Kull the Conqueror full movie review - An awful turd
Some films are mediocre, some films are bad, but still other films are so misconceived and poorly executed that the film-makers should be embarrassed of themselves.
"Kull" is exactly that film, and it's more fun to laugh at its unintentional idiocy than to make any attempt to take it seriously as fantasy. At any rate the film-makers also took care of that possibility by filling the sorry affair with so much contemporary humor in a pathetic attempt to imitate the formula of the "Hercules" TV show that starred the same "actor" who appears in this film, Kevin Sorbo.
It didn't have to be this way. King Kull is one of the more interesting characters created by the legendary 1930s pulp writer Robert E. Howard, famous for Conan. Howard's writing has been mostly insulted and degraded by these film versions -- but this one is so awful it makes "Conan the Destroyer" look like "Lord of the Rings." It makes "Red Sonja" look like "Jason and the Argonauts." And it makes "Conan the Barbarian" look like "Citizen Kane." I actually paid to see this in the theater because I'm such a big Robert Howard fan. It was so disappointing that I had to give it a spin on DVD just to see if it could really be as bad as I remembered it. It's far worse than any memory can convey. Right away, you have probably the worst music I've ever heard in a film, a combination of mock-Wagner and mock-Megadeth. Electric guitars on the soundtrack are an especially poor harbinger for a film supposedly set in ancient history. Then you start to notice that all the characters look like roadies for Spinal Tap, and the main villain dude has a mullet that would make Billy Ray Cyrus jealous. So maybe it all makes sense in a twisted way... apparently this was a demographic they were shooting for; perhaps they even advertised this film on WWF smack-down.
There's no getting around what limits the movie the most -- basically the entire cast is wrong and incompetent. Kevin Sorbo always seems like a nice guy, and little else. He's all wrong to play a sadistic barbarian, but the film-makers have solved that problem by removing all traces of Kull's personality and all signs that he was created by Robert Howard, or you could say all signs that he was created by anyone other than a market research survey group. He's polite, soft-spoken, respectful of women, and he wants to free all the slaves. He's a hero -- a character who has no business in a Robert Howard story. Just once I'd like to see this great writer's stories rendered in a way that isn't just to turn all the characters into generic knights in shining armor. Doing that to his world and his characters is like making a Disney movie about the Donner Party. I can understand why a lot of people look down on writing like his, because they assume it's actually junk like this movie.
It doesn't stop there, but I get too tired of thinking about it to go on. Sorbo is the least of our worries in the cast actually, considering that Harvey Fierstein is painfully hammy (and his character seems modeled on a dull character from the TV show), and the director seems to have thought it was a good idea to give all the heavy acting scenes to Tia Carrere. Her misbegotten performance lends the movie most of its laugh factor. This movie is cheap and ugly looking -- I would guess that they spent more money on the lame "Merlin" miniseries in the 90s than they did on this movie which was foisted on theater audiences. Not only that, but the director has no taste and no talent for cinema at all. Everything is shot in a bland and generic way so that none of it seems infused with any kind of power or majesty. Whatever the faults of Milius' original Conan film, and there are many, at the very least he attempted to get the dark atmosphere of Howard's world right and to convey some fraction of the characters' fatalism. Unless the new "Solomon Kane" film is a huge surprise, it will be the only example of somebody even attempting something different of this type in a fantasy movie for a long time.