A Review by Noah Antwiler
I'm pretty hard on fans of Hawk the Slayer, but after thinking about quintessential gamer movies I think I finally understand why everyone's so loyal to it. It's not the "so bad it's good" factor, although that's certainly a part of it. It's because for most people Hawk was their first exposure to the sword & sorcery genre that closely resembled a tabletop gaming session. Mine began at a very young age with Krull in 1983, a significantly higher-budget film and a humiliating box office bomb that might have done better had it not gone up against some of the absolute best films of the decade like Return of the Jedi and National Lampoon's Vacation. Or maybe not; it really is a stinker despite my childhood memories of how damn cool that whirly boomerang thing was. More on that later.
Krull is a planet named like a bizarre toothpaste, and it's been invaded by a race of squealing demons in American Gladiator armor called the Slayers who come from outer space in a huge black fortress called...well, the Black Fortress. It's a giant spelljammer vessel that gets its power from the Pop-o-Matic in the middle. The Slayers are led by a giant Dagon-looking demon dude called The Beast whose motives, if he even has any, are unclear. All he wants to do is kill everyone on every planet he comes across and make filthy love to their princesses.
When the movie begins, the Slayers have been steamrolling all opposition in their path, and with good reason; the Tech Level of Krull is way lower than wherever the Slayers come from. The Krullers haven't even perfected the bow yet and are still using spears and swords to fight their enemies while the Slayers have blaster rifles that may in fact be Jaffa staff weapons from Stargate. I don't care how good the Krullers are at fighting (and they suck), but hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.
The locals know it, and that's why the last two kingdoms reluctantly put aside their differences and merge together for mutual protection. In an ironic twist, the alliance forces a political marriage between the Princess Lyssa and Prince Colwyn, a marriage that the princess is actually rather looking forward to while her father is hating every second of it Usually movie princesses are quite resistant to arranged marriages, but it helps that Colwyn is a stand-up guy and he's kind of hunky, even if he does have the acting range of a waffle iron.
It's interesting that the two kings are so resistant to the marriage considering how embarrassingly bad they're doing in the war, but they don't have much time to reflect on this because the wedding is no sooner finished than the Slayers blast the front gate of the castle down and kill everyone inside. The Krullers suffer a complete and utter defeat that must go down in history for the fastest complete decimation any empire has ever suffered. Hardly surprising since nobody thought to put guards on the walls to watch in case an army of Slayers came around to invade. Not that it matters much; the guards in this movie fight like my grandma. Buncha 0-level losers...
Everyone gets wasted except for Colwyn who is healed by Ynyr, a hilariously-named old man who knows all the expository dialogue as required by Joseph Campbell. Ynyr (good luck pronouncing it) tells Colwyn to quit his sissy crying and go on a quest to kill The Beast and rescue his girlfriend. But first, he must seek a magical weapon to even the odds: a weapon known as the Glaive. No, not a glaive as in a medieval polearm, a Glaive as in a big whirly Frisbee with knives around it. Wasn't that obvious? It sort of reminds me of an identity disc from Tron, only not as cool. Oh, and once he gets it, the old man tells him not to use it until the end of the movie, which is crap!!
The Glaive resides in a secret cave at the top of a mountain and "only the right man" can retrieve it, "the right man" being a semi-competent mountaineer. But for Colwyn who forgot to bring a coil of rope, the journey is rather perilous. The Glaive rests at the bottom of a pool of lava, and Colwyn wastes no time in jamming his hand straight into it to get the weapon out. Even if I was the Chosen One, I might have tried using the end of my sword to fish it out instead of plunging my arm elbow-deep in molten rock. But whatever.
The Princess has meanwhile been abducted and taken to the Black Fortress, where she's held in a giant eyeball (don't ask) and harangued constantly by The Beast who wants to marry her and do horrible squelchy things to her. I don't know why he really wants to marry her, being a demon and all, but maybe he doesn't believe in sex before marriage. The interior of the Black Fortress is much different from the exterior, a funky curvy and fleshy organic design with tons of deadly traps that looks like it was designed by a sadistic Kryptonian Salvador Dali on a week-long LSD jag.
I couldn't really tell you if the actress who plays Princess Lyssa does a good job here, because all of her dialogue is obviously blanked and over-dubbed with a different American actress. How cheated must the original actress feel about that? Being in the movie and cut out of at the same time? Man, that stings.
Anyway, Colwyn can't just ride down to the Black Fortress and kick ass. The Fortress has an annoying habit of teleporting to someplace else on the planet every sunrise (like Matt Lauer!), which makes it really hard for The Beast to manage his magazine subscriptions. So to find it, Ynyr drags Colwyn off to find the Blind Emerald Seer, a diviner specialist mage who looks like Lo Pan who casts awesomely powerful magic by spinning absurdly huge emeralds. And you thought Identify spells were expensive...
Along the way Colwyn meets a complete loser wizard from the hills who calls himself Ergo the Magnificent, a freelance comic relief who wanders the land constantly searching for a hero to irritate. He also recruits a band of common highwaymen led by a man called Torquil (son of NyQuil) to join his army. It's interesting to note that Torquil's gang includes a debuting Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane as henchmen. Somehow Colwyn manages to convince them to join a suicide mission to assault the Slayer stronghold with his ludicrous story of being king. Their morale is surprisingly high considering their "army" is a group of maybe fifteen guys including Lo Pan and his torchbearer kid against a force that has scourged the galaxy.
Whenever the movie starts to drag, the director kindly throws in a random Slayer attack that picks off a few expendable henchman and ends with a mysterious Cyclops chucking a spear into someone's chest. The Cyclops is named Rell, the last of an ancient but good-hearted folk you seriously don't want to piss off, and who have a serious grudge against Slayers. Rell is surprisingly the only guy with any ranged weaponry of the entire group with his spear—a fact which harms the party greatly in each encounter with the Slayers and their blasters.
It's during one such random encounter that the Blind Emerald Seer is killed and replaced with a changeling that nearly kills Colwyn. The Old Man immediately recognizes it as one of the servants of The Beast, and gee, it would have been nice if he'd told everyone that he had a bunch of shapeshifters in his service. This unfortunate death forces a drastic change in plans, and Ynyr is forced to consult the Widow of the Web, an ancient spider lady with a storied past.
The Widow lives in the middle of a giant butterscotch candy situated in the center of a spider web spun by a Llolth-sized spider. She tells Ynyr what he wants to know but also reminds him of the Power of Myth which states that the mentor character has to kick the bucket by the third act. Stunned by the spider-woman's logic, he stumbles back to camp, tells Colwyn where the Black Fortress is, and drops dead of thematic convenience.
Unfortunately, the Black Fortress is a thousand leagues away and Ergo isn't the kind of wizard who can assist with travel much. Ergo isn't the kind of wizard who can assist with making toast much either, so that doesn't come as much of a shock. Rell the Cyclops tells them that their only option is to find some "fire mares" which can apparently run 1000 leagues in a day. And how lucky that there was a conveniently close group of them running wild and they knew exactly where to find them! And as fast as they can run, they're rather easily caught. It's doubly lucky that everyone in the group remembered to bring their own saddles, too.
Fire mares are really Clydesdales who have rocket boosters for hooves and have the power to Turbo Boost like Kit from Knight Rider. I think it would have been a lot cooler if they'd chosen to include chocobos in this movie instead of horses. You know, those big yellow chickens in Final Fantasy games? It's the favored mode of transportation for any adventuring party in a hurry!
The raid on the Black Fortress doesn't go well considering they're attacking an entrenched enemy with snipers. You'd think being pinned down under heavy fire that Colwyn would use the Glaive, but nope! That would make sense and he'd rather watch his entire party get butchered with plasma bolts. He manages to hack his way to The Beast's inner sanctum.
At last, in this, the final showdown between good and evil does Colwyn finally unleash the ultimate weapon! He hurls the mighty Glaive at the Dark One and... it does absolutely nothing! No, wait, I'll revise. It does something: it makes him mad. It's then that Colwyn realizes that it's not the Glaive The Beast fears, it's—get this—LOVE. That's right! Love is the ultimate weapon! And I'm not kidding! He loves The Beast to death by burning him horribly to death with it. Apparently when you love someone a lot on Krull it manifests in the form of hellfire bolts thrown out of your hands. I guess love hurts, but I never would have guessed it hurts in that hideous, scalding way.
I'm still upset that the super-duper weapon that's been set up the whole movie turned out to be a complete frigging waste of time! The Glaive is on the cover of the movie, the symbol iconic of the film itself, and it doesn't do anything! It might have been useful against the lesser Slayers, but Ynyr made a point of not using it until it was really needed. Fat lot of good that did.
But I suppose it all works out in the end, but I'm still not sure how the movie is supposed to end on a high note. Sure, the Dark One is dead but so is everyone else in the kingdom! Colwyn and Lyssa are the rightful rulers of a kingdom of ashes and ruin. All Colwyn managed to do was avenge their deaths, but it doesn't change the fact he's still the king of Jack and Squat. And Jack got killed.