This month, I have been looking back at the films of my childhood, in the categories that I am writing now or intending to write. Horror, as well as fantasy and sci-fi.
One of those films is one that I barely remember at all. I have no real idea how I've come back to it after so many years. All I had were breadcrumbs to go on. I saw snippets of it and hear bits of it from the internet and YouTube, and from there I did my research, beckoned by echoes of my past.
I remember a scene used in Jon & Al Kaplan's musical about Liam Neeson and went from there. I searched about the moving fortress, about science fantasies. It took me weeks of curious twitch-searches and purposeless ventures, but eventually I happened upon it:
It's better than it looks...
Krull is a science-fantasy sword-and-sorcery movie from the early 80's, in theaters six years before I was born. By the time I watched it, it would have been 16 years old, maybe. That would be like watching The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring this year. Both films made an impression on me.
The synopsis is this: An alien overmind and its minions land on a planet from outer space using a mountain-like spacecraft and begins conquering the medieval population there. Lucky for them, the planet is ruled by two superpower kingdoms who decided to join in a permanent alliance via marriage. The marriage ceremony is interrupted by an alien assault, the princess is taken and the prince goes after her post-haste, with the help of an old sage and anyone he picks up along the way.
It's a film amazing for its time, and the special effects hold up pretty well (for the most part) even now. So in this film, we have laser alongside swords, aliens alongside cyclops, and a weird-looking starship alongside castles - though for the last part, the suspension of disbelief isn't too threatened by the fact that said starship looks like an evil mountain base.
Immediately, my imagination took over. The soldiers of the Princess Lyssa's kingdom look like their armour might have been inspired by futuristic designs. The castles are not as crude as true medieval constructions. The fact that the starship looks like a mountain is weird, but then again I won't be surprised if it isn't intentional as a way to disguise the base.
Then there's the aliens, who uses a single-shot laser staff (or rifle) that doubles as a spear. When they die, they will fall to the ground and some worm-like creature would bust out of their helmet to burrow into the ground. It's frightening yet amazing at the same time. It raises a lot of questions:
1) Why on Earth would invading high-tech aliens use single-shot laser staffs and not automatic laser rifles or something?
2) Why are the aliens so slow on foot?
3) What the hell is that worm-like thing in their head?
Here's my interpretation of what's going on:
1) It's possible that the aliens aren't military originally. They had to improvise designs. It could be that they are a rogue faction that decides to go on a forbidden conquest to rule over primitive races.
2) This ties in with the below question...
3) The worm-like things are the actual aliens, and the humanoid bodies are just machines that they pilot, albeit pretty fragile machines that could be destroyed with swords and multi-pronged javelins. Hence, it explains why they are sluggish, though they augment this with horses, probably sourced locally.
This brings me to my next point. As amazing as an idea Krull presents, it was a critical and commercial failure in its time. Despite this, it still managed to gain a cult following and make some tiny impacts on popular culture. It even managed to gain its own novelisation and comic book adaptation (by Marvel). But like any other new ideas, it has to fall flat first before it succeeds. A lot of plane designs were utter failures - until they weren't. Krull, I feel, has truly taken off from the storyboards - just that it didn't soar very far.
Krull can be described as a science fantasy, mashing together elements of both sci-fi and fantasy. It's rare in every media, and for good reason, if Krull is any indication. However, I believe that this special genre will have its time.
It's what I have decided that my fantasy books, if I ever get around to them, will be like. Science Fantasy is like a lost world that needs to be explored, and I want to be one of them who do. I want to be able to get it right, to be able to please both science fiction and fantasy readers. It will be hard, and greater people than me have failed, but I've gotta try. My passion compels me!