Friday, June 3, 2016

Kull The Conqueror


   My sword and sorcery binge has taken me to strange places, but the general consensus about Kull is that it's a total misfire. So after the Conan movies, and Beastmaster... would this be considered slumming it? Whatever it is, it certainly isn't rock bottom. Though Kull might certainly line the bottom of a DVD bargain bin, and it might just be the best thing down there you've never seen.When you've seen bits of movies like Barbarian Queen and Deathstalker (which I might yet get around to reviewing) you know how low the bar can get for movies like this. Kull isn't bad, and it's isn't great either. It straddles the line between adequate and mediocre in every way that matters.

    As you might have guessed, the movie is rife with issues. It was originally intended to be a third Conan movie, but due to the underwhelming reception to Conan The Destroyer, Arnold bowed out of any future projects. Leaving this flick without a leading man for a while, until Kevin Sorbo was cast based on his success in the Hercules TV series. The results are mixed in the extreme, due also to the odd tone of the movie itself. Kull The Conqueror sports decidedly modern dialog and a soundtrack with some hard rock/metal riffs. Which might sound cool... but yikes. It the entire movie it fits maybe once? Bleh. Sorely missed is the musical stylings of Basil Poledouris who did the amazing soundtracks for both of the original Conan movies.

   Kull feels at times like a really big episode of a TV show; it's production values are high and it has a fair handle on what makes a decent adventure flick. The story is decent enough and gets us from point A to point B. It's not a first class ride though, you're flying coach with Kull The Conqueror, so it's best to adjust your expectations accordingly. Sorbo is a budget choice for the lead, able to pull off an angry scowl, a smug smirk, and those melodramatic slow motion yells, but that's... more or less the full extent of his range. Yet he has a B-movie charm to his efforts as leading man. The movie would obviously have benefited from someone with more charisma, but the supporting cast tries it's damndest to pick up the slack.

   Tia Carrere and Thomas Ian Griffin are both pretty fun to watch as the main villains of the movie. They've nailed the not-so-fine art of chewing scenery. They wield melodrama to their benefit and it works. You gotta go big for movies like this. Understated performances and character depth would be completely lost on simple movies like this. For what it is, the movie works well enough though. The sets are a highlight of the movie, as are the costumes- looking period-appropriate if nothing else. The movie is pretty bloodless, but at least I wouldn't have to reach for the remote if my little brothers walked in. Nevertheless, with it's hard rock soundtrack and it's carefree approach to it's plotting and dialog, the least they could've done is gone full B-movie and delivered tons of gore and nudity.

   I found it funny how the movie is consistently grandiose, like these genre flicks should be, but then Kevin Sorbo walks in and he acts like a fish out of water. Playing his role in such a way that he feels less like a peasant barbarian out of his element in a position of royalty- and more like a modern man in medieval times, like Ash in Army of Darkness or whoever Martin Lawrence was in Black Knight. He walks around doing all the things you'd feel compelled to do if you suddenly became king. Like a low-rent Danaerys Targaryan, he strolls around his palace, arbitrarily freeing slaves and when he sees some 'injustice', he spouts lines like "Hey man, that's not good." That's not verbatim, but it might as well be.

   As a main character Kull is never more than a tool of the story; at one point the villainess- who at this point he's already married and slept with, offers him a place by her side and unlimited power. He says "Not on your life..." But why? Because the story dictates that what the good guy should do. At this point in the story, Kull is just a big oaf who seems to like the idea of being in power. He's not really aware of her evilness. If anything, as far as he knows, he's got a hangover and she's a backstabbing bitch. But, still, her offer was sincere. I mean, I think it would've made more sense if he at least entertained the notion for a second. But he flat out declines like a proper hero should. Okay.
That's the plot pushing the characters when it should be the characters propelling the plot.

   That's small potatoes though. Kull is a generic flick, comprised of elements you've seen done better in a hundred other movies- but it's still fun somehow. There's enough visual flair and fantasy nonsense to entertain an audience that knows what it's getting into. Tons of sword fights, fist fights, a few monsters, a bunch of special effects and a handful of creative moments. These aren't so much reasons to watch Kull as they might just be reasons to not turn it off. I enjoyed the movie, it was simple and more than a bit awkward a times, but it was still fun in my opinion. But, still, even now two movies on from that complete misfire of a Conan reboot and just about anything that grasps the genre fundamentals is aces in my book. Kull The Conqueror, does at least that.

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