Kull The Conqueror (1997)
The producers wanted to make a third Conan movie, but Big Arnold had better things to do (like "Batman & Robin"), so they revised the script for an earlier character from the same author, Robert E. Howard, a sort of prototype for Conan, "Kull". What we got was a typical sword-&-sorcery flick with some very funny and a few vomit-inducing choices.
First off, its bad enough when you have American accents in a European mythos. Whats far more damaging to fantasy films is to have the characters behave like Americans. Early in the movie, Kull, newly self-crowned as king, frees a priest who is getting publicly tortured for opening his temple to a competing religion. And there was much rejoicing. The problem is, in such a world as Kulls, the people would have understood why the guy was being dog-whipped. They would have preferred it. The protection of their religious institution provided a center for their fear-filled world. America and the Constitution are of a completely different world-view. When you have these modern ideals trying to be "heroic" in an ancient world it destroys all credibility, and the heroes become American actors walking around a badly designed movie set. Its like Indians in 1950s Westernsnone of them were Indians! You just cant have all the complex exposition of the ways of magic and the universe in a world where the principal characters dont act like they believe in such things or take it seriously.
But Kull takes nothing seriously. Not even acting school. Kevin Sorbo is just no Arnold (and yes, I just gave Arnold acting credit above anyone else on the planet). Kevins okay on TV, but his screen presence muscles just arent strong enough to hold up the big screen. You need Atlas-like muscles for that. You need charisma. He doesnt have it any more than he has whatever mystical thing the heroes need to save the world with today. Maybe there should be a movie called "Quest For Charisma" and have a bunch of bad actors doing a typical bad medieval movie on a quest for a mystical gem that turns the "chosen one" amongst them into Sean Connery.
But life imitates art. While Sorbo-Kull is struggling with acting like a character, Kull-Sorbo is struggling against a bad script and overused ideas. Quite a few lines are tastelessly ripped off from Darth Vader, and the magical incantations dared to be uttered by actors who want future work sound like Cub Scouts inventing ghost stories around a campfire to scare the shit out of each otherand failing. But perhaps the worst problem of all is the rock music soundtrack. As if the American accents and attitude werent bad enough, now we have American music! Now, Im as American as can be, and I like my heavy metal, and it could even work for a fantasy film! Imagine Manowar doing songs for a serious D&D movie (like that not-so-subtle suggestion for a "Batman Begins"-style D&D movie I mentioned earlier), much like "Queen" did for "Highlander"! But this shite, well, it just hurts the ears and takes you even further out of the fantasy world (if thats possible).
The movie ends with that whole fantasy world behavior problem. When Kull smashes the sacred wall, people cheer. It would be akin to smashing the Ten Commandments. The people of that world would be appalled. Robert Howard wrote that scene in his stories because he invested enough of the character in the world, so he had reason for such an actionit seemed the right thing to do based on the worlds views rather than the formulaic 21st century American movie scriptwithout that necessary character development, it ends on a really false note.
The overall problem was that this was trying to be an action movie, rather than a fantasy movie, but tried to convince us it was a fantasy movie. When we saw this in the theater, I went in full medieval garb (I do Ren Faires), complete with live-steel swords and a battle-axe (the theater manager was that rare cool guy), but I tell ya, if he wasnt so cool, I would have taken my axe to the projector like Kull did that sacred wall. And I bet that this time, in this world, people would have cheered!
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