Krull is one of those almost-great movies that didn’t quite make it. Released in theaters in the summer of 1983 (just two months after Return of the Jedi, unfortunately), most people don’t recognize the name. Some think of Rob Howard’s Kull character. Others just look at you with some mix of pity and disdain. Many fail to recognize the greatness. Not I, though. Not only do I own the DVD; I rejoice whenever I happen upon this classic airing on the teletubes, as it did this past Sunday.
Krull is on TV. What a glorious Easter Day!
— Kabuto Bushi (@PCBushi) March 27, 2016
How appropriate, then! Not only is Krull the quintessential nerd movie, marrying scifi and fantasy (for where else since Flash Gordon do we see lasers pitted against swords and axes?) and perfectly epitomizing the generic RPG story (The Chosen One’s family is destroyed by evil invaders and his bride taken prisoner, and he must embark upon a quest to save her and his world, recruiting a variety of allies along the way), but it does such a masterful job of exhibiting important Christian themes.
Fair warning – if you’ve not seen Krull and would like to do so without spoilers, read no further!
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
In Krull, the titular world is invaded by the Beast and his legions of Slayers, who travel from world to world pillaging and destroying. Two great feuding kingdoms are quick to recognize this threat and hastily arrange a marriage between their two heirs, to join the two countries in an alliance against the Beast.
Before the wedding ceremony can be completed, the Slayers invade, murdering everyone but Lyssa, who is taken prisoner, and Colwyn, who is knocked unconscious in the battle. He is awakened by Ynir, the Old One, played by the great Freddie Jones (who also portrayed Thurfir Hawat in David Lynch’s Dune).
Having inherited his father’s now broken kingdom, Colwyn sets out with Ynyr to rescue Lyssa and destroy the Beast. Along the way, he obtains the power of the Glaive and enlists a number of allies, including a magician, a cyclops, and a band of escaped prisoners.
In part, the story is one of friendship and camaraderie. Upon first encountering Ergo the Magnificent, he invites the rude magician to travel with him and Ynyr for safety, despite the magician’s rudeness and threats. When encountering the escaped criminals along Ynyr’s shortcut, Ergo whispers that they are surrounded by robbers. Colwyn points out that they are just men; the party doesn’t yet know if they are robbers. After being ambushed, Colwyn and the old sage are able to appeal to the criminals’ sense of honor and love of their families, by treating them as honorable men. Thus Colwyn gains his “army.”
A short while later, Rell the cyclops saves Ergo’s life and is invited to join the party.
The group travels to see the Emerald Seer, to learn where they can find the Beast’s fortress. Despite the danger, the Seer attempts to help the heroes, and for his trouble he is killed by a changling during the battle in the swamp.
Faced with no other alternative, Ynyr proposes to visit the Widow of the Web, the only other one with the Sight to reveal the whereabouts of the fortress. He enters her lair alone and pleads for her aid, having once long ago been her lover. She reveals that they had a son together whom she murdered in a rage; thus her imprisonment and curse. Ynyr quickly forgives her, blaming himself for his absence. Granted this love and forgiveness, she decides to give up her life so that Ynyr can escape and deliver the required information to his allies. Unfortunately, the magic will also kill the old man. He gets the message to his companions and then expires; the first of the group to sacrifice himself to defeat the Beast and save Lyssa.
The heroes are barely able to make it to the fortress before sunrise, when it will move to a new location. Pressed to get inside quickly, they attempt to scale the treacherous hold, but are pinned down by the Slayers’ lasers. Several men fall, including Rhun, one of the bandits who had been skeptical of their quest. With his dying breath he admits that he was wrong and tells his allies to finish what they started.
Rell is next to give up his life and voluntarily endure terrible pain for his friends. Earlier in the story, Ynyr explained that the cyclops were ancient enemies of the Slayers. The beast had made a bargain with them – in return for one of their eyes, they were granted the power to see the future. He cheated them, however, and they were only able to see the time of their own death. If they defied their fate, they were condemned to great suffering at the end. Instead of remaining behind and accepting that his time has come, he rushes to the aid of his friends and acts as a shield while they scale the fortress. He then uses his great strength to hold open one of the closing doors while the heroes gain entrance. In doing so, however, he becomes stuck and is crushed to death by the closing portal. The feels!
Once inside, the group makes their way inside the labyrinthine lair to find Lyssa. Several more companions fall, including (surprise!) Liam Neeson.
Ergo and Titch become split up from the rest of the group, and Ergo transforms himself into a tiger, shielding the boy and dispatching some jungle-style justice upon the Slayers they encounter.
Eventually Colwyn finds Lyssa and comes to face to face with the Beast. Admittedly, this bit of special effects hasn’t aged well at all. The king uses the Glaive to down the Beast once, but is unable to recover it to finish his foe. Instead, he and Lyssa realize that it is not the Glaive (Colwyn and Ynyr were both right in their exchange earlier in the film about whether it was a weapon or merely a symbol), but rather the power of their love that can destroy the Beast. Invoking the magical fire used at their interrupted wedding ceremony, Colwyn torches the Big Boss and the dungeon crumbles around the heroes as they make their escape. The end.
In wrap-up, we’ve got friendship, sacrifice (sometimes involving great pain), forgiveness and redemption, and the power of love over Evil. Those sound like some pretty good Easter themes to me. So watch Krull.