goods for those into this sort of thing.